What is expected of me?
Foster parents provide temporary homes for children who have been removed from their homes because of abandonment, abuse or neglect. While foster parents are charged with the care of children in foster care, they are usually not the legal guardian of a child. The Arizona Department of Child Safety depends on foster parents to meet many expectations regarding daily care of a child in foster care. Those expectations can be found here.
What information should I receive?
When a child is placed in your home, you should receive the following paperwork:
- Notice to Providers (Out-of-home, Education, and Medical), CSO-1035, completed at the time of placement
- Child's Health and Medical Report, printed by AzDCS caseworker from AzDCS information system
- CMDP insurance number
- Information that AzDCS knows about the child's special needs
- Blank DCS Placement Packet
For all other forms click here.
How do I organize and store the child's information and records?
It is a good idea to store the child's records in a notebook/binder that you can bring to Child and Family Team Meetings and other appointments. This document will help you organize and store all of the records, information, and documents for a child in foster care. If the child moves to a new foster home, send this notebook/binder to the new care provider.
Also, remember that the child's case record is confidential. Be sure to keep the child's records stored in a secure location in your home that only the foster parents (you) can access.
What should I do next?
I am kinship foster caregiver, is there a meeting I could attend to find more information?
Yes, you can attend a "Kinship Information Session for DCS Foster Caregivers" to find more information about financial benefits, DCS policies, resources and medical/dental/vision care available for the children under your care. Click here to find the next Kinship Information Session near you.
Does becoming a licensed foster parent make sense for me?
Licensing may make sense for your family if...
- Your family could benefit from the extra support*
- It appears that the CPS case will continue to be open for the next several months
- You are willing to work collaboratively with system partners to comply with licensing regulations
- You're planning on adopting the child in your home – especially if you are a non-relative caregiver
- You need extra help and support for parenting the children in your home
- Increase parenting skills through PS-MAPP trainings
- Gain additional supports and advocacy from Agency
- Foster Care Reimbursement
- Greater opportunity for networking with other kinship families
- Demonstrates your commitment to the child in the eyes of the court
- Simplified steps to complete an adoption
What does the licensing process look like?
- 30 hours of PS-MAPP classes – 6, 7 or 10 weeks
- Fingerprinting for all adult household members
- Click here to know how you can get fingerprinted
- Physical exams for all adult household members
- Home inspection
- CPR/First Aid certification
- Home study interviews with all household members
- Copies of documents (driver license, marriage certificate, identity verification, paystubs, etc.)
- Reference checks (5)
What happens after you are licensed?
- Monthly visits from your licensing worker
- To support you and offer resources
- To monitor you
- Monthly foster care reimbursement begins
- Occasional unannounced visits
- Records maintenance
- Six hours advanced training per year to maintain licensure
- Renewal process bi-annually if needed
How do I find a licensing agency?
A list of the licensing agencies in the state of Arizona can be found on the DCS website here.
What are the most common terms/acronyms I am going to hear?
There are a lot of acronyms inside the foster care system, and when dealing with the state in general. Groups may have titles with several words in them, or a child may have a need that is shortened to save time. Click here to access our comprehensive glossary guide.
Am I eligible for Family Medical Leave (FMLA)?
Information from the U.S. Dept of Labor about the ability to take unpaid family leave to bond with a new foster or adoptive placement is available here.
Talk to your human resources department at work about making arrangements to take family medical leave.
How do I prepare for my foster care license home inspection?
The Office of Licensing and Regulation (OLR) has created comprehensive materials to prepare foster families for a home inspection. Your licensing agency will also assist throughout the home inspection process and will schedule an inspection through OLR once your home is prepared.
Home Inspection forms for foster homes can be found by clicking on the following links:
- AZDCS Preparation Guide for Life Safety Inspection
- Emergency Evacuation Plan and Emergency Numbers Form
- Emergency Evacuation Drill Form
- Emergency Evacuation Plan Review Log
Home Inspection forms for DDD foster homes can be found by clicking on the following links:
- Life Safety Inspection Packet
- Life Safety Inspection Report
- Supplemental Life Safety Inspection Report
What is the Independent Living Program?
The Independent Living Program (ILP) is part of the Department of Child Safety (DCS). Youth will work with a DCS Child Safety Specialist to support them in preparing for their transition to independence. Youth may also be assigned an Independent Living Specialist through Arizona’s Children Association (AzCA) to assist with life skills training. With ILP, youth age 17.5 to age 21 may be eligible for the Independent Living Subsidy Program, a monthly payment that goes directly to the youth to help with living costs. To find out if the youth in your care may be eligible for ILP as well as how to sign up click here.
What is the Independent Living Subsidy Program (ILSP)
The Independent Living Subsidy Program (ILSP) is a monthly allowance that goes directly to youth to help cover living costs while they transition to independence. This allowance can be used for expenses such as rent, utilities, food and transportation just to name a few! To find out if a youth may be eligible for ILSP as well as how to sign up click here.
Are youth who are over 18 eligible for any assistance?
Transitional Independent Living Program (TILP) is part of Arizona’s Children Association (AzCA) and available to youth ages 18-21. The program provides support to youth who choose not to do extended foster care with DCS, but would still like some case management support. Youth work with an AzCA Independent Living Specialist to get advice and assistance on life decisions, such as looking for employment, applying for the Education and Training Voucher or finding a place to live. To find out if a youth you know may be eligible for TILP as well as how to sign up click here.
