Foster parenting involves many of the challenges you face when parenting your own natural children -- but unlike having your own baby, you do get a book of rules and guidelines when you decide to become a foster parent. In the state of Oregon, the first step to becoming a foster parent involves attending an information session and receiving a booklet of information on all steps of the process. Even before that, though, you have to make sure all members of your family are ready for this rewarding challenge.
Discuss the idea of fostering with all members of your household. It's crucial that all family members are on board before you start the process, according to the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS). Talk about where the children may sleep, how your schedules will be affected, who will be responsible for discipline and caregiving and other details that relate to your family and home. Also talk to close family members and friends and ask for their support. If you're all in agreement that it's still a good idea, move onto the next step.
Contact the Oregon DHS office nearest you and set up an informational meeting. During the meeting, DHS workers may recommend you attend a pre-service training in which you can learn more about the realities of becoming a foster parent before you go through the application process.
Complete an application to become a foster parent, available through your local DHS office. The application process includes providing a list of four references who know you well and have been to your home, as well as information about your medical history, employment and other details. If you're married or have a domestic partner with whom you live, you'll both have to complete the application. DHS workers will conduct background checks on your criminal history and child abuse history.
Allow DHS workers to conduct a home study. DHS workers will want to see that your home is safe, relatively clean and free of garbage, and has the resources necessary to care for a child. Among the requirements: smoke alarms in bedrooms where foster children sleep, a carbon monoxide alarm, a first aid kit, access to clean water and adequate heating. Foster parents are also required to have access to safe and reliable transportation. Foster children don't necessarily have to have their own bedroom, but they may be restricted from sleeping in the same room as a child of a different gender. DHS workers will also meet with everyone who lives in the home, in person.
Attend additional training for foster families. During this training, you'll become familiar with your rights and responsibilities and the process of working with social workers, school employees, medical professionals and other people involved in the care of your foster children. During this process, you'll be able to identify children of particular ages, a particular gender or those with particular circumstances who may fit in well with your family. You'll also receive information about caring for children with special needs or developmental issues.