There are many steps included in the foster care licensing process. Here you will find information and education as you begin to explore this service.
The purpose of foster care licensing is to assess the prospective foster family’s ability to provide a safe and nurturing home for children. In Minnesota, families can become licensed by a county, tribal community, or a private agency. Child foster care licensing agencies all have the same basic requirements, but they can be met in various ways. These are some of the basic components:
- Informational Sessions
- Home Study assessment
- Background Studies
- Orientation and Training
- Home Safety Inspection
The foster care licensing agency will explain the above process and requirements. Some agencies may have additional requirements required. Families must complete all requirements with their chosen agency.
When all parts of the licensing process are complete, the tribe, agency, or county will recommend or deny a foster care license. If a license is denied, there is an appeal process.
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Information or Orientation sessions are an important first step to understand more about foster care, the differences between tribal, agency, and county foster care, and the needs of the children in care. Foster parents can be licensed by their local county, tribe, or a private agency. Some information sessions are hosted in-person, while others are offered virtually, or on an individual basis.
Families are encouraged to interact with and attend information sessions with more than one licensing agency. It is important that families feel comfortable with the chosen agency. The licensing agency will help navigate the foster care system and support the foster family throughout the entire process including matching, placement, and post placement visits.
If you wish to inquire with a county, tribe, or private agency, please complete the online inquiry form and your information will be forwarded to the county/agencies selected.
The foster care application consists of paperwork and documentation required to move forward in the process. Some paperwork is required by the state of Minnesota, and other items may be specific requirements to the county, tribe, or private agency. Examples may include:
- Individual fact sheets
- Reference letters
- Biographical summaries
- Safety planning
- Home Safety Checklist
- Safety planning
- Background checks
The timeline for completing the above items can vary based on many factors, but the licensing worker should be able to provide a more accurate estimate at the beginning of the process. The licensing process will include a series of interviews/visits with the licensing social worker which may occur in the office, in your home, or online.
The Licensing Worker will explain requirements, placement process, roles and responsibilities, and agency expectations. Foster parents and licensing agencies are required to follow specific standards. To review these standards, please see Agreement Between Foster Parents and Licensing Agency and the Summary of Child Foster Care Responsible Agency Requirements
The Home Study includes an assessment process in which the licensing social worker will determine the family’s capacity for providing a safe and nurturing home for children. The open and ongoing dialogue will aid the licensing worker in supporting and best preparing the family for this experience. All household members will be part of the interview process and may also include adult children living outside of the home.
Minnesota has a single home study process to reduce barriers and improve timeliness for permanency for youth. See https://edocs.dhs.state.mn.us/lfserver/Public/DHS-4258-ENG
The licensing process and the required trainings will include discussions about the impact that trauma has on children, and the skill-sets necessary to support and nurture them. These discussions will include an opportunity to identify family strengths and areas for ongoing education and development. The goal is to best prepare families to support both families and the children in care.
When licensing visits and requirements have been completed, a home study report will be written. The time frame for completion of the home study can vary and should be communicated by the licensing agency.
A fingerprint background check is required for applicants and any household members over the age of 13 (this excludes other children in foster care). Background checks may also include any other adults who may have significant contact with the children in foster care. The licensing agency will assist with this process and submit the required forms. For more information, see the background study FAQ page https://mn.gov/dhs/general-public/background-studies/faqs/
Children in foster care have experienced difficult life events including trauma, neglect, and maltreatment. The foster care trainings will provide insight and knowledge into a variety of important topics associated with their early life experiences.
All applicants will need to complete the required trainings prior to becoming licensed. Though the format and schedule may vary, the basic requirements will be similar. These requirements may occur in group or individual sessions and may occur during the day, evening, or weekends. Some required trainings may also be offered virtually. The training will include the following topics:
- Emergency procedures
- Foster care rule/statute
- Diversity/Transracial parenting/Cultural Competency
- Foster parent roles and responsibilities
- Grief and loss/birth families
Additional required trainings may include:
- Prudent Parenting
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)
- Car Seat Restraint Training
- Abusive Head Trauma (AHT)
- Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID)
- Mental Health trainings (approved by your licensor)
The licensing county or agency will provide information on how to access the required trainings. Additional trainings may be required prior to a placement of a child with additional needs (i.e. a medically fragile child with medical equipment).
