Make a difference in a foster child’s life.

How to Be a Foster Parent in Hillsborough County, Florida

by Heather Montgomery

As of March 2013, 1,768 children in Hillsborough County were in foster care, according to Fostering Court Improvement, a Florida Child Welfare website. Foster care is a program that allows someone other than the biological parent of a child to care for, nurture and supervise a child who is not under the care of a parent or guardian due to neglect, abuse or other circumstances. While the goal for Hillsborough County children in foster care is to reunite with the biological parents as soon as possible, the ideal situation is not always present. That is where responsible, loving and caring adults come into play by becoming foster parents.

1 Contact the Eckerd Community Alternatives office at 866-233-0790 to inquire about becoming a foster parent. The Florida Department of Children and Families contracts with Eckerd Community Alternatives in Hillsborough County to handle the process of becoming a foster parent.

2 Schedule a free orientation with Eckerd Community Alternatives to learn more information about becoming a foster parent. In the state of Florida, foster parents must be at least 21 years of age, financially stable and in good emotional and physical health. Additionally, they must live in an apartment or home, can be married or single and must have a desire to help a child in need.

3 Fill out all of the necessary forms you receive at the orientation. These include an application, background check for all members of your household, fingerprint cards, family fact sheet and medical clearance information. If you and your family members do not have a current physical, schedule a physical appointment with your family doctor.

4 Turn in the forms from orientation to the Eckerd Community Alternatives office. When your forms are complete, you will schedule a home study with a social worker.

5 Prepare for your home study by having all members of your household present. Make sure that your home is equipped with fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, a secure area for chemicals and medicine and working locks on windows and doors. During the home study, you will also have an interview with the social worker to determine your readiness for a foster child and to find out what type of foster child is the best fit.

6 Schedule your 30 hours of foster parent training. If you are married, both spouses must attend the foster parent training courses. After training is complete, you will receive certification and a match with a foster child.

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