Foster Care

The New Jersey Foster Care Home Inspection Checklist

Every foster parent needs to go through a home inspection — and that includes those in New Jersey. Here’s what you need to know to prepare!

If you're thinking about becoming a foster parent in New Jersey, there's an important step that might sound a bit scary at first: the foster care home inspection.

This check-up makes sure your home is safe and has everything a child needs to feel secure and cared for. It's not just about following rules; it's about making your home a place where a child in foster care can feel really welcome and loved. 

In this blog, we'll walk you through what this home check-up involves, what you need to do, and how to get your home ready for a child in care.

The New Jersey Home Inspection Process

In New Jersey, the home inspection process includes several important parts:

Background checks - This is to make sure that a child will be safe and well cared for in your home. Background checks usually mean looking into your criminal record, checking if your name is on child abuse registries, and sometimes even making sure you have enough money to support a child.

Handing in paperwork - For the home study in New Jersey, you'll need to provide some important papers. This step helps people understand if you're a good fit to be a foster parent. You might be asked to prepare and turn in:

  • Marriage certificates (if you're married)
  • Your financial statements and records
  • Your health records
  • Other important papers that support your application

Interviews - In New Jersey, the agency doing your home study will talk to you in person a few times. These talks help them get a full picture of whether you're ready to foster. You'll usually have at least two of these interviews during the home study.

Visiting your home - A very important part of the home study is when someone comes to check your home. They'll look around to make sure your home is a safe place for a child. They'll tell you what safety features you need — like smoke detectors that work — and to make sure that dangerous items are out of reach.

All these steps help make sure that foster parents in New Jersey are ready to give a safe and loving home to kids in need.

Living Space Tips

Preparing your home for a child in care in New Jersey means creating spaces that help a child feel secure and provide opportunities for growth and happiness. Consider these essential elements:

Space to grow - It's important to organize your home with specific areas for the child's activities. Ensure they have a bedroom of their own for sleep and personal time, a dining area for meals, and a designated space for play and leisure.

Safety and comfort - More than just having enough room, your home must be a safe haven that welcomes a child warmly. Conduct a thorough safety check to eliminate hazards and adapt your living space to be child-friendly.

Additionally, you’ll want to create an atmosphere that makes a child feel at ease and content. Doing so can ease their transition into their new surroundings and contribute to their overall well-being.

Bedroom Requirements 

Every child deserves a bedroom that allows them to feel safe and comfortable — and that’s where bedroom requirements in New Jersey come in.

Here’s what you’ll need to know:

  • Two ways out - Every bedroom must have two exits in case of an emergency. One can be a window or door that opens outside, or the room must be officially recognized as a bedroom.
  • Individual beds - Kids in foster care should have their own bed that's right for their age (like a crib for babies or a bed for older kids). This bed must be clean and safe. Kids can't share beds with other kids or adults.
  • No sleeping in unfinished spaces - Kids can't sleep in unfinished attics or basements. These areas aren't safe or suitable for sleeping.
  • Windows for light and air - Bedrooms need to have windows for natural sunlight and fresh air.
  • Enough room - Bedrooms must be big enough to make sure the child feels safe, has privacy, and is comfortable.
  • Boys and girls separate - Boys and girls can't share a bedroom unless it's clearly best for the child.

General Home Safety Requirements in New Jersey

The rest of your home must also be a safe space to nurture a child in care. Let’s look at other safety requirements in New Jersey:

Fire Safety and Other Emergencies

  • A smoke detector must be on every floor and near where people sleep. They can be battery-powered or wired to the house, and they must be in working order. From 2014 to 2018, three out of five home fire deaths were caused by fires in homes with no working smoke detectors.
  • Store anything that can catch fire at least three feet away from heaters, furnaces, fireplaces, and similar equipment.
  • You must have a plan in place to leave the house safely if there's an emergency, such as a fire.
  • You must not use heaters inside the house that burn fuel, like kerosene.
  • You’ll need to keep a list with your doctor's or hospital's contact details, the 911 number, and the poison control hotline in an easy-to-find spot.
  • You must have a first aid kit in your home — if you work with Mentor Foster Care, we will supply one to you for free.
  • You need a working carbon monoxide detector near the bedrooms and on every floor.
  • You must keep a fire extinguisher that's 1A, 10BC, or ABC-rated and fully charged in an easy-to-reach place — this is another item that Mentor Foster Care provides to foster parents we work with. 


