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100 West Randolph Street 6-200
Chicago IL 60601
TTD 312.814.8783

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406 East Monroe
Springfield IL 62701-1498
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  Foster Care  

Frequently Asked Questions about Foster Care

Call: 800-572-2390

What is foster care?

Foster care is the temporary placement of children outside of their own homes.  It occurs because of abuse, neglect, or other family problems. When possible, the Department of Children and Family Services and other  agencies work with families to reunite them.  When that's not possible, measures are taken to get the children adopted -- or prepared for independent life.

What kinds of children need foster homes the most?

Many kinds of children will need foster homes. The children who currently need homes the most are:

African-American infants

  • Teenage mothers and their babies

  • Children with special medical needs

  • Adolescents

  • Brothers and sisters who need to stay together

  • Hispanic children

  • Babies born with the HIV (AIDS) virus or with cocaine in their system

Can we pick out the child we want?

You can express a preference on the age, race, and sex of the child that you think would best fit in with your family. You do not have to accept a child you do not want.

Can single foster persons care for foster children?


How many foster children can we take?

That depends on factors such as your ability, your enthusiasm, how many children you have of your own, and how much room you have in your home.  The maximum number, including your own children, is set out by DCFS licensing standards.

Do all foster children have problems?

Most of them do, to some degree. Many are frightened and confused at the sudden separation from their parents. Some are angry. Others may think they are being sent to a foster home as punishment.  Even babies may be extremely fretful and irritable at first. These problems gradually lessen, though, as a foster child comes to know that you care for him or her.

What kind of support will we receive?

Financial Assistance

Foster parents in "regular" foster care programs receive a monthly check to cover the child's food, clothing and personal allowance. The amount of the check is based on the child's age.

Medical Care

Each foster child gets a medical card from the state which guarantees payment for all necessary medical care and preventive medicine. You will be given a number to call to get help in selecting a physician for a child placed with you.  The medical card is also accepted by many hospitals and for approved prescriptions. You should not pay any medical bill directly.

Education Services         

Foster children go to regular public schools, unless they need special education, for which the state can pay. Private or parochial school tuition cannot be paid by the State.  Foster children may attend private or parochial schools, but only if the tuition is paid by some other source.

Personal Support

Your supervising child welfare agency and your child's caseworker are responsible for supporting your family on a daily basis.  Each agency, including DCFS, has developed internal supports, which include foster parent support groups, newsletters, after hours telephone numbers, and community resources.

Support from DCFS

The Department of Children and Family Services provides overall support to licensed private child welfare agencies with foster care programs, while maintaining its own foster care program. DCFS also directly provides universal foster care information and impartial advocacy for all foster families statewide.

How do we become foster parents?

A call to 1-800-624-KIDS to express your interest will result in a local DCFS or private child welfare agency representative contacting you about foster care.  A representative will then make an appointment to come your home. That person's job is to decide, with you, if foster care is a good plan for your family and, if so, how you can best help foster children.

The representative will also give you an application and a medical form to have filled out for each member of your family.  Because the law requires that a criminal background check be run on all  applicants, you will be fingerprinted. In addition, references you provide will be contacted.

While these checks are being run, you will attend training classes to help prepare you for your future role.

What types of foster parents are there?

Most foster parents begin to care for children whose goal is to be reunited with their birth parents or other family members as soon as possible through a "regular" foster care program for abused or neglected children.

Sometimes abused or neglected children need more intense services to be provided by the foster family who must possess additional skills to meet the individual needs of that child. Foster parents who either already have necessary skills, or are willing to be trained to meet the special needs of these foster children, may become part of a "specialized" or "treatment" foster care program providing intensive services. These foster families also receive extra payments and training.

How long does it take to get a foster child?

The licensing and training process takes from four to six months. After that process and your training are completed, children can then be placed with you.

How will our children react to foster children?

If you've prepared them well for the coming of a foster child and they understand the temporary nature of foster care, there should be few problems.  It's not unusual for your children to be a bit jealous at first -- just as they might be jealous of a new baby in the family.

Do foster children need individual bedrooms?

No. A foster child can share a room with your children or other foster children of the same sex. Usually, the child must have a bed of his or her own.  A foster child may not share a bedroom with an adult -- except for brief periods due to the child's illness or another need for attention.

Can we take our foster child on vacation with us?

In most cases, yes. But if it involves out-of-state travel, you must call your child's caseworker in advance for approval.

Can our foster children go to church with us?

Yes. Usually, you will get children whose religious background is similar to your own.  But if a foster child is of a different faith, he or she must be allowed to attend worship in that faith.

Does a child's birth parents visit him or her?

In most cases, yes. In fact, visits between  parents and children are an essential part of the efforts to reunite families. The child's caseworker has the primary responsibility for planning visits and arranging supervision, if required. The caseworker will talk with you and the child's parents to work out the time and location of the visits.

Can we ever adopt a foster child?

The first goal is to return foster children to their families when that is possible.  However, if a foster child who has been in your home for some time becomes available for adoption, you can discuss your interest in adopting him or her with the caseworker.  At that time, you would have to meet all of the regular requirements for becoming an adoptive parent.

For information on adoption in general, call the Adoption Information Center of Illinois at 1-800-572-2390.

Won't it be hard on us when the foster child returns home or is adopted?

Yes. That is, in fact, the hardest part of being a foster parent. You will certainly feel sad for a time.  It's only natural  -- just as it's natural for your foster daughter or son to want a family of their own.  But there will always be new foster children who will need your care and affection.

Also See...

Illinois Skills Match Workforce Development web site (includes job postings)
Now is the Time (Affirmative Action)

Employment Opportunities
Child Welfare Employee Licensing
Child Welfare Employment Opportunities brochure

Oportunidades para Servir tu Gente y tu Comunidad

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