There are very few categorical restrictions on who can become a foster parent in WA, but there are many rules and requirements that an adult must meet before becoming licensed, including financial stability and background checks, and required training. Each family is licensed by either DCYF directly, or by a private “child-placing agency”. (Learn more about the difference between the department/agencies here).
Not all of these requirements apply if you are becoming a foster parent for a specific child you know (known as kinship care). To do this you must be a relative of the child, or an adult with an existing relationship with them (e.g their teacher, their neighbor). You have a choice of getting a basic approval from the department OR of going through the full licensing process.
There are also plenty of support groups for already licensed foster parents.
In Washington, every potential foster parent must take an Orientation class, Caregiver Core Training, and first aid. You can take both CCT and the orientation class online, in your own time, or by signing up for an in-person class (when covid-19 is gone!)
You don’t have to decide who you will license with before you begin training, BUT
a) the sooner you start talking to an organization you will license through, the sooner they can start working with you to complete background checks, interviews, home visits and other requirements in parallel. DCYF tries to have parents licensed within 90 days of this first contact – some agencies aim for the same timeline, some have extra requirements and take longer.
b) some agencies run an in-house session of the Core Caregiver Training, where they will also cover agency-specific rules and you will meet families that can become your support group as you go through the process together.
c) if you have any concerns about whether you are can meet the requirements to become licensed, it’s better to discuss these with a licensor before committing all your weekends for a month.
a) If you want to license with the department OR you have no idea who you want to license with, start here: DCYF has a questionnaire for people interested in learning about being a foster parent. Your response will be sent to a recruiter who will contact you. Prefer the phone? Call the state’s toll-free recruitment line at 1-888-KIDS-414, for the same process.
b) If you definitely want to license with an agency, but don’t know who: Washington Fosters is an initiative of private agencies, developing clear resources and helpful tools for those considering becoming foster parents. If you complete their information form, they will look at your location and self description and put you in contact with an appropriate agency to learn more.
c) If you already have a specific agency in mind, or if you would like to learn more about the different agencies, you can approach them directly – many agencies run no-commitment information sessions regularly.