Who can provide foster care?

Foster parents are as diverse as the children for whom they care. What they share is a concern for children and a commitment to help them through tough times. They provide critical temporary care and nurturing to children in crisis. 
A foster parent may be: 

  • Persons of any age, with a minimum age requirement of 21
  • Single persons, married couples, and couples living together
  • Those who own or rent a home
  • Those who are currently parenting children or have children who are living independently
  • Families and individuals parenting children who were adopted
  • Families and individuals who have minimal or no parenting experience
  • Those who work outside of the home and those who do not
  • Families and individuals of any self-identified gender or sexual orientation
  • Military families
  • Religious and non-religious families or individuals
  • Families and individuals with physical, medical or mental health challenges, provided they are being well managed
  • Families and individuals with varying financial resources
  • Families and individuals who speak a primary language other than English in their home
  • Families and individuals from many different ethnic, culture, and racial backgrounds

What qualities should I possess to become a foster parent?

The most successful foster parents are:

  • Open-minded 
  • Non-judgmental 
  • Dependable 
  • Patient 
  • Nurturing
  • Flexible 
  • A willingness to learn new parenting styles for children with different needs
  • A willingness to work with other people in the child’s life such as birth parents and caseworkers
  • A willingness to support the child to develop a sense of identity that includes their culture, language and religion, where appropriate
  • Follow guidelines required by statute and the agency

What does "Keeping Families Connected" mean?

Foster care provides the child a safe place to heal while the family of origin works to heal themselves. Foster care provides a support network of caring and stable people who are not only willing to help the child, but also the child’s family, to support the child returning home. Most children removed from their homes return to their parents, relatives, or close friends.  The support you provide to the child and family allows this to occur. Reunification is the ultimate goal for all foster children. While reunification efforts are occurring, foster children will have visitation with their family which may take place at the county office, visitation center, or you may be asked to have them in your home. Visits may occur several times a week or as infrequently as monthly or quarterly; the children’s social worker will determine the frequency of the visits. Children may return home for an extended period of time on a “trial home visit”. In addition, many children have important people in their lives they may want to maintain contact with. When appropriate, supporting these relationships can benefit the foster child. The county social worker will need to approve ongoing contact with these individuals.   

Examples of ongoing relationships may include: 

  • Birth parents 
  • Extended birth family members 
  • Siblings 
  • Additional people considered important to the child 

Siblings are the most commonly identified connection to be maintained, if the foster youth is unable to return home. Families should also expect that even if contact with family is not formally maintained, teens will often explore connections on their own through social media and other informal networks. 

What kind of experience or training do I have to have?

St. Louis County Foster Care Program provides all preliminary training to become a foster parent. On-going training is also provided through a variety of resources. Foster families are required to obtain 12 hours of training per year. Formal training and experience in working with people (child or adult) is always a benefit. Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent should be open and willing to learn new skills and apply them within the foster care environment. Your licensor will help connect you to trainings related to trauma, attachment, cultural connections, substance use, and mental health, all of which are imperative in becoming a more supportive foster parent. 

What supports will I receive while caring for a foster child?

Foster care can be challenging at times and it’s important that you feel supported in this endeavor.  You will have the support of your licensor, the social worker working with the family, other professionals and informal supports involved in the child’s life, and other foster parents.  In terms of financial support, foster parents are considered volunteers who receive reimbursement to help offset the expense of caring and providing for a child. Some children qualify for additional payments based on the level of parenting needed. Children receive supplemental payments to cover the expenses of extra needs and the additional efforts caregivers provide to meet those needs. For additional information on the reimbursement payments, please review https://edocs.dhs.state.mn.us/lfserver/Public/DHS-6736-ENG. 

Medical Assistance is a federally funded insurance program that is available to children who are in foster care. It covers medical and dental needs for foster children. Medical coverage and the needs of the child should be discussed with the placing worker prior to the child being placed in your home. 

Other possible financial supports for foster children may include: 

  • Foster children up to age 5, are eligible for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). It is a food supplement program. Please contact your local health department. 
  • Medical Assistance 
  • Free/Reduced breakfast and lunch at school 
  • Clothing allowance in the first 60 days of the initial placement.  
  • SELF fund for items related to independent living (work uniforms, driver’s ed., etc.) 
  • MN ADOPT’s supportive services, including: resource packed website, Education Program, HELP Program: www.mnadopt.org 

Informational and emotional supports for children and families: 

Please talk to your licensor for additional resources that may be available for the age of children you have identified to serve.  

As a foster care provider, would I be responsible for medical bills accrued by the individual in place in my care?

No, the majority of people in need of foster care are on Medical Assistance or will be covered by their own private insurance.

Will I get to choose the gender, age and/or behaviors of the child placed in my home?

As part of the application and home study you will have an opportunity to identify the age and gender of child or children that would be most appropriate for your home. Generally a placing worker has limited information in respect to the child's individual behavior. Please keep in mind that removal from a familiar home and family causes trauma which in turn can result in the child/ren demonstrating challenging, sometimes even severe behaviors. 

How much does it cost to become licensed to provide foster care?

