DCYF will be transitioning to an online caregiver application system. 
To ensure a smooth rollout, DCYF is pausing new foster parent applications from Nov. 1, 2022 - Mar. 1, 2023.
This does not apply to kinship applications, license renewals, and those getting licensed through a child placing agency. 

Become a Foster Parent

Have you been thinking about or planning to become a foster parent?  If so, we’re ready to help you with the next step in your journey.

By becoming a foster parent, you provide children and youth with a safe, loving, temporary home and make it possible for them to stay in the same school, participate in familiar activities, and stay connected to their parents and siblings.

If you think fostering may be right for you, please contact us!  We will tell you more about becoming a foster parent and provide information about training, getting licensed, and the support we provide throughout a caregiver’s experience as a foster parent.

  • If you’d like someone to email you about fostering, complete the inquiry form and a member of the CaRES team will email you within 48 business hours. 
  • If you’d like to talk to someone about fostering, call 1-888-KIDS-414.
  • If you’d like to read more information about fostering, check out our Becoming a Foster Parent FAQ or read the information below.

If at any time you have a question, we encourage you to contact the CaRES team who can address your question and provide support.

What is foster care?

Foster care is a safe, loving, temporary home for children who must live away from their family due to abuse or neglect. Children and youth who enter foster care come from culturally diverse families, communities and backgrounds. The goal of foster care is to safely reunite children with their birth families whenever possible. 

The Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) seeks prospective foster parents who can:

  • provide daily care and support for each child, based on his or her unique needs,
  • work in partnership with DCYF as part of the child’s team, and
  • become prepared through on-going training to gain greater skill in meeting the diverse needs of children who enter foster care.

What is the role of a foster parent?

Foster parents help support families in a time of crisis. They work as a team with the child’s case worker; they are dedicated to protecting children and, offering hope to each child’s family.  Their impact reaches far beyond the child in their care; they provide a positive influence across the community.  They love, coach, mentor, wipe tears, celebrate, support and encourage the child in their home. Foster parenting is filled with both challenges and opportunities. It can be challenging to parent children who come with difficult histories. Becoming a foster parent is an opportunity to care for children who can benefit greatly from your love and support. 

As a foster parent you can make a difference for a child in your community by changing lives one child at a time. Foster parents believe in investing in the future of our children. If you think foster parenting might be right for you and your family, please read more about becoming a foster parent in Washington.

Whether you are married, single, gay or straight, divorced or widowed; if you live in an apartment or a house; have a stay-at-home partner or not; you can be a foster parent. The state provides financial reimbursement for the cost of caring for foster children.  We hope you are ready to learn more about becoming a foster family.  Washington’s foster parent recruitment phone line:  1-888-KIDS-414, provides information and can answer your questions – take a minute to call, because you don’t know what you’re missing! 

Are you ready to begin the process now?  Please complete our questionnaire about becoming a foster parent – you will receive a personal contact within 2 business days.

Children in foster care come from a variety of diverse backgrounds, ethnic and cultural populations and each child has unique strengths and needs.  They have been temporarily separated from their families while the Department of Children, Youth, and Families works with their family to safely return them home whenever possible.

Children range in age from birth to age 21 years. Many have brothers or sisters in foster care with them. Most have experienced abuse or neglect. Some children have special needs; they may be physically, behaviorally, mentally or emotionally challenged. Some may need foster parents with special caregiving skills due to their physical health issues or developmental delays. Infants may be medically fragile and some children have challenges due to a parent’s prior drug or alcohol abuse.

All foster children are affected by the separation from their family. Sometimes this stress and worry shows up in their behavior. Some children have not experienced the usual routines of family life and need extra understanding and patience.

Children enter foster care through no fault of their own. However, children or youth who have faced trauma sometimes have learned behaviors to keep themselves safe, or to meet their needs in other ways. Foster parents offer a loving and nurturing home where each child can feel safe and is celebrated for his or her unique gifts.      

When you become a foster parent, you become part of a team that is dedicated to protecting children, supporting families, and helping young people develop their fullest potential. Foster care is all about teamwork.

What is Foster Care and How Can I Become Licensed?

Foster care is designed to be a temporary living situation for children and youth who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or the death of their caregivers. A safe return home is the primary goal.

Foster families bring children into their homes and hearts, creating a safe and secure place to grow until reunification. For some children, an alternative permanent home must be found.

To be considered for a foster care license, applicants who are not related to the child must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age.
  • Have sufficient income to support themselves without relying on foster care payments.
  • Discipline children in a positive manner without the use of physical punishment.
  • Provide supervision appropriate to the age or specific behavior of the child as outlined by the social worker.
  • Complete training:
    • Caregiver Core Training
    • First Aid/CPR, Blood Borne Pathogens

Any adult living in a potential foster home must:

Youth ages 16 to 18 in the household must complete a Washington State Patrol check.

Washington State laws about foster home licensing are covered by the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). You can review the foster parenting WACs on our Guidelines, Laws & Rules page.