Continuing education is required annually which includes 12 hours of additional training with at least one hour of mental health training. In addition, car seat training, and SUID are required every 5 years.
The licensing county or agency may offer their own annual trainings. In addition, MN ADOPT has a variety of educational programming to assist you. For details about MN ADOPT training offerings, visit our education page https://fosteradoptmn.org/education/
The licensing process includes a home and safety inspection to ensure that foster homes are safe for foster children. This includes but is not limited to the following:
- Adequate space for youth and their belongings (legal bedroom)
- Home meets all building, fire and zoning codes
- Safety planning for natural disasters
- Home is in good repair (i.e. up-to-date furnace inspection, free off rubbish)
- Tools, sharp objects, weapons, chemicals, and other potentially hazardous materials are out of reach of children
- Safety items are in the home and in working condition including a phone accessible to children, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers of the appropriate rating
- Pets are up-to-date on vaccinations
- Safe sleep plan for infants
- Fire Marshall Inspection, if required (i.e. home has a gas stove)
- Review of potential hazards on property such as a wetland, busy road, vehicles, or equipment in the yard, etc.
The licensing worker will complete an initial inspection of the family’s home and identify items needing to be modified or changed in the home or on the property. The agency will also determine if there are any identified triggers for a Fire Marshall Inspection and will provide instructions for scheduling inspection. The DHS home safety checklist can be viewed here http://www.dhs.state.mn.us/main/groups/county_access/documents/pub/dhs16_193585.pdf
If families are having difficulty meeting a standard, the agency can discuss the possibility of a variance.
OUTCOME OF THE PROCESS
Families may withdraw from the process at any time. Being a licensed foster care provider does not guarantee placement of children.
Children in need of foster care range from newborn to 21-years-of-age, however a large percentage of the youth are teenagers. They have a variety of backgrounds, needs, and experiences. The licensing process will include discussions with the licensing worker about what characteristics the foster family is best prepared to care for.
Characteristics to consider include but are not limited to:
- Medical and Mental Health needs
- Supervision needs
- Sexual orientation
Additional considerations may include:
- Size of home and vehicle
- Community setting
- School district
- Access to services
- Employment status
- Employment flexibility
Foster families can always say “no” to placements that they do not feel prepared to parent. It is best for a foster family to set limits prior to a placement, rather than have the child’s placement disrupt and require another transition.
Emergency placements are short-term placements, that can happen at any time of day or night. There may be limited information available about the children prior to arriving at the foster home. Emergency homes typically provide care for 24 hours up to 90 days.
The licensing agency will have established protocols on the referral process for emergency care. Foster families may be contacted by local law enforcement, an on-call social worker, or a child protection social Worker. The licensing agency will provide details about the placement process, the documentation you can expect, and who needs to be notified of the placement.
Traditional Foster Care:
The licensing agency will contact a foster family when a child needs care. The child’s information will be reviewed with the foster family to determine if the child is an appropriate match for the identified home. Information shared will include the child(ren)’s demographics, needs, behaviors, reunification plan, visitation plan, etc.
If a family is licensed by a nonprofit foster care agency, they can serve children throughout Minnesota, however the youth must be placed by the licensing agency.
The placing social worker and licensor will assist with school enrollment, medical services, visitation arrangements, etc. The child will remain in the family’s care until reunited with family members, placed in a relative/kin home, adopted, or per the family’s request. Though it is not ideal, a family can request the removal of a child, but should give the placing worker a 30-45 day notice to allow other arrangements to be made.
Respite care is a way to give families and youth a break. Respite care is most commonly during a weekend or school break, for 1-2 overnights, and is generally an agreed upon schedule prior to a placement. There is a shortage of respite care options across the state of Minnesota. For more information about becoming a respite care provider, please inquire using the foster care inquiry form https://fostercare.mnadopt.org/v2/?c=fc_inquiry or by contacting a county or private agency directly.
Foster parents receive a stipend to help support caring for the children in foster care. Some children qualify for additional payments based on the level of care needed. For information about the payments, please review https://edocs.dhs.state.mn.us/lfserver/Public/DHS-6736-ENG.
Useful Links and Resources
For more information about the background check process, visit: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=245C
For more information about home study requirements, visit: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=259.41
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