Foster FAQ

Answers to frequently asked questions about Foster Care.

What is the purpose of foster care?

Becoming a resource parent is one of the most important jobs you’ll ever do! It’s challenging but also rewarding; and the sacrifices you’ll make will, in turn, bless and enrich your life in so many ways. Children come into the system of care for many different reasons, but the one thing that remains true for every child is their need for a loving and nurturing home where they can feel safe and cared for. As a resource parent, you must be able to be flexible with a good sense of humor, as well as be able to set realistic boundaries and structure.

You must advocate for what the child needs and be willing to work in partnership with all of the people involved in the child’s life even when you don’t understand some of the decisions being made. Most of all, you must be open to giving your heart away; bonding with the child, falling completely in love, and then being prepared to let them go. And, when the phone rings for another child who needs you, be ready to do it all again!

What does shelter status mean?

Children are in shelter care status until they are adjudicated dependent. Children in Shelter Care status are still in the legal custody of their biological parents. Children can remain in shelter care status for a few days or as long as several months. Weekly visits are required by the Family Care Manager (FCM) for as long as children remain in shelter status. Upon being adjudicated dependent, foster children are placed in the custody of Kids Central. Children can remain in foster care status for up to one to two years or longer; however, the goal is to achieve permanency within 12 months.

Can I cut my foster child’s hair or pierce their ears?

Resource parents may not take actions, such as cutting hair or piercing ears, without the written permission of the biological parents or the court. Resource parents should coordinate these things with the FCM so the biological parents can participate in the decision.

Can I take my foster child out of state on a trip?

Neither foster children nor shelter children can be taken out of the state of Florida without either permission from the biological parents or the permission of the Court. When planning a trip out of state, the foster parents should provide the child’s Family Care Manager with a minimum of two (2) weeks’ notice to allow time for noticing the court and obtaining the proper paperwork. Kids Central encourages resource parents to take the children on trips with them whenever possible.

Will I be able to take the foster child to the doctor and can I give them medication, as needed?

When a foster child is placed, the resource parent will be given a Placement Letter that authorizes them to seek medical attention for the child. Resource parents are expected to use their own good judgment with regard to the use of “Over the Counter” medications. If psychotropic medications are prescribed for a foster child, the resource parent should contact the Family Care Manager immediately. Psychotropic medications cannot be given without permission from the child’s biological parents or from the Court. Additionally, foster parents cannot give authorization for any type of medical procedure, such as surgery, or the use of anesthesia.

Am I responsible for the costs of medical care incurred by a foster child when placed in my home?

All foster children are covered by some form of Medicaid. When a child is initially placed with a resource parent, the resource parent will be given the current insurance information for the child. The child will have to be seen by the assigned doctor for their EPSDT (Early Periodic Screening Diagnostic Testing) exam and for any other medical issues until the doctor is switched over to the provider of the resource parent’s choice. This change will typically be effective on the first of month following the request. If a resource parent takes a child to a doctor who is not their assigned provider, the resource parent will be responsible for the cost of services.

What is ESPDT (Early Periodic Screening Diagnostic Testing) and when do foster children need physical exams?

The following medical tasks and examinations are provided free of charge through Medicaid: health and developmental history, physical assessment to include height and weight, growth assessment, developmental assessment, vision assessment, hearing assessment, immunizations and laboratory tests. Early Periodic Screening Diagnostic Testing (ESPDT) screening also includes treatment for problems detected during the screening, such as provision of eyeglasses and dental services. The initial screening should be completed within 72 hours of a child entering care (this does not apply to children moving between foster homes) and then children must be scheduled for examination according to the following periodicity schedule: 2 months of age, 4 months of age, 6 months of age, 1 year of age, 15 months of age, 18 months of age, once every year from ages 2 to 5, and once every 3 years from ages 6 through the month the young adult reaches age 21. If the specific needs of a child require more frequent assessment, appointments may be scheduled more frequently or at different intervals.

How often does my home need to be inspected?

A health inspection must be completed on an annual basis by a Licensing Specialist in the county of residence. Satisfactory water results must be received for all homes with wells.

Do I need to keep a first aid kit available?

Yes, a first aid kit must be stocked and available in your home.

How do I store medications?

All medication (prescription, over the counter and medication that needs to be refrigerated), poisonous and hazardous materials/chemicals must be secured in a closet, container or cabinet with a rotating lock (key, combination or magnet), which is inaccessible to children. The locked area cannot be a laundry room or bathroom and should not be a closet or cabinet that is opened on a regular basis for any other reason. If needles are required to administer medication to anyone in the home, these must also be locked. Combustible items must be stored away from any heat source and it is highly recommended that they are locked up. All keys that access these items must be kept in a separate location.

