Questions About Fostering
Who Can Foster
Can I foster if my spouse and I work?
Yes. There are many couples that both work while fostering. During the application process, your licensing worker will discuss with you your intended childcare arrangements for the children who enter your home as well as your employer’s understanding of your decision to foster.
Can I foster if I homeschool my children?
Yes. There are many foster parents who homeschool their children. However, children that are currently in foster care are required to attend public school. A school-aged child who is placed in your home can be registered to attend the school nearest you or a school that you are zoned for. Your eligibility to foster is not affected by your decision about schooling for your own children.
Can I foster if I have a serious illness or health condition?
It depends on the nature and severity of your illness. During the application process to become a foster parent, you are required to have a medical evaluation completed. Your doctor must indicate that specific nature of your health condition. Additional information may be required from medical professionals to understand the specific nature of your condition. You will be considered based on your ability to care for and meet the needs of an additional child. It is recommended that you be open and transparent with your licensing worker during the application process.
Will my anxiety or depression diagnosis prevent me from fostering?
An anxiety or depression diagnosis does not necessarily prevent you from fostering. Additional information will be required about medications you are taking or have taken, therapists that you have seen, and other information about your ability to cope with your diagnosis. You will be considered based on your ability to care for and meet the needs of an additional child. It is recommended that you be open and transparent with your licensing worker during the application process to be considered for fostering.
Can I foster if I own guns?
Yes. During the foster parent application process, you will be required to disclose what guns you own to the licensing agency. This information is shared with the Department of Social Services for the purpose of fostering. It is also required that guns and ammunition be stored in separate locations that are safe and locked. Specific information about storage of guns will be addressed during the application process and your method of storage is required to be approved for fostering.
Can I foster if my spouse is not interested in helping me?
It is not recommended that a couple begin the process to become foster parents until both spouses are on board and in agreement. Parenting a child in foster care can be very challenging and can add additional stress to a marriage and family. It is only recommended that married couples begin the process if both spouses are invested in fostering.
Can single people foster?
Yes. There are many single foster parents in South Carolina. It is recommended that you consider your support system and who will help you care for the children that enter your home. Many single foster parents rely on extended family, friends, or their church for support during the process.
Can same-sex couples foster?
Yes. There are many same-sex couples that foster in South Carolina. You may both apply as applicants. Click here and contact any of the licensing agencies to answer any additional questions you have.
Can I foster if my spouse works out of town?
There are individuals who foster who have a spouse that works out of town. However, just because it can be done does not mean it’s best. This individual should consider childcare options and finding a support system. If you are unsure if this is best for you, contact a licensing agency and share your situation with someone who can help you decide what is best for you.
How much money do I need to make to be a foster parent?
There is no income requirement to become a foster parent. During the foster parent application process, you will disclose your income and expenses, in addition to other financial assets, with your licensing worker. You are being considered based on your ability to make your ends meet financially and your ability to care for an additional child.
What size does my home need to be to become a foster parent?
There is no requirement about home size to become a foster parent. There are foster parents with all types and sizes of houses.
What information do I have to share to become a foster parent?
You are required to be transparent during the foster parent application process. You will be asked to disclose information about your medical history, your finances, your childhood, your employer, your family relationships, your neighborhood, and so on. It can be a very intrusive process, but the information that is being requested of you is required to ensure that the children placed in your home will be safe and cared for.
Just remember: You may know that you are able to care for and meet the needs of a child in foster care, but the Department of Social Services is legally responsible for the child while they are in foster care. The information is all intended to protect the child’s safety and well- being.
Home & School
Can I choose what children enter my home or not?
You have some control over the children who enter your home. When you go through the application process, you can specify the age range, gender, and number of children that you would like to help. That information will be used by your licensing agency to place children in your home.
It is important to know that when children are entering foster care, often times your licensing agency does not have a lot of background information on the child. You may be part of the process of helping the Department of Social Services gather information about the child as you actively take care of the child and learn his or her needs, patterns, and behaviors.
