Every year, thousands of foster families across Illinois provide a temporary safe haven for children who have been placed in DCFS care by local courts. DCFS strives to reunite children with their birth families, and nearly half of all foster children are reunified with their families within 12 months. When reunification simply is not possible, as determined by the courts, many foster families choose to adopt the children they have cared for.
How do you become a foster family?
Foster families come from all walks of life and are needed all across Illinois. Foster parents must be at least 21 years old and can be married, in a civil union, single, divorced or separated.
To ensure your success as a foster parent, prospective foster families are required to:
- participate in a home inspection and social assessment;
- complete 27 hours of training focused on foster care and the needs of children who are in foster care;
- complete a criminal background check of all household members;
- be financially stable; and
- complete a health screening that includes verification that immunizations are up-to-date.
If you're considering becoming a foster family, call 800-624-5437 for more information and to start your application process.
What help is there for foster parents?
Foster families provide children with the one thing they need most: love. DCFS and our nonprofit partners provide a wide range of assistance to foster families to ensure a safe, loving home and brighter future for foster kids, including:
- caseworkers to meet the particular needs of your family and foster children;
- health insurance coverage for foster children that includes both medical care and prescriptions;
- therapy, counseling, academic counseling and special education services when needed;
- training programs, support groups and newsletters geared to foster families;
- monthly stipend for the foster child's basic needs, including: food, clothing and housing costs;
- daycare, after-school care, and funding for extracurricular activities including sports and art programs for eligible children in foster care; and
- highly-trained DCFS staff available through our Advocacy Office (800-232-3798) to provide additional support.
How are Licensed Foster Care and Unlicensed Relative Foster Care different?
Where it is in a child's best interest, DCFS and the courts may place a foster child in the home of a willing and able relative who is not yet licensed as a foster home. While relative foster families help meet urgent needs and provide some continuity in a child's life, it is most beneficial for relatives to become fully licensed as foster parents. During the period relatives are unlicensed, they receive significantly lower reimbursements for costs than licensed foster parents. DCFS strongly encourages all family members proving relative foster care to become licensed foster parents, but because licensure can take several months, many family members start out in the relative foster care program.