To become a foster parent in Arizona, you must choose an agency to work with. It is important to take the time to get to know a few agencies before making your choice because your agency will not only license you, but will continue to play a role in your home after children are placed with you.
Before you chose an agency in Arizona, it is important to know a few different things:
1. Not all agencies do the same thing. Agencies may all license for adoption and foster care and all agencies have to follow the State licensing regulation and laws; however, each agency is free to add their own unique guidelines or regulations. For example, the State of Arizona requires a pool fence if you will have children under 7, but an agency may say that they want a pool fence to license you at all. Some agencies want you to take children in birth order, other agencies do not follow that guideline. Some may want to only license you for one child your first year, but others may be happy to license you for two (if you want more then one).
2. When you first become a foster parent, support is very important. I consistently hear from foster parents an overall frustration with a lack of support from their agency. Arizona budget cuts have led to virtually every agency being under staffed and while you could potentially feel like you need more support from any agency you choose, some will just be better then others. Find out if there are foster families in your church and ask them what agency they use and what they like about it. Getting referrals from existing foster families is the best way to chose an agency. Don’t know any foster families, email a support group in the valley and ask for names of agencies that their families have used. This should help you narrow the list of 20+ agencies to 2-5 agencies that you can then call and interview.
3. Here are some questions I suggest asking an agency. When you call, be honest that you are trying to chose an agency that is a good fit for your family:
-What are your agencies strengths?
-On average, how long does it take for a family to become licensed with your agency?
-Does your family offer any extra support to foster families during their first year of being foster parents? If so, what does this look like?
-How does your agency take a foster parent’s experience (how long they have fostered/how many placements they have had) into consideration when advising what ages/how many children a family should take?
-What role would my licensing worker play in helping me learn the ins and outs of foster care? Once I am licensed, how often will I see my licensing worker? When waiting for a child to be placed in my home, will CPS call me or your agency?
-What support services does your agency offer?
-What does your agency do to prevent disruptions? (A disruption is when a foster child needs to leave a foster families’ home before the child is ready to be adopted or reunited with family. This typically happens when extremely traumatized children are placed with families who are not equipped to provide a safe environment for those children. Disruptions are devastating both to foster children and foster families and can be prevented with adequate support)
4. For a list of agencies and other steps it will take to become licensed to foster children in Arizona, read the checklist I created to get you started.