You should also know that you always have the opportunity to decline placement of a child. Once you are an approved foster family, you will receive phone calls about potential children who need a place to stay. Your family can then decide if you are willing to accept placement of that child.
Who will come into my home when I am a foster parent and how often?
Each child in foster care will be assigned a foster care worker from the Department of Social Services and a volunteer Guardian Ad Litem. These individuals are required to visit the child regularly throughout their stay in foster care. The child may also be assigned an adoption caseworker. If this is the case, that individual is required to visit the child as well. How often people visit your home can depend on many factors, but you should expect professionals to be visiting your home every month. You will schedule these visits with the individuals coming to your home.
Your family also has a worker at your licensing agency who is responsible for maintaining your file as a registered foster home. If you are a standard foster parent, your licensing worker is required to visit your home quarterly. If you are a therapeutic foster parent (caring for children with more special needs), your licensing worker is required to visit your home more than once per month.
To ask a foster parent about her personal experience with visits to her home, click here.
Can I move while I am fostering?
Yes. It is not uncommon for families to move while they are also foster parents. If you plan to move, let your licensing worker know as soon as you know. They can help you through the process, as there will be information that needs to be updated and/or modified to certify your new home will be approved for fostering.
Do I need an extra bedroom for a child in my care?
Each child is required to have their own sleeping arrangement (bed, crib, etc.) and sleep in a dwelling unit in the home that is specifically for sleeping (i.e. bedroom). There are specific requirements regarding gender and age for children to share a bedroom. Some licenses allow for more than one child per bedroom. Please consult your worker at your licensing agency to further understand if your bedroom situation is suitable for fostering.
What school will a child in my care attend?
Usually, a child is registered to attend the school closest to you once that child has been placed with you. However, there are instances where foster parents are asked to transport a child to a different school. This is something that you can discuss with your licensing worker before accepting placement of the child.
What changes have to be made to my home to foster?
During the foster parent application process, you will be required to pass a Fire and DHEC Inspections. You are responsible to make any changes to your home to pass these inspections. Most often, families have to purchase a fire extinguisher, interconnected smoke detectors/ carbon monoxide detectors, and remove exposed lead-based paint. You will have time to make the requested changes during the application process and are required to do so before you can become approved.
Cost & Responsibilities
What is the reimbursement rate for foster parents in SC?
The current rate for standard care in South Carolina is $404 per month or $13.46 per day for newborns to children 5 years old, $469 per month or $15.63 per day for children between the ages of 6 and 12, and $535 per month or $17.83 per day for children between the ages of 13 and 21. Foster parents are paid this amount to cover basic expenses for the child placed with them, including food, clothing, child care, extracurricular activities, etc. This is the minimum reimbursement rate, and rates may vary based on the difficulty of care rates and therapeutic care rates.
What responsibilities are mine to care for the child in my care?
As a foster parent, you assume physical custody of the child in your home. However, the Department of Social Services is still legally responsible for the child. Any decisions regarding that child’s medical condition or living situation resides with DSS. You are required to consult with the child’s caseworker before making any such decisions. Aside from that, your responsibility is to care for that child and make decisions for that child like you would for your own children. You are required to take them to school, doctor’s appointments, extracurricular activities, and so on. You are responsible to make decisions regarding childcare, food, discipline, and so on.
Are childcare expenses paid for?
If you work outside the home, children in foster care are eligible for ABC vouchers for daycare. There is sometimes an additional cost, as the vouchers may not cover the entire expense. You are responsible to find and pay for childcare for the children who are placed with you. The stipend you are paid for fostering can be used to cover this expense.
What expenses am I responsible for as a foster parent?
You are responsible for all expenses for the child while the child is placed with you. You will be paid a stipend which can offset many of the costs for the child, including daycare, clothing, food, extracurricular activities, etc. Some licensing agencies provide additional support to help families cover costs for the children in their home.
What does it cost to become a foster parent?
