Becoming a licensed foster or adoptive parent in Arizona is a long process. Many families say that they do not know where to start. This is just a simple, short checklist to get you started.
Step One: Attend an Orientation.
To become a foster parent in the State of Arizona, you must attend an Orientation. An Orientation is a two hour class which is designed to introduction to the world of foster care. Check out a calendar of upcoming orientations across the valley.
Step Two: Get Some Requirements Out of the Way
Go ahead and move on to step three, but while you do begin to get some important things out of the way that you will need as a foster parent:
-Register for a CPR and First Aid training. Red Cross, Heart Savers, Arizona CPR Certification are just a few of many places you can take these classes. (All vary in price, days, and location the class is offered.)
-Apply for a level 1 finger print clearance card (this is taking anywhere from 4-6 months to come back after you apply for it, so get it out of the way immediately!)
Step Three: Research Agencies.
There are over 20 agencies that license families in the state of Arizona and each agency has unique strengths and offers a different amount of support (here is a list of the agencies). Each agency must follow the Arizona State licensing requirements; however, they also may have additional rules and recommendations. For example, some agencies do not allow families to foster children older then their youngest child, other agencies will. Some agencies require that you have one stay-at-home parent to foster children under 2, other agencies do not.
Agencies also vary on how much support they offer. Some agencies have a licensing worker that meets with you monthly, while others meet quarterly. There are advantages to both. Ask other foster parents what they appreciate about their agency and what they wish were different. This will help you formulate the questions necessary for choosing the agency right for you.
Step Four: Take the PSMAPP Class.
The PS-MAPP class is a 10 week course. Each class meets for approximately 3 hours and the course covers topics that will help prepare you to decide if your family should foster, what ages are right for your family, and how to care for children once they are placed in your home. These classes give a realistic taste of what it would be like to foster children.
A few things to consider about the classes
1. You do not have to take the PSMAPP class at the same agency in which you are licensed (however, taking PSMAPP at one agency and transferring it to another may slow down the process a little bit).
2. Not all agencies have classes that take a long time to get into (if one agency gives you a long wait time, call another one).
3. Between the 20+ different agencies, there are PS-MAPP classes all across the valley, so if you are willing to call several agencies, you may be able to find one in your area.
4. While you should take into consideration the most convenient PS-MAPP class for your family, I do not suggest choosing an agency solely on this criteria. The class is ten weeks of your life, but foster parenting is hopefully something you will do for many years. Make sure you chose an agency that will provide support.
Step Five: Paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork
I think paperwork is the number one thing that slows families down in the licensing process. I suggest beginning your paperwork the moment you receive the packet (which you will hopefully receive prior to your PS_MAPP class or by week 3 of your class). Schedule a few evenings or a Sunday afternoon and sit down with your spouse and get it done. Just do it. To be a successful foster parent, you will need to get really great at filling out paperwork, so get started now.
Step Six: Get Your House Ready for Licensing
Depending on your agency, there may be a few extra requirements above and beyond the state mandated law; however, in your packet of paperwork that you will receive early on, you will find the state regulations for your home to be licensed. Begin working on items you need to complete (examples: installing smoke detectors in the proper rooms, a fire extinguisher on each floor of your home, etc.)
Step Seven: Schedule Your Home for a Visit From Licensure
This isn’t as scary as it sounds. I was pretty nervous our first time that the office of licensure came to our home for an inspection, but this is a very regular part of being a foster parent (visits from case workers, your licensing worker, etc). Get used to your home being visited by many child welfare workers, therapists, and licensing workers.
Once this is complete, you should be almost licensed! Your licensing worker (through your agency) will submit an application to the state and then the next steps are all the practical aspects of preparing for that phone call that will lead to you receiving your first placement.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments section and let me know if I forgot something that would have been helpful to know at the beginning of your process.