Find out what social workers are looking for when evaluating prospective foster parents.

A young couple playing with their foster child.Approximately 270,000 U.S. children entered the public foster care system in 2017—creating a high demand for caring foster parents.1

In the U.S., foster parents must first acquire a license. Once you decide to pursue foster parenting, one of the first steps is to select the agency with which you’d like to work—that agency then assigns a social worker to your case. While the licensing process can differ from state to state, two consistent goals of the process are (1) providing the agency with enough information to determine whether you meet the licensure requirements, and (2) determining what child characteristics would be the best fit for your home, family environment, and other factors. Typically, the agency will have a social worker conduct a family assessment or home study. While each study will have its own unique approach, social workers generally look for a number of qualities in prospective foster parents, including:2

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  • The ability to develop a strong, open relationship with the agency and staff.
  • A willingness to learn about the special needs of children in foster care.
  • A strong support system of encouraging and supportive friends and family.
  • Tolerance in dealing with others who don’t support your decision to foster.
  • Compassion and genuine concern for the children who are in need of foster care.
  • The ability to work within the confines of the system, realizing many aspects of foster care will be beyond your control.
  • Flexibility in your family roles in order to support the individual needs of a child.
  • A sense of humor—seriously.

May is National Foster Care Month, a time when foster parents, families, social workers and child welfare professionals, policymakers, and others are recognized for their efforts in helping children within the foster care system find permanent homes and realize brighter futures.

If your goal is to become a licensed foster parent, start by researching local foster care agencies in your area and learn about their credentialed social workers, who usually hold a a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

If you’re a working adult who wants to make a difference from within the foster care system, start or advance your career as a social worker through an online degree program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). There are several degree levels for social work programs: Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), Master of Social Work (MSW), and at the doctoral level, Doctor of Social Work (DSW) and PhD in Social Work. Keep in mind, a degree from a CSWE-accredited program is required in many states in order to obtain licensure.

Foster care certainly has its challenges. However, for the right parents—and for social workers and the other professionals who help bring families together—the rewards will last a lifetime.

Explore Walden University's online social work degree programs for undergraduate and graduate students, including CSWE-accredited Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and CSWE-accredited Master of Social Work (MSW) programs. Continue your education and advance your career goals. Earn your degree in a convenient online format that fits your busy life.

1www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/trends_fostercare_adoption_08thru17.pdf
2https://adoption.com/top-10-characteristics-successful-foster-adoptive-families

Walden University's Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and Master of Social Work (MSW) programs are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CSWE’s Commission on Accreditation is responsible for developing standards that define competent preparation for professional social workers and ensuring that social work programs meet these standards.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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