Overview of Foster Home Certification

A person becomes a foster parent by applying for and securing a License or Certificate to Board Children. The difference is in nomenclature only. A License is issued by local DSS, a Certificate is issued by an authorized agency. Relatives becoming kinship foster parents receive a Letter of Approval. The processes are similar with more demanding and stringent requirements for non-relative applicants. A kinship foster parent may be a step-parent, sibling, grandparent, great-grandparent, great-grandparent, great-great grandparent, aunt or uncle and spouse, great-aunt or uncle and spouse, first cousin and spouse or a person who is related to the parent or step parent of a half sibling and placement with such person is necessary for half-siblings to remain together.

Health and Safety Standards and Physical Plant Requirements:

No License, Certificate, or Letter of Approval will be issued unless an applicant’s house or apartment is in substantial compliance with all applicable State and Local laws and ordinances, is in good repair, presents no fire or other hazard to children, is equipped with at least one working smoke detector, is sufficiently clean and sanitary so as to ensure the physical well being of members of the household as well as a reasonable degree to physical comfort, has an adequate water supply, bathing, toilet and lavatory facilities, and sufficient sleeping arrangements and space.

As to non-kinship applicants, the home or apartment must have separate bedrooms for children of the opposite sex over seven years of age and no child above the age of three can sleep in the same room with an adult of the opposite sex. Each foster child must have his own crib or bed. Sleeping rooms shall have at least 45 square feet of floor space for each crib or bed and sufficient space to ensure privacy and to store physical possessions. Every sleeping room to be occupied by a foster child shall have good natural light and ventilation and shall have one or more windows opening directly to outside air. A foster child’s bed may not be located in any unfinished attic, basement, stairway ,hall, or room commonly used for purposes other than sleeping.

The home of non-kinship applicants must be situated in a neighborhood with sufficient community resources to meet a foster child’s anticipated needs. It shall be effectively screened against flies and other insects, and heating must be safe and adequate to ensure an inside temperature of at least 68 degrees.

Personal Qualifications

An applicant must be over twenty-one years of age. There is no maximum age limitation. Each applicant and member of the household must be in good physical and mental health and free from communicable and contagious disease. While relevant insofar as it affects a person’s ability to parent, a person with physical handicaps or illnesses may apply. There are no income requirements. While marital status also is relevant insofar as it affects a person’s ability to parent; single, widowed, separated and divorced persons may apply. A husband and wife living together must apply jointly. If persons cohabit in a non-marital relationship, only one will be issued a License, Certificate or Letter of Approval. No License, Certificate or Letter of Approval shall be issued to an applicant employed outside the home unless there are suitable plans for care and supervision of the child at all times including after school and during the summer.

In addition, an applicant must:

  • disclose the names of persons who will be sharing living accommodations with a foster child,
  • the names of persons over 18 residing in the home,
  • whether an application was ever made to the same or another agency and, if so, whether it was approved or rejected and if rejected, why,
  • a summary of employment history and work record, including relevant child-care experience,
  • the names, addresses and telephone numbers of references who can verify employment history,
  • the names, addresses and telephone number of four non-relative personal references, two for kinship applicants, who can attest to character, habits, reputation and other personal qualities.

Required Health and Background Clearances

Each applicant must submit a sworn statement as to whether he ever has been convicted of a crime in New York, completed and signed requests by all adult members of the household for abuse clearance by the New York State Central Register and a report of physical examination within the proceeding year by a physician who attests to the applicant’s general health, contagious or other diseases or the absence thereof, illnesses, disabilities, impairments and other physical conditions. The report must include the result of a Montaux skin test for tuberculosis and an additional report of chest x-ray if a physician determines such x-ray is necessary to rule out any current disease.

New York State law (section 378-a of the Social Services Law) requires all applicants New York State law (including prospective adoptive andrelative foster parents) and anyone over the age of 18 who currently living  in your home to be fingerprinted if you are applying to be certified or approved as a foster parent.  The fingerprints are used to conduct a national criminal history record check through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and a New York State criminal history record check through the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).  For more information on criminal background checks see NYSOCFS administrative directive 08-OCFS-ADM-06 .

Training and Homestudy Requirements

No License, Certificate or Letter of Approval will be issued until an applicant has attended orientation on foster parenting and training provided or arranged by the agency, the agency has conducted in-person interviews with the applicant and his references, visited and inspected his home or apartment and completed a Homestudy. In addition to evaluating objective data, the agency will assess the applicant’s character, ability and motivation for foster parenting, taking into account his self-assessment.

The agency is required to complete the Homestudy and make a decision on approval within four months. If an applicant delays or fails to provide information or reports or permit home visits or interviews, his application will lapse if not determined within six months. In the event a Homestudy is discontinued or an applicant rejected, the agency must offer an interview to discuss its decision. A kinship application may be approved on an emergency basis, and a child placed in the home, pending full approval. In such cases, a Letter of Approval must be issued within 60 days after placement or the child removed. A foster parent may not be licensed, certified or approved by more than one agency at a time.

Source: A NYS Foster Parent Handbook by Michael A. Neff, Esq., Distributed by New York State Foster and Adoptive Parent Association

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