Central Florida has a shortage of foster parents, which means that there are children in need of loving homes. Many people have room in their hearts and homes to support foster children, but do not know where to begin. While there are required steps for becoming a licensed foster parent, it is not as intimidating as you might expect. In fact, the licensing process is free and usually completed within six to eight months. It is common to think that foster parents must be young, wealthy, homeowners, and married couples. None of these factors are actually mandatory; in fact, the basic requirements are just to be over 21 years old and have enough space for a potential foster child. Beyond that, there are five main steps that the Florida Department of Children and Families lists as requirements to become a licensed foster parent. 

The first requirement is to attend orientation. This step is helpful because it allows potential foster care providers to learn more about the system and others’ experiences. It can make it easier for you to decide if fostering is right for you, and prepares you to go on with the licensing process. After completing the orientation session, 20 to 30 hours of foster parent training are required, which will help you feel prepared and knowledgeable for when you are matched with a foster child.

The third step is to pass a child abuse and criminal background check, and then you are ready to complete the final requirements. These steps verify that you are able to provide a safe and caring environment for foster children by having a home inspection as well as a home study. If you complete each of these steps and are willing to support a child in need, you will be ready to become a licensed foster care provider. This is a great opportunity for you to make a lifelong difference in a child’s life, which will not only improve their wellbeing, but can also make your life feel much more meaningful. 

If you feel called to improve lives by fostering children, Lake County has resources that can help you pursue your calling. One of the resources recommended by the Florida Department of Children and Families is Kids Central Inc. Kids Central is a community-based agency that trains and supports foster parents and children. They make the process of becoming a licensed foster parent simpler, because they can provide step-by-step support.

Kids Central will even help you find an orientation that works for your schedule and continue to guide you through the rest of the stages, even after you have been matched with a foster child. Another option is Families First of Florida. Families First is another organization that can find an orientation for you and provide your training. They also have mental health professionals who can help you and your foster child adjust throughout your journey. Both organizations are great options, and calling one of them can get you started on your meaningful life path as a foster parent right away.