Generally, it does not cost anything to become licensed to provide foster care in Minnesota. However, everyone in the home 13 and older will need to complete a background study, which has a nominal fee for each person. In addition, there are items you may need to purchase or services you may need to obtain. Some examples are: update smoke and carbon monoxide detectors or fire extinguisher, well tested, pet vaccinations, have the furnace serviced or minor repairs to your home.  Assistance accessing needed items may be available for relative providers.

What are the requirements for transporting children?

Foster parents are responsible for transporting foster children to school, doctor appointments and after-school activities. In addition, foster parents are responsible for transporting the foster children to and from all court-ordered visitations which normally occur during working hours. If using their own vehicle, the vehicle must be in good running order and there must be enough seats, seat belts, car seats and infant car seats available for the family. In addition, we require that the person transporting the child must have a valid Minnesota driver’s license, current auto insurance and the ability to drive. The foster parent must also complete a Child and Restraint Systems Training. Foster parents can utilize public transportation but must plan accordingly to ensure the child is at all appointments and visits on time.

How long do children stay in foster care?

It is always difficult to know how long a child may be in foster care, most often the length of time is directly related to their parent's ability to engage in services designed to help them keep their children safe. As a foster parent, you may choose the type of placements you will accept. Some placements may last for a few weeks, months, or even years.

Can foster parents adopt the children in their care?

Most children placed in foster care return to their birth parents or are placed with relatives. In a few cases parental rights are terminated. The agency is then required to first consider a permanent placement with relatives if that is in the best interests of the child. If relatives are not found to be appropriate, we would then consider all adults who have had a significant role in the child's life, including foster parents. Sometimes we do look for a foster/adoptive home when we know early on that parental rights will likely be terminated.

Do foster children need their own bedrooms?

No, children of the same sex are permitted to share bedrooms, provided that the foster child has space for personal belongings and opportunities for privacy. Children must have their own bed.

Can foster parents work outside the home?

The St. Louis County Foster Care Program has working parents and stay-at-home parents. Each child’s situation must be evaluated individually and some children have needs that require a full-time at-home parent. Working parents must have some flexibility in their work schedule so that the foster children can be transported to scheduled visitations and appointments. which typically occur during regular working hours. As a working parent you need to develop a child care plan that includes after-school care and care for school vacations and holidays as foster children must be supervised by an adult 24 hours a day.

Do I have to own my own home to do foster care?

You do not need to own a home to foster a child. Your home will have to meet licensing requirements. In certain circumstances, you may need a fire marshal inspection and/or approval from your landlord. Some examples include having space for a child (e.g. a room with a bed and dresser) and having a dining area large enough for the whole family.  Click here for more information on licensing requirements: 2960 - MN Rules Chapter

What is concurrent permanency planning?

It is the process of permanency plan development for children who are placed out of the home of their parents. The social services agency actively works on two plans simultaneously: 1) making reasonable efforts for returning the child a family member and 2) identify an alternative permanency plan. The goals of concurrent permanency planning are to: 

  • achieve early permanency for children; 
  • decrease children’s length of stay in foster care and reduce the number of moves children experiences; and 
  • identify families who will work towards reunification and serve as permanent resources for children. 

The social service agencies are required to follow established guidelines and protocols for concurrent planning, including relevant factors such as: 

  • age of the child and duration of out-of-home placement; 
  • prognosis for successful reunification with parents; 
  • availability of relatives and other concerned individuals to provide support or a permanent placement for the child; and 
  • special needs of the child and other factors affecting the child’s best interests. 
  • involvement of parents and full disclosure of their rights and responsibilities; goals of concurrent planning; support services available for families; permanency options; and the consequences of not complying with case plans. 

Do I need a fire marshal inspection?

Fire marshal inspection: If any of the conditions below exist, a foster home must be inspected by the state fire marshal, or a local fire code inspector approved by the state fire marshal, if:

  •  It contains a freestanding solid fuel heating appliance (wood burning stove)
  •  It is a manufactured home as defined in Minnesota Statutes, section 327B.01, subdivision 13, and manufactured before June 15, 1976
  •  It is to be licensed for four or more foster children
  •  It has a foster child sleeping in a room that is 50 percent or more below ground level
  •  The licensing agency identifies a potential hazard in a single-family detached home, or a mixed or multiple-occupancy building, it may require an inspection by the state fire marshal.

The conditions identified above are the only requirements in determining the need for a fire marshal inspection of a child foster care home. Licensing agencies cannot require an inspection of all single-family foster homes or mixed or multiple-occupancy buildings. The conditions or specific potential hazard must be identified. If there is a concern about an egress window in a bedroom that will be used by a foster child for sleeping, the placing and licensing agencies must consider a variance for an alternative sleeping arrangement within the home as an option to meet licensing standards.

What if I have a criminal history?

Ensuring the safety of a child is the top priority when placing a child into a foster home. A finger-print based background study is required as a part of the licensing application. Any criminal record is reviewed by the licensing entity on an individual basis, with an important factor being when the incident occurred and the current situation of the family.  If you have a criminal background, it does not automatically mean that are not eligible to be licensed as a foster care provider.  Some offenses in a criminal background do disqualify a person; however, not all.   It’s important that you are honest about your criminal history at the beginning of the process so that the agency can accurately determine if you are eligible to be licensed.  To learn more about criminal barriers to foster care and adoption, please visit: Sec. 245C.15 MN Statutes  If you have questions regarding possible disqualifications please contact a licensor.