Couples and individuals considering becoming foster parents often feel overwhelmed by the process. Some people start to feel insecure about their ability to successfully go through the process and become foster parents. The biggest question is, “Where do I start?”
The first step is to decide whether you’re going to go through the foster process directly through the Department of Children and Family Services or indirectly by going through The CALL. Either way, you’re fostering with the state and following all of their protocols. The CALL provides extra support and a diverse method of getting through the process. In the end, all families will be foster families through the Arkansas Department of Children and Family Services.
In order to become a foster parent in Arkansas you have to complete 30 hours of training. Through DCFS that training happens once a week for about 10 weeks and you may have to travel to the class. The CALL offers these classes over the course of two weekends. For some people this option is better.
The other large difference between the two is that The CALL is a Christian organization which means we are working to train Christian foster families and use the Bible as our guide. This means in order to go through the fostering process through The CALL you must sign a profession of faith, get a reference from your pastor, and be a married man and woman or a single man or woman not living with someone.
If you don’t fit these guidelines, it doesn’t mean you can’t foster, it just means you need to go through the process with DCFS. Once you make a decision to go through The CALL here are the steps to opening your home:
Step 1: You must attend an informational meeting. At the informational meeting you will receive The CALL orientation folder and the background check forms. You will hear more about fostering and the process and then you will be given the option to fill out the initial paperwork at the meeting or take it home and fill it out. If you choose to fill it out at home, once you’re finished you follow up with the County Coordinator. This meeting counts at 3 of your 30 hours.
Step 2: Once that paperwork is finished, you have to complete an online form and then submit the background checks. You will also be scheduled for PRIDE training — the remaining 27 hours of training for DCFS.
Step 3: While waiting for PRIDE training and your background check to clear there’s more forms to fill out. You and your spouse (or just you if you’re single) must get fingerprinted.
Step 4: You will be referred to a home study volunteer or contractor to complete your home study. Once you complete the home study and you are approved they will conduct a final walk through and you will be opened as a foster home.
Ideally, this process would take about 6-9 months. The system isn’t perfect though and realistically it could take a year or longer if the paperwork gets snagged or the home study gets held up. On paper it seems like a few easy steps, but it’s very time consuming and requires dedication and a lot of prayer.
Step 1 is to get to an informational meeting. The next informational meeting is Thursday, Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at The CALL House. For more information, contact Communications Coordinator Erica Sirratt at 501-288-3197 or County Coordinator Leigh Ann Johnston at 501-259-8845.