How many of the following statements would you say describe you?

  • You love children.
  • You love to give back.
  • You’re actively seeking ways to help the community.
  • You’re willing to open your home to someone in need.
  • You have room in your heart to care for another.

If you said yes to most or all of the above, now see how many of these statements describe you.

  • You are at least 21 years old.
  • You have been a resident of Mecklenburg County for at least six months.
  • You rent or own your home.
  • You are employed or receiving retirement or disability.

If you match the above criteria, we’d like to ask you this: Have you ever considered foster parenting? Foster parents provide temporary homes for children up to 18 years old who have been abused, neglected or declared dependents until they can return home or until a permanent home is found for them.

One of the responsibilities our Department of Social Services is tasked with is finding individuals and couples who are willing to open up their hearts and homes to children in our community who are in need of a loving family and a safe environment. But in addition to misinformation about foster parenting (which we’ve cleared up!), we know that people can be hesitant about going through the process simply because they don’t know what it entails.

Now, we won’t try to cut corners here – it is an extensive process. But, the good news is that it’s not as difficult to get started as you may think. Let us break it down for you:

Step 1: Attend an orientation meeting.

Every month there is an orientation meeting so that those who are interested can learn about what it means to be a foster parent, the children currently seeking care, and the licensing requirements/process. No commitment required! If you’re on the fence about it, this is a great opportunity to simply come and learn more. Take a look at this year’s orientation schedule.

Step 2: Submit an application.

Applications are provided at our monthly orientation meetings. After all applications are collected (or received via mail) our staff goes through them, completes background checks and notifies the selected applicants about the next step, which is training. If your application is screened out, you will be given information about why.

Step 3: Go through training.

All prospective foster parents are required to attend the Trauma Informed Partnering for Safety and Permanence – Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (TIPS MAPP) training. This training consists of 30 hours of Trauma Informed Training, and you will become certified in CPR, Medication Administration and Blood Borne Pathogens.

With this approach, the trainers use several tools that are designed to help families determine the difference between what it actually takes to be a successful foster parent vs. just the desire to help. No commitment required again! If at any point during the training you feel like this is something you no longer want to continue with, you can select yourself out (and vice-versa if staff feels you are not a good match).

A few important things to note:

  • Once you are licensed you must commit to participating in continuing education training and relicensing every two years.
  • If you are married, you and your spouse are expected to complete the initial training together.

Steps 4+: Complete background checks, interviews, examinations, and home visits.

Before a child can be placed in your home, our staff will work with you to complete a few final tasks such as those listed above. Many of these are self-explanatory (such as fingerprinting and a background check) but others are a bit more involved. For example, your home will have to pass a fire inspection and environmental check. It will also have to pass other safety checks and you may need to make some adjustments, such as securing swimming pools and trampolines. In addition to your home visits, there are also some medical examinations that are required.

Like we said earlier, we recognize that at the end of the day this is an extensive process. But, we think you’ll agree that the reward of knowing you’re helping a child is well worth it, and we are here to walk you through it.

You can find a full list of requirements to be a foster parent on our website, as well as answers to more FAQs about foster parenting. If you’d like to speak to someone directly, please give us a call at 704-336-KIDS (5437).

Remember, a child’s life is a story that’s just beginning – you can help them write a happy ending!