DCYF values our kinship and licensed caregivers and all they do to support the health, safety, and wellbeing of the children in their care. We are committed to actively supporting both prospective and current caregivers. Unfortunately due to COVID-19 impacts, DCYF is currently in between service providers who would traditionally be able to provide individual support and guidance to caregivers. We are hoping this can be resolved soon and there will only be a temporary gap in services available. However, we are still here for you! Our offices are fully operational and staff will do their best to assist you with any questions or concerns.

If you haven’t already signed up for our Caregiver Connection e-mail service, please do so and receive updates, resources, and important notifications.

If you are a licensed foster parent and have a question or concern with the Licensing Division, please:
  • Contact your licensor
  • If you are unable to resolve your question/concern contact the supervisor or area administrator
If you are a licensed foster parent or kinship caregiver and you have a question or concern related to a child you are caring for:
  • Contact the child’s assigned caseworker
  • If you are unable to resolve your question/concern contact the supervisor or area administrator


You can expect many personal rewards such as:

  • Protecting children from harm.
  • Making a difference in a child's life.
  • Helping children feel good about themselves.
  • Learning and using new skills.

Length of Stay

A child may live with you for a few days, several months, or a year or more. Some prospective foster parents choose to become licensed only to provide Respite Care, which offers a child’s foster parent the opportunity to take a break from caregiving responsibilities.  The amount of time a child will stay in your home depends on the birth family’s situation.  When a child is placed in out-of-home care, the social workers at DCYF don’t know how long the child will stay in your home.  The Court decides when a child will be reunited, or placed through another permanent plan.

DCYF makes every effort to reunite parents and children. Also, by federal law, DCYF must make significant efforts to search for each child’s relatives. DCYF prioritizes placement of children with their relatives whenever possible; you may have a child placed with you while we continue to search for a relative family.

Many foster parents grow close to the children placed in their care. When a child leaves your home, it can be hard on the entire foster family. If the parents are not able to successfully re-unite with their child, and their parental rights are terminated by the court, the foster child becomes “legally free”. If relatives have not been found who can adopt the child, we will ask if the foster parents would want to adopt the child(ren).  Foster parents can - and many do, adopt children that come into their lives through the foster care program.

While foster parents must have a regular source of income to meet their families' needs, financial assistance is available to help with the costs of caring for a foster child.

Foster Care Reimbursement

Foster care maintenance payments are intended to assist licensed foster parents in meeting the needs of the foster child in their care.  A basic rate payment (Level 1) is paid to all foster parents for costs related to food, clothing, shelter, and personal incidentals. In addition, there are three levels of supplemental payments (Levels 2, 3 and 4) which are paid to foster parents who care for children with varying degrees of physical, mental, behavioral or emotional conditions that require increased effort, care or supervision that are above the needs of a typically developing child.

(includes Basic Rate)
(includes Basic Rate)
(includes Basic Rate)
0 to 5 years $672.00 $849.92 $1,195.51 $1474.30
6 to 11 Years $796.00 $973.92 $1319.51 $1598.30
12 & Older $810.00 $987.92 $1333.51 $1612.30

Foster Care Maintenance Payments Fact Sheet

Child Care Costs

Payment for child care during a foster parent’s work hours is available for caregivers with part time or full time employment.  If the family is a two parent caregiver family, child care is covered when  both parents are employed and working out of the home simultaneously leaving no caregiver at home to care for the child. 

Medical and Dental

Every foster child receives medical and dental coverage while in foster care.

Clothing Vouchers for Children in Out of Home Care (Licensed and Un-Licensed)

$200 clothing vouchers will be authorized for children placed by DCYF at initial placement whether the child is placed in a licensed foster home or with an unlicensed caregiver.  Additional clothing vouchers up to $200 may be authorized, not to exceed one time per year after initial placement, when there is an exceptional clothing need. Examples of an exceptional need include: 

  • the child’s clothing has been destroyed
  • the child has had significant growth spurt
  • the child has a medical condition that requires additional clothing.

Exceptional clothing needs can be approved if there is no other local community resources available and the need cannot be met through the clothing allowance provided in the monthly foster care payment (for those licensed). (See above)

Foster Parent Reimbursement & Liability Plans

Foster Parent Reimbursement & Liability Plans - Provides some relief to foster parents for property damage, losses, emergency medical treatment, caused by their foster children or children in respite care. These plans also provide coverage for payment to third parties resulting from an act by the foster child.

You can chose to work with State Licensing or a Child Placing Agency. 

Path Toward Licensure 

  • There is no right or wrong path. 
  • All paths lead to the same place - caring for children and youth experiencing foster care. 
  • Consider all options and the best fit for your family. 

DCYF’s Licensing Division oversees the certification of all licenses, whether State or CPA

State Licensing 

  • Work directly with the local Licensing Division 
  • Foster families make placement decisions independently 
  • Foster parents work directly with DCYF staff 
  • Self-advocate for specific needs, services, and resources 

Child Placing Agency 

  • Work directly with a local private agency 
  • CPA and caregiver coordinate placement decisions 
  • CPA provides advocacy for family and child needs, services, and resources 
  • Services provided or coordinated by agency 
  • Families receive individualized support and case management from the CPA

Child Placement Agency Contact Lists

What region am I in?

DCYF Regional Map

Please send complete licensing applications to your regional Licensing Division team.

Regional Contacts

What region am I in?

DCYF Regional Map