Too many children in this world have had negative family experiences or lived in unhealthy environments. In Florida alone, there are thousands of children in need of stable homes and the love that foster parents can provide. If you feel you have the compassion to raise and support one of the children who needs it most, you might make a wonderful foster parent. The information and education needed to start this journey is easy to find and not far away, so learning more is a great way to decide if fostering is right for you. Some people are intimidated by the process and are unsure of where to start, but in reality, it usually only takes six to eight months to become a licensed foster parent in Florida. 

The Florida Department of Children and Families and Families First of Florida are both excellent guides in beginning your foster care process. There are five mandatory steps listed by the Department of Children and Families, beginning with an orientation. This offers an introduction to the real demands and rewards of fostering children, and provides insight about the experience to help prospective foster parents decide if this program is right for them. Once orientation has been completed, many people become more comfortable and are ready to go on to the next step of the process, which requires 20 to 30 hours of training.

The last three requirements ensure that you are fit to provide a safe and caring environment to foster children. One of these steps is to successfully pass a background test, which screens for history of child abuse or criminal offenses. The final requirements after this are to go through both a home study and home inspection. These are important steps, because they ensure that foster children will be placed in safe and healthy environments so they can have the lives they deserve. It also is important that you have enough space for the foster child or children in your home so they have a space of their own and can feel like they are truly at home. 

If you are at least 21 years old and have the ability to support and love a foster child, there are resources near you in the greater Lecanto area to help you start following your path as a foster parent. Kids Central Inc. is a Citrus County organization with the welfare of children as its main priority. If you contact them, Kids Central will happily guide you through the process of becoming a licensed foster parent. This is a great way to find an orientation session, which will both take care of one requirement and provide you with all the information you need in order to continue.

Another available resource is a group called Citrus County Foster Parents, which is a collective of local adoptive and foster parents who have regular meetings to discuss the needs local children face and how to address them. Families First of Florida is another great place to start out, because they can help you find orientation and training that fits your schedule. Becoming a foster parent is a commitment, but it is a fulfilling one with the power to improve not only the lives of children, but your own. Reaching out to Kids Central or Families First of Florida will help you start your licensing process and get on the road to a more fulfilling future.