Licensing: DCYF and Agencies

In WA foster care is run by the Department of Children and Youth. All children in foster care are in the custody of the department, and have a case worker from the state. While all foster homes are ultimately approved by the department, some homes go through a private “child placing agency” and the agency acts as an intermediary between them and the state for licensing, placement and payment.

DCYF Staff Directory

No matter how you get licensed, you will work within the DCYF Regional system – dividing the state into six regions for administration, starting at #1 in Spokane. The department publishes a list of all the private agencies that operate in each region, for either adoption or foster care: 

Map of DCYF regions

Why license with an agency?

Agencies are typically formed in order to offer something that the state doesn’t – generally this will include an agency social worker assigned to your family (to complement the state case workers assigned to children), higher levels of support and more assistance deciding whether a placement will be suitable for you. In a few cases it means that they only place children within a restricted demographic – e.g; one agency may only place teenagers, or an agency may focus on placing youth of a particular minority with families that will support their continued connection to their heritage. Tribal agencies specifically place children who have a connection to their tribe[s], and may operate under slightly different rules because tribal jurisdiction applies (nb: all foster parents should learn about the Indian Child Welfare Act). Families interested in providing foster care to refugee youth must license with Lutheran Community Services. See below for more information on agencies.

Why license with the department?

In many areas, there simply won’t be an agency around. The flip side of the extra support is that agencies can have stricter requirements than the department (such as requiring additional training for parents), there are more professionals involved with you, and agencies will act as a screen between the parents and the list of children needing placement – this can mean that you won’t know about placements if they don’t seem like a good match for you, and a few agencies aren’t set up for their families to take placements outside of business hours, or to provide/receive respite care from outside the agency.


Private Agencies (a.k.a Child Placing Agencies)

Until recently, there was no public list of agencies to work with. The department has now published a list for each region, which also has agencies who assist with adoption and not foster care. 

Agencies sometimes end their foster care program or close in one or more regions, and they vary tremendously in size and resources. For example, one support model that is only available to families licensed with the department or a participating agency is the Mockingbird Hub model.

The following information has been collected from multiple sources including agency websites, annual reports and direct conversations, and is likely to be wrong in at least one way and even missing agencies altogether. Updates can be submitted through this form:

Number of foster homes licensed with each agency, as of 2020


Foster First
Mullen Polk Foundation
Kid Sense LLC
JMC Kids
Comprehensive Life Resources
Beautiful Birds
The Hub of Pierce County
Lifeline Children’s Services
Antioch Adoptions
Synergy Foster Support Services
Compass Health
Better Together
Fostering Solutions
K Connections
Nak Nuk We Sha (Yakama tribe)
Camas Path
Life Services
Children’s Home Society
Excelsior Wellness Society
Confederated Tribes of Colville

Less than 10Youthville
Morning Star Boys Ranch/Foster Care
Quinault Indian Nation
Casey Family Services
Muckleshoot Child and Family Services
10-20Community Youth Services
City Ministries
Puyallup Tribe
Friends of Youth
Pierce County Alliance
Lutheran Community Services NW- Spokane
Holt Washington
United Indians of all Tribes
20-50Secret Harbor
Lorene’s Place II
Service Alternatives
50-100Skookum Kids
YMCA of Greater Seattle
100-200Catholic Community Services
Olive Crest
Community and Family Services Foundation


Detailed comparison of agencies
agencies we do not have data on are excluded.

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