You’re at the point in your foster care journey where it is time to start looking into local foster care agencies. You know you want to become a foster parent; you just aren’t sure where to go!
Do you go with a private or non-profit agency? What should you expect from a ‘good’ agency? How will you know one is the right fit? There are a lot of variables to consider before you commit, and we’ve outlined 10 tips to choose the local foster care agency that’s right for you.
1. Choose an Agency with Values that Align with Yours
Choosing what foster agency you’ll go with is like choosing another parent to foster with. Decisions concerning your foster child will be based on the values and goals of that organization. So, it’s best your values align with theirs.
Is having a faith-based organization important to you? Perhaps you want one that puts an emphasis on inclusivity. Do you want there to be educational and community opportunities for you and your family?
You should take into consideration the values of each agency. Try to find your local foster agency’s mission statements, usually located on their websites. This can tell you a lot about their goals, beliefs, and the foster children they serve.
Victor FFA has more than 95 years of service to youth and families across California. Our original goal, “to provide nurturing care through a holistic approach toward a successful reunification to the community and with their families,” remains the same today.
2. Explore the Support Offered by the Agency
Think about how much help you expect when you are a foster parent. Each child is unique and even expert foster parents can face challenges they haven’t seen before. Youth in foster care have likely experienced trauma and have developed behavioral tendencies as a result of that.
Some agencies can offer more than just financial support for you as a foster parent. They also provide resources for your child and yourself as a part of the overall organizational services.
For example, Victor FFA works in tandem with school counselors, community mental health clinics, local physicians, regional centers, and other organizations to help support our foster children and teens to teach them necessary life skills and support them where they are at for what they individually and uniquely need. Each child has a designated social worker assigned to them who stays with them through their time with us.
3. Look for Opportunities for Ongoing Education
Foster parents are legally required to do ongoing trainings. When deciding on an agency, you should look at their educational requirements for their parents and the effort they put into maintaining them.
Will the agency outsource their trainings, or do they host them within the organization? How often are educational sessions held? Do they make attendance as convenient as possible for the foster parents? These trainings are excellent opportunities to connect with other foster parents in your area and form a community and resource network.
Victor offers monthly training opportunities where we address the different topics that matter the most to foster families and provide childcare so it’s easier to attend for parents. We also provide links and access to resources outside of our agency. We want all our parents to be successful from day one and beyond.
4. Seek out Community Opportunities
Foster children, like all children, need not only a good home but also a supportive community. Community opportunities provide foster children the chance to make connections with peers who have relatable experiences.
The same can be said for foster parents. By having social programming and events, foster families can get together and be in safe company where they can feel seen and known.
5. Visit an Agency Office
Ask to visit the foster care agency to see how things run and what the atmosphere is like in the office. Get an idea if this is a positive place that supports their employees. Social work is a skilled field and one that takes a lot of patience and compassion. They do the work because they believe in it, but burnout can lead to turn over and a lack of consistency.
You want to look for an agency that takes care of its employees and one where the employees feel united. From the top down, everyone should believe in the mission of the organization and keep the foster children and parents the top priority. If you choose to become a foster parent, these are the people you will be working with regularly, so getting along with them is important. A trip to the office will show you much more than a Google search or what someone could tell you over the phone.
We have multiple agency offices, and Victor believes in TEAM (Teamwork, Excellence, Adaptability, and Mission Driven). Across all our offices and at every level we are all about serving others with relationship and results.
6. Learn the Type of Placements They Offer
It may seem odd to think about what demographic of foster child you’d most want to parent because you want to help all of them. That’s a great intention, however, it can be beneficial for you and your social workers to know what children will do best in your home.
For example, if a foster care agency specializes in at-risk teens and you are wanting to foster an elementary age child, that agency may not be the best fit. At Victor FFA we place all ages and demographics that are in our service area. We also have transitional age services, so if you are interested in fostering teenagers, know there will be support when they tun 18.
7. Find Out if They Have Their Adoption License
Being open to adoption is a generous and worthwhile desire! There are different ways to become parents through adoption, but we’ll stick to foster care specific avenues.
Not all foster care agencies have their adoption license so if you are interested in adoption, you should make sure your prospective agency has one. We offer adoption through foster opportunities, but we are a “foster first” agency. Our goal is always reunification, but in the event that isn’t possible, adoption becomes an option.
Private v Public Adoption
Private adoption can be the better option if a family is wanting a newborn or to adopt from birth. However, this means it can be a longer wait for a potential adoption and can be expensive. The cost is somewhere between $7,000 to $45,000 to account for legal fees and the birth parent’s medical care.
Public adoption is done through foster care in most cases. With that, the adoption is less expensive and as a foster parent you are receiving a stipend for the foster child prior to adoption. It also means you’re getting to know the foster child as they are in your home and can build a relationship prior to adoption. There are typically fewer newborns in the foster system, but all children deserve a safe and healthy home and we encourage you to consider this option if you are interested.
Victor FFA is both a foster and adoption agency. We partner with foster parents to work towards the main goal of reunification. In cases where that isn’t possible, our foster families have the opportunity to adopt.
8. Decide on a County or Private Agency
Both adoption and foster agencies have public and private options. County agencies will have their own staff and placement services but will also contract out to private agencies, like Victor FFA.
Private agencies like ours can provide more support staff and education for foster parents and children. Through Victor as a whole, we have even more resources for our foster parents and children if needed.
9. Learn the Agency’s Philosophy on Relationships with Biological Parents
How does the agency prioritize reunification? What services do they offer to support the relationships between biological parents, foster families, and children they place?
A positive relationship with a foster child’s biological parents is critical to a successful reunification and agencies should encourage this of their foster parents. It takes a village as they say, and everyone from social workers, to education professionals, to foster parents and biological parents can collaborate for the best possible outcomes of the child in their care.
10. What is the Credibility of the Agency?
Ask around and do some research when you are looking for a local foster agency. While we don’t recommend basing your choice on gossip or judging an agency on one event, there is a lot to be said about first-hand accounts.
Other foster parents are great resources. You can also search an agency’s website for blogs or news about them. Take what you read and compare it to your values and expectations. You should also feel empowered to ask any questions you may have.
Victor FFA is a part of one of the oldest West Coast charities for helping boys and girls of all ages that have suffered abuse, neglect, and abandonment. We have been helping nearly 400 children annually throughout Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and most recently Orange Counties.
Truly, there are more foster children in need of homes than one foster agency or county alone can provide services to. Therefore, foster parents have the opportunity to choose from many options of where they and their foster children in their care will thrive.
These 10 tips are a place to start in looking for in an agency that is right for your situation. Our desire is for foster children to have safe and loving homes with the support they need to soar. If we can help you on your journey of choosing which local foster care agency is best for you, please reach out.