Team member Information
Who should I expect to hear from?
When a child in foster care comes into your home, you can expect visits from several people with agencies involved in the case.
A caseworker with the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) will be the first person you meet. Members of a rapid response behavioral health team will visit within the first 72 hours after the child is placed in your home.
That is only the beginning. The list of professionals you will be dealing with is explained in this video. You can also download a chart that gives an overview of the service providers and other players in the foster care system.
What is a guardian ad litem? How do I contact the GAL?
Call your county juvenile court, and ask them to connect you to the office that appoints and supervises guardians ad litem. The office that manages GALs can give you the name and contact information of the GAL who has been appointed to your child's case.
Apache County (court assigns an attorney, not a GAL)
La Paz County
Maricopa County Office of the Legal Advocate
Pima County Office of Court Appointed Counsel
Pinal County Public Defender's Office
Santa Cruz County
How do I get caseworker, supervisor, and APM contact information?
We highly recommend getting the contact information for all three and having it on hand in case of an emergency. The caseworker contact information is on the Notice to Provider. You can call the switchboard and ask for the supervisor and APM contact information.
How can I contact others at DCS?
Who should I contact if I am unhappy or have concerns with DCS?
What is a CASA?
CASA stands for court appointed special advocate. A CASA advocate is an unbiased, trained volunteer who acts as the eyes and ears of the court in a dependency case. Not every child in care has a CASA assigned to them. If the child in your care has a CASA assigned to them a Legal Party Memorandum will be sent to all parties listed in the minute entries of the court with the name of the volunteer.
A CASA advocate is essentially an information gatherer on behalf of the court to make sure the child is getting the services and care they need. They interview everyone involved in the child's life and keep track of how the child is doing and then submit a written report to the judge to assist in the decision-making process. Typically a CASA advocate sticks with the case until it is closed.
Foster Home Investigations
When does a foster home investigation occur?
A foster home investigation occurs when an allegation of abuse or neglect is received by the Department of Child Safety (DCS) Hotline or when the police are called to the foster home due to incident that could be considered abuse or neglect of a child. When an allegation is made regarding a foster child, the details and context of the situation are assessed just as in any other hotline call. DCS and/or the Police are responsible for determining whether or not an investigation is warranted. As you can imagine, this is not an easy task. In every situation, the goal is to make sure that every child in care is safe and receiving the quality of care that he or she deserves.
Who conducts a foster home investigation?
Foster home investigations may involve several agencies such as the Police Department, DCS, the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) and the Office of Licensing and Regulation (OLR). Each agency has as specific role. The police department conducts criminal investigations. DCS investigates allegations of abuse and/or neglect of children. DDD investigates client and human rights violations. OLR is concerned with licensing violations and determines the impact of the investigation on the family's license.
What does the investigation process look like?
When a foster home investigation is initiated the licensing agency and OLR are notified immediately along with the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) and the child's DCS workers. A DCS investigator and/or a police investigator will typically show up at the resource home unannounced. This is standard procedure for investigations. If the police are involved, the intent is to determine whether or not any criminal charges should be filed. DCS will typically not continue its investigation until the police investigator determines that there are no criminal charges to be filed.
Regardless of which agency is conducting the investigation, it is the foster parent's responsibility to cooperate with the investigator. The investigator may interview the children involved, depending on their ages. The investigator may have already interviewed the children at school. The investigator will want to spend some time with the foster family to discuss any information relevant to the allegations. After the information is gathered, DCS will propose finding the allegation Substantiated or Unsubstantiated. Statistically, most investigations are found to be Unsubstantiated. All investigative reports are forwarded to OLR. OLR then determines the impact of the investigation on the foster home license.
What might happen as a result of an investigation?
If the allegations are found to be Unsubstantiated, the investigation may be closed with no further action needed. However, an open investigation can have a significant impact on the foster home license. If a family is near renewal, the renewal will be delayed until the investigation is completed. If a family is close to finalizing an adoption, the adoption will be delayed. Other outcomes will depend on the findings of the investigation.
OLR may request additional information from a licensing agency in the form of a licensing inquiry. Even if the allegation is found to be unsubstantiated, OLR may still request a licensing inquiry in order to address licensing concerns. The licensing inquiry is forwarded to the licensing agency who is responsible to work with the family to obtain the requested information.
Based on the information gathered during the licensing inquiry, OLR may issue a Letter of Concern or implement a Corrective Action Plan (CAP). A CAP usually requires additional training and/or monitoring of the home to ensure any licensing violations are corrected. In the case of substantiated abuse, OLR may elect to revoke or suspend the foster license. Whenever OLR takes an action regarding the foster home license; OLR will notify you in writing and inform you of any appeal rights.
If the police were involved and criminal evidence is found, the family could face criminal charges.
Can families appeal the findings of the investigation?
Families do have some appeal rights. DCS will provide the results of the investigation in writing to the family. Likewise, OLR will notify families in writing regarding any licensing actions. In both cases, families will be advised of any appeal rights. If the family is facing criminal charges, it will be up to them to procure their own legal counsel.
How long will the investigation take?
Unfortunately, there is no way to predict how long an investigation will take. Some investigations are wrapped up in one week, but others, especially those that involve the police department, can take several months.