So you think you might want to foster?
Perhaps, you’ve wondered:
- What steps do we need to take to become a licensed foster home?
- Is this the right time for me and my family or are there life transitions that we should focus on?
- What about my past?
- Do I have the parenting skills to care for a foster child?
A sense of uneasiness may come when considering the call to foster care — that’s normal and expected. At WinShape Foster Care, we understand your questions and concerns, and we are committed to supporting and educating prospective families about the roles they might play in the lives of foster children.
For many families, prayerfully discerning whether the opportunity to become a foster home is right for them can be a deep, soul-searching process.
After all, foster care is a high call with a biblical mandate. James 1:27 tells us, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
It is a calling to come into the life of a vulnerable child.
It’s a calling to change the trajectory of a generation.
When children are placed in loving, stable Christian homes, the whole direction of their lives, and sometimes even the trajectory of their biological families, can change.
To get started, you’ll need to attend Pre-Service Training. It’s composed of two parts:
- An Orientation and Information Session
We begin with a high-level overview of foster care, how the system works in the state of Georgia, the history of WinShape Homes and our part in your journey.
This session is one of your first steps in discerning what level of participation God has called you to in fostering. Based on the information you gain at our orientation, you may decide you are fully ready to foster. Or you may discern that God is calling you to help the cause of foster care in another capacity, maybe in temporary respite care, babysitting, mentoring, providing meals or volunteering. We discuss each of these opportunities in detail at our information session.
- IMPACT or NTDC training
Based on your county of residence, the state of Georgia will require you to complete either IMPACT or NTDC training. This training typically consists of evening classes conducted twice a week for 4-6 weeks. In these training sessions, you will learn:
- how the trauma caused by separation, grief and loss can impact child development;
- what affects a child’s ability to attach to caregivers;
- how to understand your own attachment style;
- tips on specialized parenting skills;
- the role of community partners in foster care;
- the importance of establishing your own support system;
- wisdom in navigating relationships with birth families;
- and information about the many supports WinShape provides to our foster families.
When your training is complete, you will walk away with a unique skill set that better equips you to answer the call to foster.
So how do else do you prepare for this calling?
All applicants are required to complete a psychosocial evaluation — a fancy term for what is commonly known as a home study. We also require physicals, immunization records, financial disclosures, drug screens, background checks and several questionnaires to help guide the interview portion of the home study. Once you complete the paperwork, you’ll be assigned to a home study consultant. The home study focuses on the entirety of your life history so the home study consultant can determine which past issues, behaviors or events might affect your current functioning or ability to parent. As our Director of Foster Care, Lara Lynn Sturgess, explains so well in her article on fostering in Georgia,
Children are coming to us from very hard places and have been through so much already. We must make sure that your family is fully prepared to care for these children to reduce the risk of further trauma to them and to your family. The primary purpose of a home study is to ensure that each child is placed in a suitable home and that good matches are made between children and families.
Your home study consultant will conduct at least three visits including a home safety inspection. You can expect to discuss:
- family background;
- social network;
- daily family functioning;
- parenting experience;
- details about your home and neighborhood;
- your motivation to foster;
- the age, race, gender and number of children you want to foster.
The home study process can take up to 3 or 4 months from paperwork to approval from the state. The process is long, but absolutely it’s worth the time investment.
And that is where the journey begins.
In child welfare, we like to say, “Trauma happens in the context of relationships, and healing happens in the context of relationships.”
Currently, the state of Georgia needs licensed homes willing to foster older children from elementary school age, to pre-teens, and teens. Pre-teens & teens, you may be asking? Yes. We’ve all been one, and they need you to nurture and support them. If not you, then who?
If you say yes to the call to foster care, you could be the conduit of God’s love and redemption for the children placed in your home.