New to Foster Care
My wife and I first became foster parents in Philadelphia earlier this year. Our journey started over two years ago when staff from a local foster care agency, Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM), in Northeast Philadelphia, gave an introductory training and Q&A at our church. After that initial exposure, we were pretty sure we wanted to be a part of foster care in Philly. However, between hectic work and home schedules weren’t quite in the right place to get started.
We have two biological girls of our own under age 4 and earlier this year knew we were ready to accommodate a third. The entire process took us about 6 months, but most of that time was waiting until July when my work schedule was going to lighten up significantly. We were eager to get started, and wanted to get everything in order so we could start as soon as July came.
We started out by looking for a foster care agency. Knowing little about the system in Philly, we simply looked for an agency close to where we lived. As it turns out, APM was actually the closest agency to where we lived, so we contacted them to schedule a training.
Our initial training was only 1 day. At our training, the staff went over what foster care would look like. They discussed the agency policies and how to best care for the children we would have in our home. We received a wide variety of packets and pamphlets with information and started to go about sorting through it all.
At our training, we also received a list of required documents and clearances we would need to be certified. Once we got home, we got right to work gathering insurance documents, asking friends for references, and applying for government clearances.
Getting it All Together
How hard could it be, right? Just check off all the checkboxes. Well, it actually took quite a bit of organization and trial and error. For example, when I first applied for by PA criminal background check, I applied as a volunteer. As I later learned, foster parents are not considered volunteers in PA. However, it wasn’t until our completed file was being reviewed that I learned we would need to reapply for clearances.
We also learned when applying for child abuse clearance that we would need clearance from the last state we had lived in as well. It took almost 2 months to get the second clearance. Fortunately we had started early!
Once everything was submitted and complete, we waited for APM’s monthly review meeting where they review the new parent applications. When we heard that everything looked good, we were finally scheduled for a home study where a resource parent support worker came to our house to make sure we met the list of home requirements – a list that is really quite reasonable.
Finally, with everything completed, APM submitted our file to DHS for final certification. It was only a week or two before our resource parent support worker notified us we were finally certified!
Both of us would consider ourselves organized, but we still found ourselves confused at times. There is just a lot of information to digest at once! Our experience is the main reason for our Philadelphia Foster Care Certification Guide which walks through every step of the process in detail.
To hear more, check out our post on our first foster care placement.