The basic concept of fostering a child is universal: A child is in need, displaced from his home and separated from his parent or parents for one reason or another. Another family takes him in and provides for him until matters can be sorted out. Either the problem within the child's family will be remedied, or another form of permanency is found for him through adoption.
Sometimes children can't be returned to their parents and no one steps forward to adopt them, either.
In these cases, the child will remain in foster care until he "ages out," legally becoming an adult and deemed to be capable of taking care of himself — even if he's still an 18-year-old teenager.
Each state has different rules and requirements to address these issues. Here's a summary of Alabama's foster care rules.
Qualifying as a Foster Parent
The state of Alabama requires that you be at least 19 years old to serve as a foster parent. You don't have to be married, but you must have been married for at least one year if you are. Your spouse and children must also be willing to provide the foster child with a home — their own. Everyone must be in good health and all adults age 19 or older must undergo a background check, including criminal history and clearance of the State Central Registry on Child Abuse and Neglect. Character references are also required.
You can take in as many as six children provided that your home has enough space for all of them and their belongings and it's considered safely habitable under the Alabama Minimum Standards for Foster Family Homes.
Prospective foster parents must complete a 30-hour preparation course. The state will compensate you for the child's room and board while he lives with you.
When a foster child is placed with a family, Alabama requires that a written case plan for reunifying him with his family be submitted to the state within 30 days.
The social worker assigned to the case is responsible for taking care of this, not the foster parents. The child's parents can participate in creating the plan and are encouraged to do so. It details the steps that will be taken to return him to his original home.
The case is then monitored and reviewed by the state and the court on an ongoing basis at intervals of no more than six months. Ideally, the problems in the home are repaired and the child returns home. If not, the court will eventually terminate the natural parents' rights to clear the way for possible adoption.
A federal law — the Foster Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act or the FCA for short — was enacted in 2008 to allow and help states extend foster care benefits to children until they turn 21 rather than thrust them out into an adult world they're largely unprepared for at 18. Federal funding to states to accomplish this began in 2010. Alabama was one of the first states to sign up for the program.
Different Types of Care
Alabama offers an inquiry form online if you'd like to reach out for more information.