Learn More about Becoming a Foster Parent in Illinois
If you are interested in finding more information about becoming a foster parent in Illinois, I have some information from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) below that may be helpful.
Every year, thousands of foster families across Illinois provide a temporary safe haven for children placed in DCFS care by local courts. DCFS strives to reunite children with their birth families and nearly half of all foster children are reunified with their families within 12 months. When reunification is not possibly, as determined by the courts, many foster families choose to adopt the children for whom they care.
Difference between Licensed Foster Care and Unlicensed Relative Foster Care
When it’s in a child’s best interest, DCFS and the courts may place a foster child in the home of a willing and able relative who is not yet licensed as a foster home. While relative foster families help meet urgent needs and provide some continuity in a child’s life, it’s most beneficial for relatives to become fully licensed as foster parents. During the period they are unlicensed, they receive significantly lower reimbursements for costs than licensed foster parents. DCFS strongly encourages all family members providing relative foster care to become licensed foster parents, but because licensure can take several months, many family members start out in the relative foster care program.
More than 14,000 foster families open their homes to children in need of a safe haven annually, according to DCFS. By becoming a foster family, you are creating better outcomes for a child and making your community stronger and more supportive for all families.
How to Become a Foster Family
Foster families are needed all across Illinois and come from all walks of life.Foster parents must be at least 21 years old and can be married, in a civil union, single, divorced, or separated. Prospective foster families are required to:
Participate in a home inspection and social assessment;
Complete 27 hours of training focused on foster care and the needs of children who are in foster care;
Complete a criminal background check of all household members;
Be financially stable; and
Complete a health screening that includes verification that immunizations are up-to-date.
You can also call 1-800-572-2390 to become a foster parent.
Some FAQs about Becoming a Foster Parent from DCFS
What is foster care? – Foster care is a temporary safe haven for children who are at serious risk of harm. When possible, the Department of Children and Family Services and other agencies work with families to reunite them. When that simply is not possible, DCFS works to find children a permanent, loving home through adoption or guardianship.
What kinds of children need foster homes the most? – Every child is special, and all children have special needs in addition to the need to feel safe, secure and loved. DCFS is always in need of foster families to meet the needs of:
Babies born with the HIV (AIDS) virus or with cocaine in their system
Children with special medical needs
Brothers and sisters who need to stay together
Teenage mothers and their babies
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth
What kinds of issues do children in foster care need help overcoming? – All children that have experienced the trauma that comes from being separated from their family on top of the circumstances that have brought them into care will have a variety of issues that they will need help with. Many are frightened and confused at the sudden separation from their parents. Some are angry. Others may think they are being sent to a foster home as punishment. Even babies may be extremely fretful and irritable at first. These problems gradually lessen, though, as a child comes to know that you care for him or her. Foster caregivers also receive training and get connected to services to help the children adjust and eventually thrive while in their home.
How will our children react to children in foster care living with us? – If you’ve prepared them well for the coming of a new child and they understand the temporary nature of foster care, there should be few problems. It’s not unusual for your children to be a bit jealous at first—just as they might be jealous of a new baby in the family.
Do a child’s birth parents visit him or her? – In most cases, yes. In fact, visits between parents and children are an essential part of the efforts to reunite families. Visits go a long way in helping the child work through the emotional trauma of being separated from his or her family. The child’s caseworker has the primary responsibility for planning visits and arranging supervision, if required. The caseworker will talk with you and the child’s parents to work out the time and location of the visits.
Won’t it be hard on us when the child is reunited with his or her family or is adopted? Yes. That is, in fact, the one of hardest parts of being a foster parent, but it can also be rewarding to know that a child has a solid home. You will certainly feel sad for a time. It’s only natural—just as it’s natural for the child to want a family of his own. Many caregivers stay connected to children after they are adopted or even after they become adults. It is important to remember that foster care is a way to build connections and positive experiences that will stay with a child no matter where he or she goes. This topic gets addressed in training to become licensed for foster care.
Additional information, including how children will be matched and more, can be found with the rest of the FAQs online here.
Links & Resources
What You Need to know about Being a Relative Caregiver – English, Español
Top 10 Things You Need to Know about Becoming a Foster Parent –English, Español
You Can Make a Difference in the life of a child in your community:Be a Foster Parent! – English, Español
If you are interested in further information about helping children in Illinois outside of foster care, DCFS lists opportunities:
Lend a hand to abused and neglected kids in your community – Agencies and organizations that help kids always need an extra hand. If you have special skills, resources, or even just time to offer, agencies can use your help.
Be a volunteer advocate in court –Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers are trained citizens appointed by judges to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in court.
Become a Big Brother or Big Sister – Big Brothers Big Sisters provides mentoring services to help youth who face adversity beat the odds with the support of volunteers and donors. Professional staffers carefully match children with volunteer mentors in long-term one-to-one mentoring relationships.
Be a mentor – Mentors make a difference. Research shows that children and youth with mentors earn higher grades and report improved relationships with their friends and families. You can find different mentoring programs in your area by visiting MENTOR. Search by zip code to find mentoring programs in your area. You can click on the link to each program to find one that helps foster kids.
Look around your community – We all benefit when our communities are full of strong families and thriving children. Everyone plays a role in helping families find the strength they need to raise safe and healthy children. There are many little things you can do that will make a huge difference in the life of a child. You do not have to be wealthy or an expert, just willing to help!
Purchase school supplies for your local social service agency.
Clean out your closet and donate gently used clothing and other household items to the Salvation Army.
Call the elementary school in your area and offer to tutor children after school.
Contact your local YMCA and sign up to coach little league.
Help a family under stress. Offer to babysit or help with chores.