Frequently Asked Questions

People from all racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds, renters and homeowners, people who are LGBTQ+, those with any education level; all are welcome to apply!

No, that is not required. You can be single, partnered, or married.

You need to be at least 21 years old to become a foster parent.

Yes. We review your finances during the home study process to be sure that you can meet the financial needs of your family without the monthly foster care reimbursement.

The "home study" is both an assessment process and report that everyone must complete to become a foster parent. The goal of the home study is to assess a family’s ability to provide a safe and healthy environment for young people experiencing foster care.

The family’s licensor looks at the family’s individual and shared background in many areas that include, but are not limited to:

  • Parenting experience
  • Relationships
  • Support systems
  • Finances
  • Home environment

It takes around 120 days. The timeframe depends on many factors including the licensor and the family’s availability, engagement, and collaboration.

You do not have to be a US citizen to be a foster parent. However, at least one parent on the license must have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) in order to receive monthly foster care reimbursements.

While criminal or CPS history does not automatically disqualify a person from being a foster parent, all foster parents must pass a review of any CPS history and a criminal background check that includes FBI fingerprinting.

There are some criminal charges that could keep you from getting licensed (most of these charges involve an adult harming or trying to hurt a vulnerable person such as a child, youth, or vulnerable adult). Please talk to your licensor or a licensing supervisor for more information and review the Secretary’s List of Crimes and Negative Actions for Employees and Providers.

Yes! Licensing provides the greatest financial support available to kinship caregivers, trainings to help you learn new or more parenting tools, and a licensor who can provide support and resources. You may also qualify for some exceptions to the licensing requirements.

There are lots of factors that impact how long a young person might stay in a foster home. It may be just a few days until a kinship caregiver (relative or close family friend) is found and able to take care of the young person. For other children and youth, it could be several months or longer.

DCYF works with parents and provides support, new skills, resources, and services so that families can reunite. Caseworkers meet with parents and guide them through their case plan. As you think about becoming a foster parent, we encourage you to think about foster care as a system of supports for families. As a foster parent, you are part of this support network and can make a difference in the life of a child’s parents, too. The way you interact with and model positive parenting, can be another support to parents.

Washington State’s courts make decisions about the parents’ case that are very important. As you learn more about foster care, you will hear more details about this process and how DCYF, courts, parents, and caregivers can partner to support families. If you’re hungry for more information now, check out the Understanding the Dependency Court Process for Caregivers brochure.

Most children may share bedrooms. Each child must have their own, separate bed. Children with the same gender identity may share rooms, and children with different gender identities can share a room as long as all of the children in the room are less than six-years-old. Children of the foster family are able to share rooms with children placed in their care.

Some children cannot share bedrooms because of supervision concerns or other needs. There are case specific situations that foster parents discuss with the child’s caseworker and, sometimes, their licensor, too.

Foster parents work with their licensor and decide how many children and what ages they will be licensed for. Families are able to choose what developmental stages work best for their family and home environment. Families are able to note their preference for children they wish to have placed in their care. This is taken into consideration during the home study process and the licensor makes the final approval based on physical space available, meeting the licensing requirements for different age ranges, parenting skill level, and experience.

In general, foster parents are provided with detailed information, prior to placement, to help inform their decision about whether or not they are able to meet the child’s needs. Foster parents are encouraged to ask questions where they need more information. We suggest foster parents make a list of questions and identify areas where additional information is needed to help guide the decision. It is always okay to ask more questions and take time to gather more information. You will also receive the Child Information and Placement Referral form (CIPR).

It is important to remember that children are individuals and no picture is ever complete. A child’s behavior may look very different with you than they did in previous placements. Often, DCYF does not have a lot of information about children who are new to care.

Yes. Foster parents have the right to accept or decline placement requests as long as their decision does not violate Washington State's discrimination laws (visit RCW 49.60 to read more). For example, a foster parent cannot decline a placement because of the young person’s actual of perceived race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or SOGIE.

It is important for foster parents to know what is and is not a fit in their home. It is equally important that the family ask questions to have a better understanding of the child’s needs prior to placement. Foster families should never feel like they need to take a placement that they are not equipped to care for. Feel free to reach out to your assigned licensor if you are unsure or need additional information, and remember that foster parents can access free, high quality training from the Alliance to boost and grow their parenting skills.

DCYF stresses positive discipline, creating structure and boundaries, and having natural consequences combined with warmth and caring. You will receive training during the licensing process on appropriate forms of discipline. Foster parents are encouraged to use positive discipline methods, assisting the child with coping skills and ability to navigate their emotions. There is also ongoing training support once you become licensed. No forms of physical punishment are allowed.

Yes, but if the travel is more than 72 hours or out-of-the country, the foster parent needs prior approval from the child's caseworker. It is very important that the foster family tells the child’s caseworker about their travel plans as soon as possible. This way the foster family and caseworker can decide if the decision impacts the Family Time visit schedule or services and begin planning with the child’s parents.

Yes, foster children can be cared for by a babysitter as long as the babysitter is not in foster care and is at least 16-years-old. Background checks and CPR/First Aid are necessary for those who care for children on a regular basis.

The agency provides monthly foster care reimbursements to foster parents when young people experiencing foster care are placed in their home. Learn more about the rates by reviewing the Foster Care Maintenance Payments Fact Sheet. DCYF also reimburses foster parents and kinship caregivers for mileage and provides child care when single parents work or both parents in two-parent homes work.

Yes, adult household members are required to pass a background check, complete a Tuberculosis (TB) screening, and meet certain immunization requirements if caring for children under 2 years old. There are additional requirements if they are also providing care for children.

You must meet the requirements in WAC 110-148 prior to becoming licensed. There are some exceptions for kin as defined in RCW 74.15.020(2)(a). Exceptions are assessed individually because of each family’s unique circumstances.