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Becoming a Foster Parent: Foster Parent Interviews

Family Interviews are Conversations.

By: Courtney Edge-Mattos

You’ve submitted the Foster Care Inquiry Form.  You’ve completed the Application.  You’ve had a Physical Standards Inspection of your home and passed.  You submitted your Autobiography and now, you’ve scheduled your first Foster Parent Interview.

Your heart beats a little bit faster.  What is going to happen?  What if you say the wrong thing?  Is there a wrong thing?

Foster care interviews are a little awkward at first.  It is hard to open your life to a stranger and to know that this stranger is assessing your suitability for something that is very personal and sacred (parenting). 

As a Homefinder for the past eight years, let me take a moment to help you know what an interview is like and the goals of the interview piece of the licensing process.

Getting to Know You

Foster parent interviews are designed to get to know you and your household.  Homefinders are observing how your house is run.  Are you formal?  Are you casual?  Are there people in and out, or is it a quiet setting?  Are your pets friendly or reserved?  We want to know this, because we want to have a sense of how it would feel for a child to enter your environment.  We may talk about things like how you would feel about a child who is messy or perhaps comes from a home that had different expectations.

We generally base our interview questions off of the Autobiography that we ask applicants to complete.  This lets you have a sense of the content of our conversations, which can be helpful if you are shy or may have difficult things in your past.  We discuss your history, not to be nosy, but to be sure we understand what events and people made you YOU.  Some folks we meet with have had very bumpy roads.  That is not a barrier to becoming a foster parent.  In fact, it might make you stronger because you know how to be resilient.  We strive to be respectful and not retraumatize people if there are difficult parts to your history that we need to discuss.  We will move at your pace and can put a topic aside for a meeting if it feels uncomfortable to discuss in the moment.

The better we know your beliefs, values, parenting philosophy, communication style, strengths, areas where you need support, goals, and family story, the better we can match a child to your home who you will best serve.

Together and Apart

If you are part of a multi-person household, your Homefinder will speak with all household members.  We will have conversations both together as a family unit and separately.  This allows your Homefinder know that everyone is (or isn’t) on board with foster family life.  Homefinders will center the interviews on the Caregiver or Caregivers in the home, but will include other household members, like children and older adults who reside in the home.  Questions are age and developmentally appropriate and are designed to facilitate more conversation about foster care.  Once individual interviews are done, follow up may be needed as a family.  An example would be if a child has a concern about fostering that they express, the Homefinder will include the parent or parents in a conversation with the child about how to address that concern.  Also, there are times when there is a disagreement about the demographics of the child family members think they will best parent.  Some may think only young children, while other family members may think school aged fits best.  The Homefinder will then facilitate a family conversation so that a consensus can be reached.

Demographics of Children Best Served

JRI Foster Care serves children age birth through 22 years old, so infancy through young adults.  That’s quite a range!  In addition to a person’s chronological age, their developmental age should be considered.  Homefinders use interviews to discuss ages, stages, mental health needs, cognitive and developmental needs, medical needs, scheduling needs, and other factors to determine the characteristics of a child that your home will best serve.  This information will be included in your Homestudy (more on that next). It is an ongoing conversation and, while homes may shift their demographics over time, should be adhered to carefully during the matching process.

Putting It Together

Once all documentation is obtained, MAPP class is complete, fingerprints are obtained, and interviews are done, your Homefinder writes a Homestudy, also called a Licensing Study, to assess if you can be approved as a foster care provider.  The study is very comprehensive and is generally about 20 pages long.  JRI Foster Care’s management team reviews each Homestudy.  Sometimes, they may ask the Homefinder to obtain additional information or to make edits.  This can take up to a month.

Can I Be Denied?

Yes.  The Homefinder’s job is to approve foster care providers who meet the eligibility requirements to be foster parents.  This includes basic eligibility, like having an appropriate home, and more intangible things, like appropriate references, demonstrating good judgment, having appropriate expectations of foster care and children in care, and demonstrating emotional well-being.  If there are concerns that arise, your Homefinder will speak with you about those issues.  We never like to deny someone, but we consider our approval of a home a promise to a child in care that they will be emotionally and physically safe, that their foster parent is prepared to navigate challenges in a calm and safe manner, and they will be respected in any household at JRI.  If we do not believe a foster parent can fulfill those promises, we cannot open that home.  

Most of the time, if a denial is going to happen, we have that conversation with the applying person or persons as soon as possible and generally well before the Homestudy is written.  However, there are times when information becomes known closer to the anticipated time a home would be approved and we have to inform an applicant that they will not be approved.  At this late stage, a person would have the right to an appeal of the decision to deny their application.

Sum It All Up

Foster parent interviews are conversations.  They are designed to help a Homefinder get to know all household members of an applying foster home.  They are designed to help a Homefinder understand the household’s culture or cultures, beliefs, values, routines, expectations, fears, support systems, and histories.  There are a minimum of three interviews, but more often five sessions.  Interview sessions are generally an hour and a half long and consist of individual and household meetings.

If you’ve been considering foster care and are ready to have a conversation about what that would be like for your household, please complete JRI Foster Care’s Inquiry Form.  We look forward to getting to know you!

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Rachel has been a part of the JRI team since January, 2000. For over 20 years, Rachel has been working in the field of human services assisting families with accessing and navigating services. Rachel received her Bachelors degree in psychology and Masters Degree in Public Administration from Bridgewater State University. She was promoted in July 2005 to Family Networks Program Director where she closely worked with the Department of Children Families for 10 years ensuring that children and families received the highest quality of individualized services ranging from community based through residential care. Rachel is very dedicated to helping the individuals she works with and is committed to improving the lives of children and families. Rachel’s passion for creative service programming inspires her in her role as JRI Service Navigator.