If I am considering having a swimming pool installed, what safety concerns must I be aware of?

In-ground pools, spas and above-ground pools must have a barrier of at least four feet in height on all sides. The barrier can consist of a fence, screen enclosure, child safety fence and exterior walls of the home or the sides of an above ground pool. All access points to the pool must be controlled with an alarm, a key lock or a bolt lock and access points must be locked when the pool is not in use. One of the following life saving devices must be stored in the pool area: Shepherd’s Hook, ring buoy or flotation device with a rope attached.

If I have alcohol in the house, how should I store these items?

All alcoholic beverages must be inaccessible to children. It is recommended that alcohol be locked up if there are older children in the home.

What are the fire safety standards that must be met?

  • A fire extinguisher (size 2A10BC) must be kept in or adjacent to the kitchen and there must be a fire extinguisher on each floor of the home. All fire extinguishers must be inspected and tagged annually.
  • A working smoke detector must be present in every sleeping area of the home.
  • For all 2 story homes, a rope ladder or other means of escape from the second floor must be available.
  • Fire drills must be conducted a least every 6 months and every time a new foster child is placed in the home regardless of the age of the children in the home. The dates of fire drills, amount of time it took to complete the drill and the number of people who participated in the drill should be documented.
  • An evacuation plan must be posted in a prominent location in the home and should be discussed with all children in the home, as age appropriate. The plan should highlight fire escape routes, location of smoke detectors, location of a fire extinguisher on each floor of the home, all exits and a meeting place outside the home.

How is the number of foster children who will be placed in my home determined?

Each family will be licensed for a capacity based on available space and the resource parent’s strengths and needs. This number should be a mutual decision between the resource parent and the Licensing Specialist. The capacity can be increased or decreased when appropriate after the first year of licensure. Foster parents must be aware of their limitations and be prepared to say no to new placements when they have reached their limitations. As a general rule, the number of children in the home should not exceed: five children between the ages of 0-17. This number includes the resource parent’s biological and adoptive children, as well as any children who may be placed in relative or non-relative status.

What are the rules on sleeping and bedroom arrangements?

  • Infants under 12 months of age may share a bedroom with an adult
  • Children over 12 months of age may not sleep in a bedroom with an adult unless there is a documented medical need
  • Children over 3 years of age may not share a room with a child of the opposite sex. This rule also applies to siblings.
  • Children may not share a bed
  • Children may not sleep on a couch, futon, trundle, rollaway bed or in a pack-n-play on a long-term basis and these arrangements must be approved beforehand by the Licensing Specialist
  • Each child must have enough space in the living space in the bedroom and adequate storage space for their belongings

Can I keep a gun in my home?

According to Florida Law, Kids Central is not able to keep any record regarding possession of firearms or how/where firearms are stored. It is the foster parent’s responsibility to keep the firearm in a securely locked box, or container, or in a location which a reasonable person would believe to be secure or to secure it with a trigger lock, except when the foster parent is carrying the firearm on his or her body, or within such close proximity thereto, that he or she can retrieve and use it as easily and quickly as if he or she carried it on his or her body.

When must I notify my licensing specialist of health issues I am experiencing?

In order to effectively carry out all of the many and complex responsibilities of providing care to foster children, resource parents must remain in good general health and be free from communicable diseases, chronic recurrent health problems and chronic debilitating health problems. If any of these conditions exist, if the resource parent is prescribed any psychotropic medications or if the resource parent goes on or off any medication, he/she will be asked to provide a health certificate completed by the treating physician to confirm that they are emotionally stable and physically capable of providing care to children.

What does the board rate cover and when will I receive my check?

Resource parents are provided a stipend to assist in caring for foster children on a monthly basis through issuance of a check around the 12th of the month for the previous month. Direct deposit is recommended. As a general rule, the board rate is meant to cover food, clothing, transportation, utilities, telephone, linens, recreation, the child’s allowance and personal incidentals. Resource parents are required to provide the foster children with an allowance on a weekly or monthly basis. Resource parents are encouraged to find ways for the children to earn their allowance, as age appropriate, in order to allow them the opportunity to develop a sense of responsibility. Resource parents are also encouraged to set allowance amounts based on the needs of the child (i.e. a teenage child should be afforded the opportunity to earn enough money to participate in activities with his/her friends). A child should not be expected to purchase their own clothes, toiletries or personal items with their allowance.

The current board rate for foster children is as follows:

Ages 0-12 years: $17/day $517.44/month
Ages 13-17 years: $19/day $578.32/month

What activities qualify for mileage reimbursement?

