Children’s Home + Aid’s Foster Home Licensing Manager, Kurt Kalas, stresses that potential foster parents must go into the process with an open mind and an open heart.

“You must be prepared to accept children who have just been separated from their parents and therefore may be less than thrilled to move into your home,” Kurt said. “Although children may be coming from homes with parents who had substance abuse issues, that was their home and they’re bound to miss it.”

Foster parents come from a wide range of backgrounds. They can be married or single and with or without children of their own. Foster parents must be over 21 years of age, have adequate space in their homes, pass a background check and must have a stable source of income.

Potential foster parents should be aware that the chances of being placed with a baby or toddler are extremely limited as children 0-3 are often placed in the care of a relative. A potential foster parent must also bear in mind that foster care isn’t meant to provide families with low-cost adoptions; rather, you’re helping a child. Although adoptions do sometimes occur, the ultimate goal from the beginning is to return the child home to their biological parents; this is usually the hardest mental switch for foster parents to make.

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, the first step is to contact the Children’s Home + Aid location nearest you. You will be invited to fill out an application and attend an informational meeting where you will receive detailed information about the foster care program. Next, a home visit will be scheduled to begin the licensing and home study process. This is followed by the submission of a foster home application, medical forms for everyone living in the home, personal references, and background checks for you and other adults living in the home.

After completing a 36-hour foster parent training course, you will be on your way to becoming a licensed foster parent. The 36 hours of training generally takes a few weeks and is administered by the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services at a number of locations. After you have received your license, the process of placing a foster child in your care can begin.

Foster parents who are willing to accept any child regardless of age or gender are likely to get a call as soon as the following week after they receive their license. As a foster parent, you must have a plan prepared so you are able to take a child under extremely short notice; sometimes within an hour or by the next day.

Although you will be caring for the child, it’s also important to maintain a friendly relationship with the child’s biological parent(s). The hope is that the foster and biological parents get to know and trust one another as their common goal is the safety and growth of the child. After the child has been placed, Children’s Home + Aid works to support the biological parents, the foster parents, and the child through a comprehensive range of services including counseling, therapy, education, medical care, and after-hours emergency response.

Kurt Kalas is the Foster Home Licensing Manager for the Metro Region of Children’s Home + Aid and has worked in foster care for 23 years. When he is not at work helping find loving homes for children in care, he enjoys fishing and is an active member of his church.