Foster Care

Navigating the Journey: How to Become a Foster Parent in NJ

Looking to become a foster parent in NJ? If so, here’s what you need to know about the journey from start to finish!

With just over 3,000 kids in foster care throughout the state of New Jersey, selfless foster parents are still very much needed in The Garden State.

If you’re wondering how you can become a foster parent and make a difference, we have the answer and some helpful information to get you on the right path.

Below, we’ll highlight how to become a foster parent in NJ, from the basic requirements to the home study process and beyond.

Understanding the Role of a Foster Parent in NJ

Before you dive into becoming a foster parent in New Jersey, you’ll need to know what your responsibilities are.

Being a foster parent is so much more than just providing a home to a child in need.

Here’s what you need to know.

Providing a Safe and Nurturing Environment

Every child in care deserves to feel safe and loved! Part of that means providing the basics of a good childhood.

  • Foster parents must create a safe and caring home for a child in care.
  • This means providing a home and food while also letting them enjoy activities and hobbies. 

The little extras beyond the basics help a child in care to have a regular, stable life and grow into a healthy adult.

Building Positive Relationships

Helping a child in care understand and create good relationships with those around them is crucial.

Foster parents play a key role here — this isn’t just about the bond between you and a child in care, but also, if possible, rebuilding that connection with a child's birth parents. 

Foster parents help develop and nurture these connections, knowing how important they are for a child in foster care.

Addressing Emotional Needs

Understanding the emotional needs of children in care is another main responsibility of foster parents. 

  • Helping children in care feel safe, loved, and a part of the family allows them to heal.
  • Kids in care may need extra patience and help to deal with their feelings because they have spent time living with trauma or neglect.

Solving Educational Needs

When it comes to education, children in foster care are one of the groups most at risk in terms of high school completion rates. Many also struggle to get into college later in life. As a foster parent, you’d be helping a child during crucial formative years when they need help the most.

  • Foster children need help with their education like any other kid.
  • Foster parents support children in care by collaborating with teachers and other professionals.
  • This teamwork helps address the children's unique needs and overcome any school-related challenges.

Preparing Them For Adulthood

Foster parents play a big role in helping a child in care grow into a successful adult.

  • They provide emotional support and teach important life skills.
  • This includes showing teens in care how to manage money, save, and understand the support they can get if they leave foster care when they're older.

Sadly, many teens in care in New Jersey face “aging out” of the system — this is when a teen in foster care reaches the age of 18 and no longer qualifies for care. By helping prepare a child in care for adulthood as a foster parent, you help provide them with the chance at a brighter future.

By providing kids in care with a stable, loving, and supportive home — especially to our teens in NJ — you dramatically help improve their outcomes in young adulthood and reduce their risk of becoming homeless or unemployed.

Initial Steps to Become a Foster Parent in NJ

Are you ready to become a foster parent in New Jersey? 

If so, here’s how the process works in the state.

Basic Requirements

To become a foster parent, there are a set of requirements that you’ll need to meet in every state. 

In NJ, the requirements are as follows:

  • You need to be at least 18-21 years old, depending on the type of fostering you choose. There's no maximum age limit as long as you're healthy.
  • Anyone can be a foster parent regardless of their culture, religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, affectional orientation, or marital status.
  • Your home, whether an apartment or house, must be safe for children. It must meet basic safety standards.
  • You'll get training from CP&P (Child Protection & Permancy) to help you care for the child and work with other professionals.
  • Everyone in your household should agree to help and support the child in care.
  • Being a foster parent can be challenging. You need to support the child in care through good and tough times and be there for them until they return to their family or find a permanent home.
  • Foster parents work with a team, including social workers, the courts, teachers, doctors, therapists, and sometimes the child's birth family — all with a focus on the child's safety and well-being.

Filling Out an Application

Anyone looking to become a foster parent in NJ will need to start by filling out an application — as long as the basic requirements are met!

  • If you want, you can navigate this process on your own. On the State of New Jersey Department of Children and Families website, there’s an inquiry form that you can fill out.
  • You can also work with an organization located in the state dedicated to helping foster families and children in care. 

For example, Mentor Foster Care helps prospective foster parents in NJ with the application process and to become foster parents. We can answer any questions you might have about fostering. Plus, the process of becoming a foster parent with support from our experts tends to be much faster than trying to complete the process alone.

Preservice Sessions

The state of New Jersey, like many states throughout the US, requires a certain amount of preservice sessions. These sessions help potential foster parents prepare for the journey of caring for a child in need. Additional hours may also be needed for those caring for children with complex needs.

In NJ, the preservice sessions are called “PRIDE,” which stands for Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education. It's a training program for those wanting to become foster or adoptive parents.

There are three Main Parts of PRIDE:

  • Pre-service training - This part prepares and selects future foster and adoptive families.
  • Core training - This part builds on the basics.
  • Advanced and specialized training - Here is where you’ll learn more specific, deeper skills.

Some of the skills taught include:

  • Keeping children safe and cared for.
  • Helping children grow and develop, even if they're behind.
  • Supporting a child's relationship with their family.
  • Connecting a child with lasting, loving relationships.
  • Working well in a professional team for a child's best interest.

This program is about preparing and supporting families to provide the best care for children in need.

Home Study

To become a foster parent in NJ, you’ll need to have a home study done.

During a home study, a social worker will ensure that your home is a safe and nurturing environment for a child. They will also discuss your family life, lifestyle, and reasons for wanting to be a foster parent. 

This step is not just a requirement; it's also an opportunity for you to reflect deeply on the decision to become a foster parent, as it's a significant commitment.

Sevita’s Upcoming Webinar Can Help Potential Foster Parents in NJ

Ready to become a foster parent? 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 or call our local office to get started!

Sign Up For The Webinar

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