Becoming a Foster Parent

Foster parenting is filled with challenges and opportunities. It can be challenging to parent children with difficult histories. Becoming a foster parent is an opportunity to care for children who benefit greatly from your love and support.

Foster parents change lives one child at a time. They believe in investing in the future of our children. Please consider making this very important investment.

Whether you are married or single, live in an apartment or a house, have a stay at home partner or not, you can be a foster parent. The state provides financial reimbursement for the cost of caring for foster children.

Children who need foster or relative care through DSHS are temporarily separated from their families due to abuse or neglect. The children:

  • Range in age from 0-18.
  • May be part of a sibling group (2 or more).
  • Come from diverse ethnic and cultural populations.
  • May have medical, mental and/or physical health issues.
  • May have developmental delays.
  • May have been exposed to drug and alcohol use/abuse.

All foster children are affected by the separation from their family. Sometimes this stress and worry shows up in their behavior. Some children have not experienced the usual routines of family life and need extra understanding and patience.

What is Foster Care and How Can I Become Licensed?

Foster care is designed to be a temporary living situation for children and youth who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or the death of their caregivers. A safe return home is the primary goal.

Foster families take children into their homes and hearts, creating a safe and secure place to grow until reunification. For some children, an alternative permanent home must be found.

To be considered for a foster care license, an applicant must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age.
  • Have sufficient income to support themselves without relying on foster care payments.
  • Discipline children in a positive manner without the use of physical punishment.
  • Provide supervision appropriate to the age or specific behavior of the child as outlined by the social worker.
  • Complete training:
    • First Aid/CPR
    • Blood Borne Pathogens
    • Licensing Orientation
    • Pre-service Training

Any adult living in a potential foster home must:

  • Complete a background clearance check with the FBI and Washington State Patrol.
  • Submit tuberculosis tests dated within the last year.

Youth ages 16 to 18 in the household must complete a Washington State Patrol check.

Washington State laws about foster home licensing are covered by the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). You can review the foster parenting WACs on our Working with Laws & Rules page.

Training Requirements:

  • Orientation - You must complete an orientation session in person or online.
  • Pre-service Training - You are required to take 24 hours of Pre-service Training and a First Aid/CPR and Blood Borne Pathogens course. Training courses are offered regularly in all regions of Washington State.
  • Ongoing Training - All licensed family foster homes (including those licensed by private agencies and the Office of Foster Care Licensing) are required to complete ongoing training:
    • 36 hours during their first three year licensing period
    • 30 hours during their second three year licensing period
    • 24 hours during all subsequent three year licensing periods

Go to our training page for more information

Read the foster parent training policy


You can expect many personal rewards such as:

  • Protecting children from harm.
  • Making a difference in a child's life.
  • Helping children feel good about themselves.
  • Learning and using new skills.

Length of Stay
A child may live with you for a few days or for several months. The amount of time a child will stay in your home depends on the situation. Children's Administration makes every effort to reunite parents and children. Many foster parents grow close to the children in their care. It can be difficult when they leave. If a foster child becomes legally free and does not have relatives who can adopt them, foster parents can - and many do - adopt children that come into their lives through the foster care system.

While foster parents must have a regular source of income to meet their families' needs, financial assistance is available to help with the costs of caring for a foster child.

Foster Care Reimbursement

Foster parents are reimbursed for expenses incurred in caring for foster children who live in their home. The reimbursement rate is based on the age of the child and on the time spent caring for the child's specific needs. The rate is assessed by a Children's Administration staff member in each region after discussion with the foster parent.

While the reimbursement is helpful in offsetting some of the costs of care, foster parents typically absorb some costs themselves. They do it because they are volunteering to make a difference in the lives of children. And it works. Thousands of children in this state are living better lives today because of the foster parent spirit.

Child's Age Level I Level II Level III Level IV
0-5 Years $423.68 $601.61 $947.19 1,225.98
6-11 Years $500.69 $678.61 $1,024.20 $1,302.99
12+ years $575.30 $753.22 $1,098.81 $1,377.60

Child Care Costs

Payment for child care during a foster parent's work hours is available.

Medical and Dental

Every foster child receives medical and dental coverage while in foster care.

Contact the following people in your region to find out about the next orientation meeting in your area, where the application packet is distributed and explained:

Regional Contacts
Region 1 North
Melissa Fielding
Region 1 South
Maria Rivera
Region 2 North
Summer Berndt
Region 2 South
Patrick Noone
Region 3 North
Gaiety Jay
Region 3 South
Myrna Bragg

What region am I in?

Regional Map