  • Court appointments
  • Family visitation
  • Medical appointments (dentists, doctors, therapy, EPSDT, counseling, etc.)
  • Hospital admission, discharge and visits for lab work tests, etc.
  • Appointments with probation office
  • WIC appointments
  • Enrollment in school, school appointments and staffings
  • Extra-curricular activities for the foster child
  • Appointments/visits to DCF for Medicaid related issues
  • Transporting to and from respite
  • Mileage will also be reimbursed for activities the foster parent participates in to maintain their licensed home status to include attending in-service training.

How do I get reimbursed for mileage?

The resource parent should submit a Travel Form to receive reimbursement. The form should include the date of travel, time of departure and time of return, destination to include the purpose of the trip and the name of the child the trip was for, along with the number of miles each way. Mileage forms must be separated by month (i.e. mileage for January and February must be submitted on two separate forms, rather than one form). Mileage will be reimbursed at the rate of $.44 cents/mile. Travel forms should be completed each month. Completed travel forms should be turned in to the Foster Parent Navigator. Incomplete or inaccurate forms will be returned to the foster parent for revision.

What is the proper way to transport a foster child in a vehicle?

Children age 4 and under must be in an approved car seat. A rear-facing infant carrier should be used for children ages 0-9 months (20 lbs.) A toddler car seat should be used for children ages 9 months to 4 years (20-50 lbs.). The car seat should remain rear facing until the child is at least 1 year old. A booster seat is recommended for children ages 4 years and older until the seat belt fits the child appropriately.

When are clothing vouchers for foster children issued?

When a child enters the dependency system for the first time, they are eligible for a clothing voucher in the amount of $100. The foster parent should purchase what the child needs and submit the receipts to the Placement Department for reimbursement using the appropriate form. On an annual basis, usually during the summer months, all children in care will receive a clothing allowance check in the amount of $300. This money is to assist with preparing the child for back to school, but should only be spent on clothing items and shoes, not school supplies.

What expectations does Kids Central have for foster parents?

Resource parents are expected to communicate with their Licensing Specialist regarding all changes in household composition (i.e. a new member moving into the home or an existing member moving out of the home regardless of whether the moves are on a temporary or permanent basis or a marriage or divorce), plans to relocate, any involvement with law enforcement or contact from a Protective Investigator regarding an abuse report. Whenever possible, the Licensing Specialist should be made aware of these changes PRIOR to occurrence. When this isn’t possible, communication with the Licensing Specialist should occur immediately afterwards.

Resource parents are expected to transport children to and from all activities and appointments whenever possible. If a resource parent is unable to transport for any reason, the responsibility for transportation should be negotiated with the Family Care Manager. Resource parents are expected to provide recreational activities for the foster children placed in their home and to encourage their involvement in extra-curricular activities as they would with their own children and to include them in all family activities.

Resource parents are expected to maintain open lines of communication with all professionals involved with the children and with the Licensing and Placement Departments. All staff members are required to return phone calls within 24 hours and this same courtesy should be extended from the foster parents to the staff. Communication is vital in order to build and sustain a successful working relationship. All personal items acquired by the child while living in the foster home must be sent with the child when he/she leaves.

What is normalcy?

Historically, the belief has been that foster children needed to be sheltered and protected in order to keep them safe. This meant anyone who was going to be around the children had to be cleared through the background screening process, foster children could not be left at home alone or go out unsupervised and the children couldn’t get a job or a driver’s license. Ultimately, it was recognized that these restrictions and the lack of freedom afforded to foster children, were, in effect, punishing the children for being involved in circumstances beyond their control. While it was their parents who made poor choices that led to them being placed in foster care, which caused significant trauma, the children were further traumatized when they weren’t allowed to do the “normal” things that children do: go to the movies with friends, have sleepovers, play at a friend’s house or attend prom. Not only did this lack of freedom cause dissatisfaction with the children’s experiences in the child welfare system, but it also resulted in increased incidents of disruptions and runaway episodes.

In response to this long-time issue, on 9/3/2010, Secretary George Sheldon issued a memo regarding normalcy for foster children in an effort to begin to establish some guidelines for affording foster children some freedom and for giving their caregivers the authority to allow foster children to be children, too.

Since 2010, Circuit 5 has made great strides towards normalizing life for children in foster care. Normalcy training is provided to caregivers and staff on a regular basis. Caregivers are encouraged to allow the children placed with them to do the same things they would allow their own children to do using the same good judgment they would use with their own kids. Some of the things to be taken into consideration are: the maturity of the child, whether the child has shown he/she is capable of accepting responsibility, the type of activity the child wants to engage in, who else will be present and how long the child will be gone. Just as a child earns allowance by completing chores, a child should also be able to earn the privilege of increasing freedom by demonstrating he/she can handle the responsibility that comes with it. Normalcy should not be considered an entitlement for all children…it is a privilege to be earned. Children should be encouraged to have and attend sleepovers, to go on play dates, to find jobs, to get a driver’s license, to go to camp and even to date, as age appropriate.

