There are many options for adopting a child, including private or international adoption. You should first decide if adopting a special needs child from foster care is the right direction for your family. The children available for adoption are often older or part of a sibling group. If you decide to pursue adoption from foster care, you will need to complete the same process that a foster parent would. Learn more about adoption.

You can be married, single, a couple, a homeowner or a renter. Foster parents are from all ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds and sexual orientations. You can have children already or not. The most important thing is that your home is safe and secure and that you can provide a stable and nurturing environment for a child.

It is essential all adults living in the home work as a team. Your training classes will prepare you to make an informed decision about becoming a foster or adoptive family and will help you understand how to provide the support and nurturing children in foster care need, as well as how to manage behaviors and special needs.

Yes. There are both physical space and safety requirements for providing foster care. If you are hoping to only adopt, these requirements are recommended.

Some physical standards for bedrooms that will be used by foster children:

  1. The room must be constructed for the purpose of sleeping; it must have permanent walls; it must have a door that closes; it must have a working window that opens from the inside; it must have a closet, wardrobe, armoire, or dresser; there should be at least 40 square feet per child; and the room must have a bed (couch beds, cots, or pack-n-plays are not allowed).
  2. Rooms below ground (basement bedrooms) must have everything in #1 plus a direct exit to the outside and one inside stairway exit.

Some safety standards for your home include the following:

  1. Floors where foster children will sleep must have a working smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector.
  2. Homes must have at least one approved fire extinguisher.
  3. Prescription medication and poisonous substances must be stored appropriately in a locked storage container out of the reach of children.
  4. Guns and ammunition must also be stored appropriately and separately in locked cabinets.

In some instances, these requirements can be granted an exception and some physical or safety requirements can be met with simple (non-structural) modifications. If you have specific questions regarding your home, you can request to speak with one of our licensing specialists.

Actually, there’s no typical model! Some of our foster families are single-parent or two-parent families. Some already have kids in their home while others don’t. Some older foster parents have already raised their own family, but want to open their hearts and homes to more kids. Some are homeowners and some are renters. Our parents come from all racial, ethnic/cultural/religious backgrounds, and sexual orientations.

We are happy to tell you there’s no cost to training, licensing or support services! It’s free to families and funded through DHS. There may be incidental costs of attending training, such as travel costs and child care expense which would be your out of pocket expense not reimbursed by DHS.

The goal of fostering is reunification. Foster parents are expected to work in partnership with the child, the child’s DHS worker, and the child’s parents to achieve this goal. The specific type or amount of contact you will have with a child’s parents will be dependent on the reasons why the child is in care and how quickly reunification is expected to occur. You will learn about the importance of family connections to the child in your TIPS-MAPP training. Also, your support specialist can provide support and guidance to you for each child placed in your home, and help you navigate each child’s individual path to reunification.

When Four Oaks Foster and Adoptive Family Connections receives a referral from DHS that a child needs a foster home, we use a matching database to find families, preferably within 20 miles of the child’s birth home, whose strengths match the unique needs of the child. If you are a possible match, we call to see if you will accept the placement. DHS then makes the final decision on whether or not to place the child in your home.

If you have a big heart, patience, flexibility, stability and a sense of humor, you can do it but you don’t have to do it alone. When you begin your foster care journey, you are assigned a Family Connections case worker who is available to answer questions, provide resources, arrange respite, assist with a crisis or behavior management and advocate on your family or child’s behalf.

Four Oaks Foster and Adoptive Family Connections also offers free post-adoption support services to families with an adoption subsidized by the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS).

Absolutely! Some foster parents like caring for children of any age or gender while others find they work best with boys or girl or only younger children. Some foster parents become experienced at caring for children with medical needs, who have multiple siblings, or have specific behavioral needs. In time, you will find your own niche. Learn about our areas of greatest need.

While working on your home study, your Family Connections case worker will ask you about the age, gender and special needs of children you are interested in fostering. Once you are licensed, Four Oaks staff will call you when a child needs a foster home and your family may be a good fit for that child. If you would not feel comfortable caring for any child described, you simply decline the placement.

Foster and adoptive parents must be at least 21 years old. Otherwise, your age is only a consideration if it affects your ability to care for a specific child and function in a parental role.

While the primary goal of foster care is reunification of the child with his or her birth family, some children cannot return home. When this happens, DHS will then develop a permanency plan for the child, which may include adoption. Learn more about adoption.

Foster care might be for you if . . .

  • You like children, enjoy playing with them and like taking care of them.
  • You can be flexible with your schedule, your parenting styles, and your expectations.
  • You can love a child even though you may not love all their behaviors and without expecting them to love you or be grateful.
  • You enjoy new challenges.
  • You have a sense of humor.
  • You have a stable home and are willing to welcome others into your home.
  • You can accept support, feedback, and guidance from others in your foster care team.
  • You are patient, accepting, and able to provide structure.
  • You can help the child prepare, when the time comes, to return to their parents, or move to an adoptive home or other foster home, or into adulthood/independence.

Read more about our matching process to find out what happens when a child needs a home.

Visit our relatives section for more information.