Capacity limits for foster parents are as follows:

  • Foster parents may have 4 children in care at a time.
  • There cannot be more than 6 children in the home, including your own children and any children in care.
  • You cannot have more than 4 children under the age of 6, counting all children living in the home.
  • You cannot have more than 2 children under the age of 2, including all children in the home.
  • You cannot have more than 2 children who are unable to walk (non-ambulatory), including both your own and children in care
  • The licensing office might allow more children in care than the limits if it helps keep brothers and sisters together or is best for the kids.
  • The Office of Licensing can license a home for fewer kids than the set limits, lower a home’s allowed number of kids even after giving a license, or limit the home to only certain kids if it’s best for the children.
  • For therapeutic foster care agencies like Mentor Foster Care, foster parents may have 3 children in care at a time.

Communication and Privacy

  • A working phone must be in the home when a child in care is present.
  • Cameras and monitoring devices are allowed but can't be in bathrooms or bedrooms of children over four years old.
  • Foster parents must inform children about any monitoring devices in use.

Maintenance and Safety

  • Plumbing, sewer, and septic systems must be in working order.
  • Doors used for exiting must open easily without a key.
  • Major appliances should plug directly into wall outlets; only small appliances can use power strips instead of extension cords.
  • Pest infestations must be controlled.
  • Hazardous materials and alcohol must be stored away from children.
  • Safety measures must be in place for infants and toddlers, like cabinet locks, safety gates, and outlet covers.
  • Asbestos spray and lead paint are banned in homes.
  • The outdoor area must be safe and free from hazards.
  • Interior and exterior paint must be in good condition, without flaking or peeling.
  • Any hazardous conditions must be corrected to ensure the well-being of foster children.

Kitchens and Bathrooms

  • There must be at least one working toilet, basin, and bath or shower.
  • These areas must be clean and in good condition, with sufficient hot and cold water.

Outdoor Areas

  • The outdoor area must be safe and free from hazards.
  • Fences and land must be well-maintained and free from standing water.
  • Safety equipment and barriers are required for pools and natural bathing areas.
  • Pools must have a working pump and filter system.
  • Adult supervision is mandatory for children in water areas.
  • Safety covers are needed for hot tubs or spas when not in use.

Heating and Ventilation

  • Homes must be kept at a minimum of 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Protective measures are needed for fireplaces, heaters, and hot radiators.
  • Insect screening is required for natural ventilation areas.

Going Beyond the NJ Home Inspection Requirements

Making a child in care feel at home in New Jersey isn't just about following rules. 

Here are some extra tips to help them feel really welcome and at home!

Living Areas

  • Welcoming spaces - Make sure common areas feel open for a child to hang out with everyone in the family.
  • Quiet corners - Have spots where they can enjoy some peace and read or relax away from everyone when they need it.
  • Play zones - For little ones, set up areas where they can safely play and be creative.

Bedroom Areas

  • Let them choose - Let the child help pick out their room's look, like wall colors, sheets, or posters.
  • Comfy bed - Get cozy bedding, a good mattress, pillows, and blankets for their comfort.
  • Study spot - If there's room, add a desk or corner for homework and quiet time.
  • Storage - Give them plenty of space for clothes, toys, and personal stuff to make the room feel like it's theirs.

Around the Home

  • Celebrate their culture - If the child has a different cultural background, include things in the home that show you respect and honor that.
  • Chill out - Use soothing colors and comfy furniture to make the whole house a place where they can relax.
  • Outdoor fun - If you can, create outdoor spots for play, like a swing set, or a little garden they can help care for.

Learn More About Foster Care in Our Upcoming Webinar

Looking for more information about foster care in New Jersey? If so, our upcoming webinar can give you the answers. 

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 get in touch with a Mentor Foster Care location near you for more information:

Sign Up For The Webinar

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