Foster Care

How to Become a Foster Parent - Our Guide and FAQs

Wondering how to become a foster parent? The process can take time, but we can help. Here’s everything you need to know about becoming a foster parent.

Foster care provides children with a chance at a fulfilling life full of love and care. It helps a lot of children — in the US alone, there are over 390,000 children in foster care.

Every child in care comes from a different background, and many may be living with trauma or require support for other needs.

Foster parents help meet those needs by providing a loving home for kids in care.

As Elizabeth, a foster parent in Maryland, writes in her heartfelt letter

"Our home is a place where you can be yourself, where your thoughts and feelings will be valued, and where you will be treated with kindness and respect." 

How to Become a Foster Parent

Mentor Foster Care, a part of Sevita's companies, can help you through the process of becoming a foster parent. In this article, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions you may have, including:

  • What do foster parents do for kids in care?
  • How old do you have to be to be a foster parent?
  • What are some foster care license requirements?
  • What are the home requirements for foster care?
  • What are the income requirements to be a foster parent?

What does a foster parent do?

Before you learn how to become a foster parent, it’s important for you to understand what that means for you.

Foster care is meant to be temporary — the goal is to reunite a child in care with their family. If that isn’t possible, then foster care adoption is the next option. 

However, when you become a foster parent, you will be the legal guardian of a child in care. Your primary responsibility is to provide a loving and caring home for a child and nurture them toward a bright future. However, there are many other considerations, including:

  • Providing healthy food to eat
  • Giving kids in care a safe space to call home
  • Attending doctor or specialist appointments, if necessary
  • Working closely with schools and other organizations

Get In-Depth Guidance on Becoming a Foster Parent

Navigating your foster care journey can feel overwhelming at times — but you don’t have to do it alone.

Get the support you need every step of the way with
The Beginners Guide to Foster Care. You’ll get an understanding of foster care basics, actionable tips to connect with children in care, and much more.


Who Can Become a Foster Parent? 

Almost anyone can become a foster parent!

There’s not one specific type of person that can become a foster parent — they come from many different backgrounds, work in different industries, and lead different lives. 

However, there are some qualities that help make it easier to provide the best possible care to a child. Some of these include:

  • Being dependable
  • Having empathy
  • Having great listening skills
  • Being patient
  • Having a sense of humor
  • Being a team player

If these are qualities that you see in yourself, you’re on your way to becoming the best possible foster parent that you can be. 

"I cannot explain or describe how worth it is because it truly is a feeling. It's not... it's not describable. But I really believe that if you have a heart for this — if you have a heart to help, this will be such an impactful experience for you. And it will change your life for the better."


Foster parent requirements

Although fostering is open to most people, there are some requirements that need to be met. 

They may vary by state, but in general, here are some of the requirements for becoming a foster parent:

  • A minimum age requirement (this varies by state from 18 to 21)
  • Completing a foster care skill development program
  • Having a private bedroom for the child in care (sharing with another child may be welcomed in appropriate cases)
  • Having a dedicated income source from work or other income

For more specific information, check out the state-specific requirements for these Mentor Foster Care states:

The Foster Care License Process

If you meet the requirements of your state and decide that fostering is right for you, you’ll need to take steps to get your license to become a foster parent. 

The steps for getting licensed as a foster parent can look different in each state and may not go in the order listed below. Mentor Foster Care can help guide you through any questions you may have along the way.

Locate an organization in your state

Becoming a foster parent often starts with researching organizations dedicated to providing foster care services within your state.

For example, Mentor Foster Care provides foster care services throughout the country, from traditional foster care to medically-complex care. 

Choose an organization you feel comfortable working closely with — they’re there to help you navigate the foster care process and provide support throughout your journey.

Complete an application

Once you’ve gotten in touch with a foster care organization, you’ll need to fill out an application.

The application process helps show that you meet the criteria to become a foster parent. In the application, organizations will gather information about you, some of which may include:

    • Letters of recommendation
    • Income verification
  • Proof of minimum age required by your state

Applications may gather a lot of information about you, but it’s part of making sure that children in care get placed in the best possible environment for them.

Attend pre-service sessions

After the application process, you may need to attend pre-service sessions. These pre-service sessions help prepare new foster parents for welcoming a child into their homes.

Pre-service sessions can help future foster parents learn:

  • Good parenting skills
  • First-aid skills, like CPR
  • How to nurture teens in care living with trauma
  • How to provide support for kids in care with complex needs

For example, some children in care may require different forms of support, such as behavioral health services.

A set number of preservice session hours is required, and this number varies by state. It is also typically higher for those who wish to care for children with therapeutic needs.

Pre-service sessions can help prepare foster parents to provide the best possible care.

Complete a home study

Before you welcome a child in care into your home, you’ll need to complete a home study

It doesn't matter if you own or rent your home — home studies are to make sure that a child in care is being placed in the right space for their needs. It also ensures that you're meeting the home requirements for the state that you're in. 

The home study report may look at your:

  • Social life
  • Relationships
  • Routines
  • Parenting experience
  • Family background
  • And more

"We are really more concerned about the families inside the home that are gonna be serving our kids, but you can own rent or lease a house, apartment, whatever stable environment you're in."  - Amy Kelly, Family Evaluation Specialist, Alabama 

Home studies typically take anywhere from 3-6 months to complete. At the end, the report you get from the licensing agent may include information on additional sessions you need to get your license.

