Becoming a Foster Parent

Did you know that children in your community or the child sitting next to your own child at school may need a foster family? Children and youth in foster care are frequently separated not only from their families but also from their friends, schools, and communities. By becoming a foster parent, you, your neighbors and other community members make it possible for a child to stay in the same school and participate in other regular activities such as sports, church, scouts, and other normal activities.

Successful foster parents have two things in common: they have a desire to help children, and they are flexible – they know how to roll with the punches. Most importantly, foster families need to provide safe, stable and caring homes for children.

If you think fostering may be right for you, please read more about how you can make a difference in the life of a child or youth in foster care.

What is foster care?

Foster care is a safe, loving, temporary home for children who must live away from their family due to abuse or neglect. Children and youth who enter foster care come from culturally diverse families, communities and backgrounds. The goal of foster care is to safely reunite children with their birth families whenever possible. 

Children’s Administration seeks prospective foster parents who can:

  • provide daily care and support for each child, based on his or her unique needs,
  • work in partnership with Children’s Administration as part of the child’s team, and
  • become prepared through on-going training to gain greater skill in meeting the diverse needs of children who enter foster care.

What is the role of a foster parent?

Foster parents help support families in a time of crisis. They work as a team with the child’s case worker; they are dedicated to protecting children and, offering hope to each child’s family.  Their impact reaches far beyond the child in their care; they provide a positive influence across the community.  They love, coach, mentor, wipe tears, celebrate, support and encourage the child in their home. Foster parenting is filled with both challenges and opportunities. It can be challenging to parent children who come with difficult histories. Becoming a foster parent is an opportunity to care for children who can benefit greatly from your love and support. 

As a foster parent you can make a difference for a child in your community by changing lives one child at a time. Foster parents believe in investing in the future of our children. If you think foster parenting might be right for you and your family, please read more about becoming a foster parent in Washington.

Whether you are married, single, gay or straight, divorced or widowed; if you 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.  We hope you are ready to learn more about becoming a foster family.  Washington’s foster parent recruitment phone line:  1-888-KIDS-414, provides information and can answer your questions – take a minute to call, because you don’t know what you’re missing! 

Are you ready to begin the process now?  Please complete our questionnaire about becoming a foster parent – you will receive a personal contact within 2 business days.

Children in foster care come from a variety of diverse backgrounds, ethnic and cultural populations and each child has unique strengths and needs.  They have been temporarily separated from their families while Children’s Administration works with their family to safely return them home whenever possible.

Children range in age from birth to age 21 years. Many have brothers or sisters in foster care with them. Most have experienced abuse or neglect. Some children have special needs; they may be physically, behaviorally, mentally or emotionally challenged. Some may need foster parents with special caregiving skills due to their physical health issues or developmental delays. Infants may be medically fragile and some children have challenges due to a parent’s prior drug or alcohol 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.

Children enter foster care through no fault of their own. However, children or youth who have faced trauma sometimes have learned behaviors to keep themselves safe, or to meet their needs in other ways. Foster parents offer a loving and nurturing home where each child can feel safe and is celebrated for his or her unique gifts.      

When you become a foster parent, you become part of a team that is dedicated to protecting children, supporting families, and helping young people develop their fullest potential. Foster care is all about teamwork.

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

Prospective foster parents who inquire through our on-line questionnaire, or who call Washington’s foster parent recruitment phone line 1-888-KIDS, can expect a return email or phone call within 48 business hours. Children’s Administration in Washington partners our recruitment efforts with two contractors who respond to your inquiry to provide information and on-going support:

  • Eastern Washington University’s (EWU) Fostering Washington program:
  • Olive Crest’s Fostering Together program:


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, several months, or a year or more. Some prospective foster parents choose to become licensed only to provide Respite Care, which offers a child’s foster parent the opportunity to take a break from caregiving responsibilities.  The amount of time a child will stay in your home depends on the birth family’s situation.  When a child is placed in out-of-home care, the social workers at Children’s Administration (CA) don’t know how long the child will stay in your home.  The Court decides when a child will be reunited, or placed through another permanent plan.

Children's Administration (CA) makes every effort to reunite parents and children. Also, by federal law, Children’s Administration must make significant efforts to search for each child’s relatives. CA prioritizes placement of children with their relatives whenever possible; you may have a child placed with you while we continue to search for a relative family.

Many foster parents grow close to the children placed in their care. When a child leaves your home, it can be hard on the entire foster family. If the parents are not able to successfully re-unite with their child, and their parental rights are terminated by the court, the foster child becomes “legally free”. If relatives have not been found who can adopt the child, we will ask if the foster parents would want to adopt the child(ren).  Foster parents can - and many do, adopt children that come into their lives through the foster care program.

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 care maintenance payments are intended to assist licensed foster parents in meeting the needs of the foster child in their care.  A basic rate payment (Level 1) is paid to all foster parents for costs related to food, clothing, shelter, and personal incidentals. In addition, there are three levels of supplemental payments (Levels 2, 3 and 4) which are paid to foster parents who care for children with varying degrees of physical, mental, behavioral or emotional conditions that require increased effort, care or supervision that are above the needs of a typically developing child.

(includes Basic Rate)
(includes Basic Rate)
(includes Basic Rate)
0 to 5 years $562.00 $739.92 $1,085.51 $1,364.30
6 to 11 Years $683.00 $860.92 $1,206.51 $1,485.30
12 & Older $703.00 $880.92 $1,226.51 $1,505.30

Child Care Costs

Payment for child care during a foster parent’s work hours is available for caregivers with part time or full time employment.  If the family is a two parent caregiver family, child care is covered when  both parents are employed and working out of the home simultaneously leaving no caregiver at home to care for the child. 

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
Becky Taylor
Region 3 South
Myrna Bragg

What region am I in?

Regional Map