Felons are typically incarcerated for a number of years and separated from their families. All involved suffer from this time apart.
When felons do return home, they are eager to rejoin their family. They may already have children or may even want to offer children without a stable family situation a safe environment in which to live by serving as a foster parent. Does having a felony conviction prevent felons from being able to become a foster parent?
This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can become a foster parent.
- What is a Foster Parent?
- Criteria for Becoming a Foster Parent
- Steps in Becoming a Foster Parent
- An Opportunity for Felons?
- Recommended Action
What is a Foster Parent?
A foster parent is an individual who provides temporary protective service through a governmental or social service agency to children when their families are unable to care for them. There are many circumstances that make it difficult for biological families to meet the needs of their children, which include poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness, or lack of social support.
Foster care is different from adoption in that in foster care, the placement is for a limited time with the legal rights of the child being maintained by the state. Adoption is permanent with legal rights being assumed by the adoptive family.
A successful foster parent typically has certain characteristics:
- A strong desire to help children
- Open mindedness and welcoming attitude
- Flexibility with children
- Coping skills to work with challenging behaviors
- Values for diversity
- Compassion for children who have experienced trauma
Criteria for Becoming a Foster Parent
The laws regarding qualifications to become a foster parent will vary in each state based on a number of factors. Generally, state laws require that people who want to become foster parents:
- Be over 21 years old
- Are married, divorced, single, or widowed
- Have a regular source of income sufficient to provide for a foster child
- Have no felony or misdemeanor convictions of child, elder, or sexual abuse
- Have a home with sufficient bedrooms for a foster child
- Submit to a home assessment of all family members
- Attend all of the foster parent training sessions provided by the county or non-profit agency that coordinates foster care in their area
The agencies that coordinate foster parents also look at other characteristics of applicants, including:
- Stability, maturity, dependability, and flexibility
- Amount of experience with children
- Ability to advocate for children
- Capacity to work with children, the biological family, and the child welfare worker
Steps in Becoming a Foster Parent
A potential foster parent must complete the following to be approved and licensed by the state of legal residence to provide foster care:
- Family assessment by a social worker involving the capacity of the foster family
- Three references from individuals who know the applicant to assist the agency in determining their capacity to care for a foster child
- Background check for criminal or child protective history, including finger prints for verification through the FBI database of local, state, and national registries
- Home safety check to ensure the house or apartment is safe for children
- At least 10-30 hours of classroom training including CPR and first aid training
- Licensing report on the ability of the applicant to provide foster care and the type of child best suited for this environment along with any additional training that might be required
- Appropriate forms submitted to the state by the welfare agency worker
An Opportunity for Felons?
All applicants to become a foster parent along with each member of the household are subjected to a background check in order to be approved and licensed. The Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG) states that criminal background checks are federally mandated for all prospective foster families. In all states, this involves a fingerprint check of each adult living in the home being run through a national database.
Foster care applicants will be rejected if they have a history of felony child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse, or crimes against children. Also, violent crimes such as rape, sexual assault, and homicide convictions will lead to automatic denial.
Any applicant convicted of felony assault, battery, or a drug-related offense in the last five years, will be disqualified. Other than these categories, the type of felony, how long ago it occurred, and an applicant’s age at the time of the crime will be considered in a decision on licensing as a foster parent.
If a felon applies to be a foster parent, he or she needs to be honest in reporting any conviction. A felony that isn’t disclosed but discovered on a background check is fraud, punishable by possibly being sent back to prison.
Felons have enough of a challenge, typically being seen as dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.
Having their felony expunged can give them a clear record and the chance they need to succeed in becoming a foster parent. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.
It is quite challenging, but it could be worth it for a felon wanting to become a foster parent. Giving himself or herself the best chance for success by having his or her record expunged could make the critical difference. Documenting any programs, education, or training he or she has completed will also look good.
Having support from family, friends, and others like counselors or even previous employers is essential. Felons don’t have to be defined by their crime. They can begin again and live an honest life no matter how challenging it might seem.
Families of felons are usually very invested in helping their loved one become a foster parent to a child and creating a loving family. Stand by your loved one, encourage them, and help them do what it takes to seek approval for foster care.
This can be a frustrating, discouraging process to go through. In being a foster parent to a child in need of a safe and loving environment, living an honest life will be vital.
What do you think about this blog post? Are you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a foster parent with a felony? What was that like for them, and how did they achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.