Wait for your match

The licensing process also helps organizations match your family to kids in care by learning more about you.

While every organization has a different process for matching kids in care to the right foster family, the organization you’re working with may look at the following to make a match:

  • The child’s input
  • Your application
  • Your parenting history
  • If you’re open to fostering siblings

When thinking about the matching process, it's important to consider children in care of all ages — including teens, who need loving foster parents more than ever. 

In Amy's experience, many foster parents find themselves unexpectedly loving the process of fostering teens:

"I have a bunch of foster parents who foster teens. They started out fostering younger kids because they truly believed that that was what they wanted — that was part of their matching process. They ended up fostering teens and have fallen in love with the process.

"They have fallen in love with being able to educate them, to be able to help them finish school, to help them learn the skills it takes to live in society one day."

Ideas for Welcoming a Foster Child In Your Home

For some children in care living with trauma, it can be difficult to form new bonds. Creating a welcoming environment makes it easier for them to adjust to their new surroundings.

Here are some tips that can help you welcome a foster child in your home:

  • Give them a full tour
  • Allow them to decorate their own space
  • Help them unpack, if they’re okay with it
  • Plan dinners around foods they enjoy
  • Keep up with activities like sports or art that were a part of their daily routine
  • Decorate your home using family pictures that include them, when possible

Most importantly, listen and allow them to open up to you on their own schedule. You can’t force a bond with a child in care — instead, be patient and allow it to come naturally.

Frequently Asked Questions

We receive many questions from potential foster parents. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions to help you on your journey.

Talk to a fostering expert about how you can transform a child's life

When deciding to become a foster parent, no question is too big or too small.

Get answers specific to you and your life circumstances: Talk to a foster care expert for personalized insights, next steps, and what you can expect when starting the foster parenting process.


How old do you have to be to be a foster parent?

The age for becoming a foster parent varies by state — in most states, the age requirement is 21. In some states, the age requirement is as low as 18 years old. 

What are the income requirements to be a foster parent?

There isn’t a set-in-stone income requirement for becoming a foster parent. Instead, organizations will want to see that you have sufficient income to raise a child.

They will usually check to see that rent, utilities, and other bills are paid on time with enough extra income to support a child in care. 

How long will a child stay in my home?

On average, children spend around 20 months in foster care. For some children, it can be longer or shorter. It all depends on their care plan and the reunification process.

What if I want to adopt my foster child? 

Foster care adoption is one accessible and affordable way to adopt a child — especially considering that traditional adoptions can cost up to $45,000. However, it’s very rare for foster parents to be able to directly adopt kids in care if their care plan includes reunification.

If the family of a child in care can no longer care for them, or another biological relative cannot take legal custody of them, then it’s possible to adopt your foster child if parental rights have been terminated by the courts.

  • The goal of foster care adoption is to place children in care with loving families long term.
  • The goal of short-term foster care is to provide a nurturing environment until a family can safely get back together.

Can I be a single foster parent?


There’s no marital or familial requirement to become a foster parent. Whether you have a partner or you’re single, you can become a foster parent. 

Foster parents come from a variety of backgrounds, as Amy outlines:

"We have foster parents that are in every single phase of life. We have foster parents who are married, single, divorced, and in the LGBTQ community. The biggest requirement of a foster home is for them to be able to provide love." 

Can I become a foster parent if I have biological children in my home?

You can!

Having children of your own means that you have previous parenting experience. 

How many children can I foster at once?

This number will depend on the state you’re in and the number of bedrooms you have in your home. Here are some examples:

It’s best to consult the organization in the state you’re in. They can tell you how many children you’re able to foster at one time. 

Will I get to meet the child I foster before they move in?

Yes, you can.

Once the matching process is complete, you’ll be able to arrange a meeting with a child in care. It’s a great way to start the bonding process.

How much do foster parents get paid?

Foster parents do not get paid; foster care is not an employment opportunity.

Instead, foster parents receive a monthly stipend to help with the cost of caring for a child. The amount of stipend that foster parents receive varies by state. 

What kind of support will I receive as a foster parent?

Aside from a monthly stipend, foster care organizations offer many different kinds of support to help foster parents on their journey.

For example, Mentor Foster Care may provide:

  • Skill development and education sessions 
  • Home visits that support care plans
  • Mentor connections 
  • Expert support

Mentor Foster Care team members are dedicated to providing the support foster parents need every step of the way.

As Amy describes:

"Whenever you start your process to become a foster parent, you will have a worker that works with you through the entire process, helping you understand and learn more about foster care and what that entails.

"After you become a foster parent, you will also have somebody that comes out to your home weekly to provide support —not only to you but also to the child." 

Learn More About Foster Parenting in Our Upcoming Webinar 

Looking for more information on foster parenting?

If so, our upcoming webinar can help point you in the right direction.

By attending a Foster Parent Information Session Webinar and learning more about the fostering process, you can take the first step toward becoming a foster parent and providing a safe, loving, and supportive home for a child in need. 

Sign up for our webinar today!

Sign Up For The Webinar

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