As with everything in life, though, there are no guarantees that bad things won’t happen. There is no amount of planning or good judgment that can prevent accidents from occurring or prevent the most responsible of children from making the occasional bad decision. For this reason, it’s important that the foster parents and all professionals working with a child communicate regarding what is appropriate for a child and then support each other in the decisions made.

When are home visits made to foster homes?

While children are in shelter care, either the Protective Investigator or the Family Care Manager will visit the children once per week. Once children are adjudicated dependent, the Family Care Manager will visit the children at least once per month and more often, as needed.

Licensing Specialists will visit the home quarterly for a total of 4 visits per year with the 4th visit being for the purpose of re-licensure. Home visits will be conducted more often as needed. Monthly phone contacts will also be completed.

What is respite care?

The purpose of respite is to allow resource parents time to take care of themselves, to recharge when necessary and to tend to the needs of their own family. Foster parents are allotted twelve (12) respite days per year. For these twelve days, both the respite provider and the primary resource parent will be paid the board rate. If a resource parent uses more than 12 days of respite in a given year, the respite provider will be paid the board rate and the primary resource parent will not receive any payment for the child. Placement should be notified of the need for respite arrangements at least two (2) weeks prior to the respite date except in the event of an emergency. All resource parents are strongly encouraged to identify a friend, family member or neighbor who is willing to serve in the capacity of a back-up caregiver. All back-up caregivers must be cleared through the background screening process. A back-up caregiver can assist with respite to include overnights and general babysitting services. Respite that is provided by a back-up caregiver, rather than another resource parent, must take place in the licensed resource parent’s home.

What emergency procedures should I be aware of?

  • Resource parents should maintain a file with phone numbers of each child’s Family Care Manager, the emergency (non-working hours) numbers and emergency medical numbers.
  • If a child runs away, resource parents should give the child a reasonable amount of time to return on their own accord based on the age of the child. The resource parent should then call the local sheriff or police authority to make a report. The Family Care Manager should also be contacted immediately. Unless the child is threatening the caregiver or other children in the home, the expectation is that the child will be returned to the home when picked up by law enforcement.
  • Resource parents must ensure that routine medical care is sought for every child. Family Care Managers should be routinely updated regarding the child’s medical status. In the event of an emergency, the child’s health and well- being are first priority. The resource parent should not stop to call the Family Care Manager until the necessary care is obtained.
  • On an annual basis, all resource parents will be required to complete a Disaster Plan that outlines where they will go in the event they have to evacuate to include names and phone numbers for emergency contacts. In the event that a resource parent has to evacuate their home, the top priority is getting the family to a safe and secure location. The resource parent should not stop to call the Family Care Manager until he/she is in a safe location.

What are the In-Service training requirements that I should be aware of?

Resource parents are required to complete twelve (12) hours of in-service training for the first two years of licensure and eight (8) hours per year each year thereafter. A maximum of four hours can be completed through books and/or videos; however, this type of training must be pre-approved by the Licensing Specialist. The remaining hours must be completed in a face-to-face setting. The caregiver must document the date of training, topic, trainer and length of the training.

Ongoing training opportunities consist of the following:

  • Psychotropic medication training- required within 120 days of initial licensure
  • Water Safety Training- required yearly if home has a pool, hot tub or near a body of water
  • Car Seat Training- optional
  • First Aid Training- completed as part of pre-service training for new foster parents
  • CPR Training- optional, but highly encouraged
  • 30 hours of additional training if a foster parent is interested in becoming a medical foster parent
  • 30 hours of additional training if a foster parent is interested in becoming a therapeutic foster parents

Whom should I call with questions?

Questions related to a child should be directed to the Family Care Manager or his/her supervisor. Questions related to licensure, abuse reporting, board reimbursement or other non-child specific issues can be referred to the assigned Licensing Specialist, the Foster Parent Liaison or the Foster Parent Navigator. The resource parent should have the cell phone number and email address of the Family Care Manager, their supervisor, the assigned Licensing Specialist and their supervisor, as well as the Foster Parent Liaison and Foster Parent Navigator at Kids Central. As a last resort, a resource parent can always reach a live person by calling 352-873-8323. This is the direct line to the Placement Department.

If you have additional questions, please contact your Licensing Specialist.