Being a foster parent is a unique experience. We find there are a lot of questions and misconceptions about being foster parenting. Here are some of the main questions we hear.

What is foster care?

In a foster care situation, children or teens are removed from their biological families due to abuse or neglect and temporarily placed with outside families. The Office of Children’s Services’ (OCS) goal is to provide the child or teen with a safe, healthy, nurturing environment while they work with the birth family to get them to a place where it is safe for the child to return home.

How long do children stay with foster parents?

A child can be placed with you as a foster parent for as short a time as a few day or weeks. On the other hand, a child may be with you for months. Nationally, children stay in the foster system an average of 33 months. However, that does not mean they will be with you the entire time. There are many factors that a social worker tries to take into account in where the child is placed and how long.

Do I get to choose the children that get placed in our home?

You can put in a request for the age or sex of children you would like to foster. But when there is a need to find a child a safe bed, you will get calls from the social worker about children or teens that do not fit your expectations at all. You always have the legal right to decline a placement.

Can I be a single person a participate in foster care?

Yes, a single person can foster children so long as they meet the basic requirements of becoming a foster parent.

Will I have to work with the child’s parent(s)?

Yes, you will most likely need to work with the birth parent(s). OCS’s goal is to reunite families, and as foster parents, you become a part of the process to try to help the parents stay connected with their children while the learn how to provide a safe environment for them.

What kind of support will I receive as a foster parent?

You will be assigned a case manager by the state, and foster parents are encouraged to attend support groups of other foster parents.

Will I need to purchase clothes, toiletries, etc., for the child?

OCS provides monthly reimbursement for families who are fostering children. The money is to provide for the needs of the child including clothes, food, toiletries, etc. The reimbursement rates variety from community to community in Alaska to keep pace with the varied cost of living. You can see current reimbursement rates here. When a child first gets placed with you, OCS may approve a one-time clothing allowance if what the child comes with is not enough to meet minimum standards.

How does medical insurance work for foster children?

In Alaska, children in the foster care system are covered by Medicaid. Parents will receive vouchers, which cover their medical needs.

There are many children in Alaska who need a safe place. If you have a heart for children and teens and you are interested in opening your home, there is more information on OCS’s website. We hope you will consider carefully and if it is right for you and your family, choose to foster Alaska’s children in need.