No matter your inspiration to become a foster parent, there are a few necessary qualifications to become a foster parent in the state of Utah. All foster parents must be financially stable (defined as able support their family without the need for state or federal aid). It is also required that every adult person (18 years old and older) within a household must submit to (and pass) a background check. All foster parents must also be U.S. citizens or legal residents to apply. The need for foster parents in Utah has nearly doubled since 2016 and continues to grow. Utah is the seventh highest reporting state in the United States for opioid and heroin addictions. The crisis has caused a large number of children to end up needing care outside of their biological parents.
There are three different ways to become a foster parent:
1. Qualification for Foster Parents
If you’re inspired to open your heart to a foster child, there are a few other criteria (other than those noted above) that you must meet in order to qualify. All foster parents must be medically able to care for a foster child as determined by their medical provider (yes, you will need a physical examination to meet the documentation requirement). Also, foster parents cannot operate a daycare while fostering. Foster parents can be married or single and must be 21 years of age or older.
2. Immediate Family Kinship Care
Kinship care—through the fostering of a relative—in Utah requires relatives to undergo a program called preservice training. This specialized training is designed to help foster parents for relatives of traumatized children and to help foster parents navigate the services available to them. This pre-service training is required of all licensed foster parents and includes online videos to watch (complete with quizzes to ensure comprehension) and classroom training as well. Luckily, the website for foster parents in Utah is extensive and very helpful in guiding families through these challenging situations (www.utahfostercare.org). This route usually applies to immediate family members that can take in relatives. Foster parents in this category may qualify for the care of a relative grant, which is assigned by the Utah Department of Workforce Services to provide some financial aid and Medicaid assistance.
3. Foster a Known Child
Taking in a known child (while not necessarily an immediate relative) is known as another form of kinship care. If a child is located within the state of Utah, immediately discuss taking the child in with the child’s caseworker. Ultimately, it is the state’s decision when it comes to figuring out who the child is placed with. Sometimes, a familiar face is the answer, but sometimes new surroundings entirely may help the child heal. In the case where the child is located out of state, there is a special process to go through, but for now, let’s discuss what happens when the child is in the state.
DCFS (the Department of Child and Family Services) has two placement options: temporary custody/guardianship and licensed foster parent. In a guardianship, the guardian is responsible for making sure the child’s needs are met (medical, dental, educational, etc); however, there may be a caseworker overseeing the process. If the child is placed with a licensed foster parent, the child is technically a ward of the state, though the foster home provides the day-to-day care necessary. The caseworker will meet with the foster parents regularly. Licensed families receive a stipend from the state, and the state is responsible for the child’s medical, dental, and other specialized care.