The Foster Care Process: First Steps

Our Foster Care Packet

So, now that you know why we’re choosing foster care, you’re probably wondering what we did to get started. I’ll try to make this brief – it was a bit of a long process. Keep in mind that everyone probably has a different answer for this question, especially from one state to the next.

We Thought About It

In case you were wondering, we thought about this for years. And years. We talked about it regularly, and we’ve read lots of information over the years. We’ve also prayed about it, of course, and wondered whether we’re really cut out to be foster parents. We even attended an orientation at church a few years ago, just to get an idea of what the process is like. I asked lots of questions, which helped a ton.

We Contacted DHR

If you’re interested in foster care or adoption, you can find tons of resources online for your county. We were originally in Walker County, Alabama, and I talked to a very sweet case worker there who gave us info about the preliminary steps towards becoming foster parents. We weren’t quite ready at that point, so we saved the information she gave us for later.

We Mailed Our Application

Once we were ready (a few years later), I mailed our application to the address I had on file for Jefferson County, Alabama, which is where we currently live. Then we waited for someone to contact us. No one did. After a month or so, I spent an afternoon calling a bunch of numbers and got no answers. Finally, I emailed a random person in Montgomery, Alabama (several counties away), and got a different number with a different contact person. This wonderful lady actually answered the phone and talked with me for about half an hour about all the questions I had. She told me she never got my application because the address had changed (I should have double-checked that), and she asked me to send another. She also gave me the dates for the next available foster care classes. The only problem was that this phone call was in September, and the next classes weren’t until January. That time absolutely flew by, though.

We Attended Orientation

The first class is orientation, and it doesn’t count towards the 10 classes required for foster care approval. It only lasted an hour or so, and they said its main purpose was to inform people about the basics of foster care. We quickly realized that its secondary goal was to weed out anyone who 1) wouldn’t be approved for foster care due to criminal background history, income requirements, or other factors, 2) decided foster care wasn’t the right choice for their family, or 3) couldn’t attend the next 10 weeks of classes (they’re strict about this; you can only miss two, no matter what).

We fit into none of these categories, so we signed up for TIPPS classes (the official name of foster care training classes in Alabama), which started the next week. During orientation, they gave each couple a packet with an application, a bunch of additional forms to fill out over the next 10 weeks, and a checklist of things to do throughout the approval process. (The picture above includes about 1/3 of the packet; the rest has already been turned in to our case worker.) They also told us the basic requirements for our home (fire extinguishers, etc.) and a bit of info about what to expect when a child is placed in our home.

The class was extremely diverse with about 40 people in it. There were people of all different races, ages, sexual orientations, religions, and family styles. A few couples had recently moved to Alabama from other states. The majority of couples had biological children of their own. Several couples already had children in their home, and they were attending classes to gain their certification so they could keep those children. One couple lived in our city, and I was very hopeful that we could become friends and support each other. Unfortunately, they were one of several couples who didn’t show up for classes the following week, for whatever reason. I’ll talk more about our first class in my next post.


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