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

A young couple playing with their foster child.Nearly 650,000 U.S. children enter the public foster care system each year—creating a high demand for caring foster parents.*

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:

  • 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 make a difference from within the foster care system, start or advance your career as a social worker through an an online degree program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Top choices include:

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. Continue your education and advance your career goals. Earn your degree in a convenient online format that fits your busy life.

*Administration for Children & Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Trends in Foster Care and Adoption: FY 2005–FY 2014” 5 year average of children served from 2010–2014, on the Internet at

†, Top 10 Characteristics of Successful Foster and Adoptive Families, on the Internet at

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