There is no fee to become a foster parent, but there are possible expenses that you can incur in order to become approved. Many times the expenses involve requesting past medical records and purchasing items needed to pass the Fire and DHEC Inspections (for fire extinguisher, smoke detectors/carbon monoxide detectors, outlet covers, and gun cabinets). You are expected to pay for these expenses. There are some organizations that may be willing to help you with this expense. Families are encouraged to ask their licensing worker about this possibility.
The Application Process
How do I begin the process?
The first step is to choose the agency you would like to work with. This agency will work with your family to become approved to foster and will provide support once you are licensed and children begin entering your home. Regardless of which agency you choose, the children in foster care are the same and the process to become approved is the same. Find out what agencies are in your county here.
What are the steps to becoming approved to foster?
There are several steps that each family must complete to become an approved foster parent. Click here to see an overview of those steps. For more detailed information about the process, visit www.scfamilies.org.
How long does it take to become approved to foster?
There are many factors that go into how long it takes a family to become approved, many of which are dependent on how much time the family has to commit to the process. Some families have become approved in as little as 2-3 months, while for others it has taken close to or more than a year. When you contact the licensing agency of your choice to begin the process, you can ask them the average length of time to complete the process with that particular agency.
Are there faith-based options in foster care?
Yes. There are a couple different licensing agencies in South Carolina that have a doctrinal requirement for the families they serve (requirements vary per agency). Find out what agencies are in your county here.
How long will a child live with me?
Every child’s situation is unique. A child could live with you for as few as a couple days or a week (if you are doing respite foster care) or as long as they are in foster care, which could be several years depending on their family situation. There is a large variation in the length of stay and number of placements for each child who enters foster care, which is dependent on a variety of factors.
At any time, you have the option to ask a child living with you to be moved. This does happen on occasion, for example, if families have unexpected emergency situations with other family members or they feel they are unable to manage the behaviors of the child in their home. However, this is strongly discouraged, as a movement within foster care is traumatic for a child. If concerns occur, you are encouraged to notify your licensing worker.
How do I foster an infant?
The process to become a foster parent is the same regardless of what age child you are interested in fostering. There is a large need of families willing to accept placement of infants. Notify your worker at your licensing agency if this is your preference.
Can I adopt the child in my care?
The majority of children who enter foster care are reunified with their family of origin. When this is not possible, children are referred to adoption services and get an adoption caseworker. If a child that is placed in your home becomes eligible for adoption, you can apply to be considered. If a child becomes available for adoption, it is common for foster parents to adopt that child/children.
Once I become approved to foster, do I always have a child in my care living with me?
No. Approved foster parents do not always have a child placed with them. There are circumstances that arise where a family is not in a place to have a child living with them. For example, after a child leaves the family, it is common to grieve that loss before accepting placement of another child. There are also circumstances where families have their own emergencies and situations that they want to focus on for a period of time. It is recommended that foster parents communicate their needs and situation to their licensing worker, who can help them make the best decision.
Can I use corporal punishment on my biological children when a child is in my care and lives with me?
Corporal punishment (including spanking) is not permitted to be used on any children who are in foster care. No exceptions.
It is up to each family to decide how to discipline their own children when they begin fostering. It is recommended that families consider other discipline methods on their own children, as a child who has been abused/neglected can be traumatized by watching another child in the home receive corporal punishment and may not understand the difference. However, this decision is up to each individual family.
Can I stop fostering at any time?
Yes. Being a foster parent is a voluntary decision. You are not obligated to continue fostering beyond what you believe is best for your family.
What if I start the process to foster and there’s an emergency in my family?
There are instances where families begin the process to begin foster parents and then circumstances arise that do not allow them to continue. If the family wishes to continue the process at a later date, they are encouraged to contact their licensing agency to begin the process at that time. There may be steps in the process that need to be repeated, as all information in the application process is time-sensitive.
For more questions and answers, visit www.scfamilies.org or contact any of the licensing agencies in the state.