There are a lot of children in this world who are facing difficulties without a stable home to support them. In Central Florida, there is also a shortage of foster parents stepping up to provide these stable environments, but you can help to change that. If you know you have the compassion and love to share with children in need, are over 21 years of age, and have enough space to raise a child, you may make a wonderful foster parent. These are the basic requirements in Florida to become a foster parent, and the licensing process only takes from six to eight months to complete. It is also of no cost to you to become a foster parent if you are trained and licensed through a community-based agency, making it easy to lead a more fulfilling life. 

To begin your journey as a licensed foster care provider, the first step is to attend an orientation. This is the first step required by the Florida Department of Children and Families, but it also makes for a great introduction to the world of foster care. It can be hard to have an accurate idea of what it would be like to be a foster parent, so orientation can provide education as well as real-life experiences that help with preparation. Orientation can also ease a lot of nervousness about beginning the process, so it is the perfect place to start.

Once orientation is completed, the next task is to complete 20 to 30 hours of foster care training. This can also make you more comfortable with going forward as a foster parent, preparing you for what to expect once you are matched with a child. Training makes for more experienced foster parents, which in turn results in better lives for foster children in their care. To become licensed, potential foster parents must also pass a background screen, which checks for criminal and child abuse history to ensure the safety of children. With that, the only remaining requirements are to pass a home inspection and home study, which verify not only that the home has enough space to take on a foster child or foster children, but also that the environment is safe and stable. In Florida, it is not mandatory that foster parents are homeowners, so renters may still become foster parents. The important thing is that there is room for a foster child in your heart as well as your home. 

This process might seem intimidating or you might not know where to start, but there are resources available to you in Sumter County that can guide you every step of the way. Families First of Florida and Kids Central Inc are both organizations that will help you from the very first day of your journey – and every day beyond that. The kind staff at these organizations will help with everything from finding an orientation to fulfilling the first step of licensing, to providing support when a foster child has been placed in your care. Contacting either of these agencies can get you started on your journey to a life that positively affects others and the community around you.