A foster parent is generally an adult, with no blood or legal ties to a child, who cares for and raises that child under the direction or supervision of a welfare agency. Foster parents usually look after children for some monetary compensation and may run a group home.

What Are the Requirements for Foster Parents?

Laws regarding the qualifications for foster parents may vary from state to state. Generally, in order to become a foster parent a person must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Have a steady, regular source of income
  • Have not been convicted of any felonies
  • Submit to an assessment of all close family members
  • Participate in mandatory parent training courses

A foster parent is usually allowed to work outside of home, though their work arrangement must not interfere with the child’s upbringing. There is no set income level required for foster parents. However, if extra expenses are involved, such as day care expenses, the parent should be able to cover these as well.

What Rights Does a Foster Parent Have?

Legally, a foster parent is a unique relationship. While foster parents look and act much like "loco parentis", they actually share the parental responsibilities with a welfare agency. It is the welfare agency, however, who holds the legal custody of the child. As such, a foster parent generally has rights similar to a natural parent plus many of the following:

  • Preserve the integrity of their own family unit
  • Contract rights stemming from the agreement with the welfare agency
  • Receive payment for services
  • Punish the child to the same extent a parent can
  • Possibly be immune from the child's criminal or civil actions
  • Possibly terminate natural parent rights.

The rights of a foster parent can generally be terminated by the welfare agency at any time. Foster parents may also find that their rights fall below a natural parent's right in some situations.

When Can a Foster Parent Terminate a Natural Parent's Rights?

Foster parents have the right to terminate a natural parent's rights in some states. In order to terminate the rights of a natural parent, a foster parent has to:

  • Institute adoption proceedings
  • Institute custody proceedings
  • Receive a judicial court order
  • Third party guardian or conservatorship proceeding

Do I Need an Attorney If I Am a Foster Parent?

If you think your rights as a foster parent have been violated or you are trying to terminate a natural parent's rights, it is highly recommended that you contact a family attorney. Only a lawyer will be able to properly explain the issue and help protect your rights.