Despite many families’ and organizations’ efforts, one out of every 100 Alaskan children is in foster care, which is double the national proportions. If you are interested in foster care, there is a great need for children to have a safe place where they can grow while their families endeavor to learn how to create a safe space for them.

The basic requirements to become a foster parent are listed on the Alaska┬áDepartment of Health and Social Services Office of Children’s Services webpage.

Here are the main steps you will need to take to become a foster parent in Alaska:

Step 1: Attend Orientation

The whole process starts with a Resource Family Orientation. It will walk you through the steps to become licensed and answer many questions. Click here for an orientation schedule or here for web-based orientation.

Step 2: Complete the Application

If you attend the orientation in person, you can get an application packet there, or you can download it here. As part of the application, you will need to provide five personal references for everyone living in your household who is over 16.

Step 3: Get Fingerprinted and Complete a Background Check

After completing the application, you and everyone over 16 in your home, will need to be fingerprinted and have a full background check done. Once you turn in your application, a licensing worker will be assigned to you to process the paperwork, the fingerprinting, and run the background checks.

Step 4: Host a Home Visit

To be a foster parent, you will need to demonstrate that you have enough space in your home for the foster child to have a bed, privacy, and a place to keep their belongings. The Office of Child Services (OCS) staff member assigned to your case will schedule a time to do a walk-through of your home with you.

Step 5: Participate in Training

Training provides parents and families with resources to be a help to the foster children that will be coming into your home. OCS requires foster parents to maintain a specific level of training hours per year. The Alaska Center for Resource Families (ACRF) provides various training opportunities that fulfill the requirements of the state. Their CORE training in particular supplies all of the state required hours for the first year of foster parent licensing.

Step 6: Receive a Community Care License

Once the above steps are completed, your assigned OCS staff member will submit all your paperwork for you to be licensed and to receive foster children into your home. Based on a number of factors, you will be licensed for a certain number of children, usually within a limited age range. Your license must be renewed in the first 12 months, then every two years following the first renewal.

Step 7: Attend Additional Training to be a Therapeutic Foster Parent

There is also the option to be a Therapeutic Foster Parent and be more involved with a child’s recovery. To take this extra step, there is additional training we provide here at Juneau Youth Services. The training is the Pressley Ridge Treatment Parent Training Curriculum and focuses on helping parents learn additional techniques to help the troubled children in their care develop the skills needed to integrate back into society.

Step 8: Receive Placement of Children

Many parents ask if they must take every child the OCS worker requests to place with them. The answer is no; you do not have to take every child. It is important for you to ask questions about each potential placement. The CORE training offered by ACRF goes into detail about which questions to ask. You have the final decision on if you can accept the child.

Foster care is a demanding labor of love, and if you are interested, you have the opportunity to make a huge difference in a precious child’s life.