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Become a foster parent

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Foster parents open their hearts and homes to children who can no longer remain safely in their homes because of abuse or neglect.

Foster children have experienced trauma and are now in need of a safe, stable place to heal, grow and learn.

Foster parents work together with biological parents and child welfare professionals, helping families safely reunite whenever possible. Foster parents receive training, monthly financial reimbursement and a mentor. Nurturing families are especially needed for teens, sibling groups and children with special needs. Learn about the types of foster care placements here.

When children are removed from their biological homes, often their parents’ struggles involve the judicial system. Current laws and policies require that children be placed in the least restrictive settings that can meet their needs. Relatives or kin are to be given priority in these decisions. Caring teams work to find the most appropriate placement option for each child. If the court decides a child and parent(s) cannot reunite, adoption becomes the goal. Foster parents often step in to adopt or help children transition into those settings.

Please consider making a difference in the life of a child from your community. Learn how to start your foster parent journey here.

For those who are not ready to become foster parents at this time, we encourage you to support local foster parents in our community. Learn how you can help.

A happy LGBT family is spending time together. The young adult partners are with their baby boy outside in a city. They are standing near a brick building. The non-binary parent is holding the child. Both parents are smiling.

Types of foster care placements

Traditional foster care (family foster homes)

Foster parents open their hearts and homes to children who can no longer remain safely in their homes because of abuse or neglect. In these homes – called “Level II placements” – children live with one or more non-relative, adult caregiver who has been trained, assessed, and licensed to provide a loving home.

Relative or kinship care

Placing children with a blood relative or close family friend (referred to as kinship care) can help maintain a sense of connection. Both types of caregivers require a background check and a home study to ensure safety and suitability in the home. These same caregivers can elect to become licensed as “Level I” foster home placements, which comes with additional financial benefits and other supports.

Shared family care

This innovative approach involves the birth parents and their children moving into a supervised, supportive setting together.

Therapeutic and medical foster care

This type of care is in a family setting with specially trained foster parents. Changing Horizons through Innovative Parenting Systems (CHIPS) is a program through Lakeview Center that provides therapeutic training and foster homes. Medical foster care homes are operated under the Department of Health, with training and oversight provided by Children’s Medical Services.

Residential (i.e. group home care)

Some children have physical or behavioral needs that require the structure and services of residential or group settings, which include community-based group homes, campus-style residential facilities, and secure facilities. Residential programs focus on working with children who have certain special needs. For instance, a group home may be a good option for an adolescent involved in the juvenile justice system or who has difficult behaviors that require 24-hour (awake) adult supervision. FamiliesFirst Network works with our team members at Lakeview Center to provide residential care at Arcadia Place for adolescent girls and Cabot Heights for adolescent boys. We also partner with United Methodist Children’s Home.

Shelter care

Children removed from their birth families may initially go to a shelter in a group facility or a family setting designed to keep them safe while assessing their needs. When appropriate placement is determined, they are moved. Shelter care placements are intended to be short-term. FamiliesFirst Network works with Children in Crisis and Lutheran Services of Florida, as well as our Lakeview Center team members at A New Dawn for these services.

Long-term relative custody

Children and youth placed in long-term relative custody are unlikely to return home to their biological families or achieve permanency through adoption or guardianship. This legal designation is most often used to allow a child to remain under the care and custody of a family member (and in some cases a non-relative) who is willing to continue caring for the child, but does not wish to formally adopt the child.

Adoptive/at-risk foster homes

Children whose goal has moved from foster care to adoption will move into an adoptive placement home until an acceptable match is determined. When the caregiver expresses a desire to adopt the child, the child stays in this home and is considered at-risk because the child is “at-risk” of returning to the foster care system, the parents or being placed with relatives until the parental rights have been terminated. These homes are screened similarly to traditional foster homes to ensure the safety and well-being of the children. This type of foster home is unique to each child.

Therapeutic foster care

Some children and teenagers in foster care have increased emotional, behavioral or social needs due to experiencing trauma. These youth are served in specialized therapeutic foster homes, where they can receive intensive support, structured supervision and professional interventions. Two levels of our specialized therapeutic foster homes are CHIPS and Matrix.

  • CHIPS – Changing Horizons through Innovative Parenting Systems (CHIPS) is a short-term resource (6 – 12 months on average) for children from 5 to 17 years old.
  • Matrix – The Matrix program lasts from six to 12 months for children ages 4 to 13 years old who have been removed from a group home setting.

If you can help change a child’s life by becoming a specialized therapeutic foster parent, visit NWF Health Network.

For those who are not ready to become foster parents at this time, we encourage you to support local foster parents in our community. Learn how you can help.

Loving mother hugging, comforting little daughter, sitting on couch in living room, enjoying tender moment, new mum for adopted child, expressing love and support, trusted good relationship