The road to becoming a foster parent may be a shorter one than you think.
Sure, there are requirements to meet, but once you do, it basically boils down to what's in your heart.
"I think people think you have to have a big house and you have to have all of these things and you really don't," says Gillian Vanasse, program administrator for Foster Care and Post Permanency Supports for the Arizona Department of Child Safety. "You have to do training. You have to be healthy and you have to be able to meet your own living expenses...You have to have a lot of patience and willingness to open your heart to a child that has experienced some level of trauma."
Fostering a child is a beautiful thing for people to do, Vanasse says.
"I think it is the most amazing thing they can ever experience," she says. "It will change not only the life of a child, but it will change their lives as well."
So, do you have to be straight and married to foster a child?
No. Your sexual preference and marital status don't matter. You can be single, married or in a relationship, but if you are married, both parties must complete all of the requirements.
One thing you should know going in, though, is certain agencies might not work with you if you are in a same-sex relationship, Vanasse said. But there are 15 agencies to choose from in Pima County, she says.
What is the age requirement?
You must be at least 21 years old.
What are the other basic requirements?
You and all adults in your household must pass a FBI and local criminal background check and have a Level 1 Fingerprint Clearance Card issued by the Department of Public Safety.
Once you do that, there are six things you have to do in order to become a foster parent:
1. Complete online and in-class training courses. There are 11 online courses that you can do at home and 15 hours of in-class instruction.
2. Get medically qualified by your doctor. You'll receive a form to be completed by your doctor that says you're healthy and able.
3. You must be able to meet your living expenses. You do receive money from the state to help with your foster child, but it might not be enough or you might have to wait for reimbursement.
4. Participate in an extensive interview process. This is also known as a home study. Your licensing worker will ask you a series of personal questions about your past and current relationships to see if you'll be able to parent a child who has experienced trauma.
5. Pass a home safety inspection. The Department of Child Safety needs to know its putting children in a safe environment, so they'll look at the house to make sure everything is to code. Go here to see what they'll be looking for.
6. Be in the United States legally.
It might sound like a lot, but you won't be doing it alone. The licensing agency you select will become your best friend and advocate and will help you through the process, Vanasse said.
Go here for more information.
CPES licenses individuals and families to provide regular foster care to children ages 0-17. Foster families may choose to provide emergency foster care, respite (short term) or foster care to adoption. CPES also provides specialized training and support to individuals and families interested in caring for medically fragile children and children with developmental disabilities. Find more information here.