Your Journey Starts Here…
We are so excited you are considering becoming a foster or adoptive parent here in Alabama! This page will provide you with the information you need to consider if this journey is right for you and your family, and to begin the process!
What is Foster Care?
Foster care is designed to provide at-risk children with safe, family homes. Children are placed in foster care due to no fault of their own. Most children who have been placed in foster care have experienced some form of neglect in their home, although some are removed because they have experienced abuse.
- Foster care applicants complete a 30-hour preparation course and receive information necessary to prepare for a rewarding family experience.
- Foster parents may provide care for one or more children, the maximum of six at any one time.
- Children in foster care have a social worker assigned to them to support the placement and to access necessary services. Foster families also have social workers assigned to support them.
- Families receive a payment each month for room and board.
In most cases, the immediate goal is to return the child to his or her parent when the child’s family home is deemed safe and the parents are able to meet the child’s needs. Foster parents, biological parents, the child’s Guardian ad Litem (GAL) attorney, and the child’s assigned case worker meet in periodic meetings called Individual Service Plans (ISPs) to address the child’s needs and the biological parent’s responsibilities to work toward reunification.
In some circumstances, the biological parents are unable to meet the child’s needs, and a judge will determine that a Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) is appropriate. At this point, the child becomes eligible for adoption from the foster care system.
Who is Eligible to Become a Foster or Adoptive Parent?
According to the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) website, you may become a foster parent if:
- You are at least 19 years of age.
- You are single or have been legally married for at least 1 year (or married for 3 years to adopt).
- You can provide a safe, comfortable atmosphere for the child.
- Your home conforms to Alabama Minimum Standards for Foster Family Homes.
- Your home has enough space for the child and his or her belongings.
- All members of your family are willing to share their home with a child who needs care.
- All members of your family are in good health.
- All adults in the home are willing to undergo a thorough background check, including criminal history.
Beginning the Process…
If you meet the minimum standards (listed above), you are ready to begin the process to become a foster or adoptive parent!
NOTE: Beginning the process does not bind you in any way to complete it. This is a big decision! If you decide at any point that this is not a good fit for you or your family, you may stop the process.
If you have not heard a response from anyone at DHR within a week, please contact your county office directly.
After determining that you meet minimum standards, a caseworker will provide you with information to participate in your 30-hour Trauma Informed Partnering for Permanence and Safety (TIPPS) class. This is usually conducted for 3 hours each week over a 10 week period, but your county office may have provide other options to complete your training.
Your assigned resource case worker will conduct a home study and ensure you complete all required paperwork, including a financial statement, physical health evaluations, state child abuse/neglect clearance and fingerprinting, and a criminal background check. You and your family will have the opportunity to discuss and express your preferences for the gender, age, and needs of children who may be placed in your home.
After completing all of the requirements, you will be licensed and your home will be “open” for placement!
What is Required from Foster Parents?
As a foster parent, you will be responsible to ensure the child in your care is kept safe and healthy. According to the Alabama Minimum Standards, “A primary function of every foster family home shall be to work with children and their families, to help them utilize and expand upon strengths within the family, and to assist in family reunification efforts when that is the goal. All children should continue to be regarded as members of the family units from which they came. Permanency is the desired goal for all children and therefore, reunification with the family should be the first consideration. Children’s feelings for their own family must be respected and handled in a manner that will not denigrate either child or parent.”
Foster parents must maintain their home in compliance with home study requirements. Foster parents must renew their license each year, and they must complete 15 hours of approved training each year in order to be re-licensed. In addition, foster parents are required to assist in facilitating requirements listed in the Individual Support Plan (ISP), such as family visitations, making the child available for court dates, etc. Transportation assistance may be available as needed for the child’s visitations and appointments.
Medical and dental expenses for children in foster care are covered by Medicaid. Daycare expenses (with approved providers) are covered for children who are not yet school-aged and who do not live with a stay-at-home foster parent. Foster parents are provided up to 7 days of respite care each year (the foster child stays temporarily with another licensed foster parent).
For a comprehensive description of your responsibilities and benefits, please consult the Alabama Foster Parent Handbook.
How do I Adopt from Foster Care?
Much for the process to become a foster parent or adoptive parent is similar: it begins with completing the inquiry form and TIPPS training.
As a foster parent, if a child you have been fostering becomes eligible for adoption through a Termination of Parental Rights (TPR), you are given first consideration to adopt the child in your care (as indicated in the Alabama Foster Parent Bill of Rights).
If you would like to adopt a child without first becoming a foster parent, you will complete the initial steps described above. The State Office of Adoption will review your file and assess eligible children who may be a good fit for your family. You will have the opportunity to review background information and ask any questions. If you decide that the child may be a good placement, you will meet the child in pre-placement visits before the child will be placed in your home. After at least 3 months of placement, you may begin the legal process for the child to become a permanent member of your family. Your county social worker will provide you with the DHR Consent to Adopt, and you will begin the legal process with your County’s Probate Court (this may require the assistance of an attorney).
After the adoption is legally sanctioned, you will receive a copy of the birth certificate with your child’s new legal name. Depending on your child’s age and needs, the child may also be eligible for a monthly subsidy.
For more information, please view the Department of Human Resources website.