Host Homes Vs. Foster Care - What’s the Difference? 

Last updated: December 5, 2022, at 4:48 p.m. PT

Originally published: October 19, 2022, at 9:16 a.m. PT

Older couple looking at a notebook with young adult

Being a host home or foster parent are both great ways to help youth and young adults who might otherwise be unhoused. While there are some similarities, there are also some big differences. Here are the basics:

Host Homes is a transitional housing program that matches youth and young adults (ages 12-24) with a caring community member willing to host them for six months.  

Y Foster Care is a Child Placement Agency (CPA) partnered with the WA State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) to place youth age 21 and under in licensed foster homes. 

The Differences  

Age of Youth: Foster care finishes at 21, while Host Homes serve those up through age 24. Those first few years of adulthood are a crucial transitional period, as the DSHS reports that one out of four youth who age out of foster care experience homelessness within their first 12 months. 

Program Lengths: Host homes are temporary, six-month commitments. Whereas foster care can range from traditional, long-term placements to short-term care such as Respite or Receiving Care. But if everyone feels things are going well, and no matter the type or length of the initial commitment, we encourage extending the stay. 

Responsibilities: Both hosting and fostering mean providing a private space, three meals a day, and a safe and nurturing environment. Both types of caring also mean attending to the physical and mental wellbeing of youths, including helping them develop academically and personally, but the long-term nature of a foster relationship means doing this in a more involved way. 

Financial Responsibilities: Hosts are not expected to cover expenses for the youth such as education materials, medical expenses, or clothing. A case manager will cover these expenses, and we can provide you with financial assistance to offset any expenses associated with having an extra person in your home. This process looks slightly different for foster carers, with financial assistance instead coming from the state.  

Application Processes: Hosts can expect the process to take 1-2 months, which includes a required self-paced online training course that covers a range of topics to adequately prepare. The foster process is more involved, taking around 6 months, and equipping caregivers with the knowledge they need to ensure successful, long-term placements.   

Who is Each Best For?  

Hosting: Individuals and families who want to see what it’d be like to live with a young adult before committing to long-term fostering. After hosting is a great time to reflect on the experience to see if something more long-term would be a good match for you and your family. Ask yourself: What went well? What didn’t go as well? Are there any trainings I could benefit from prior to committing to something long-term? Does my community and home offer youth enough options to pursue their personal goals? 

Fostering: Those who feel more confident or are already experienced, and/or wish to provide short-term foster care such as Respite or Receiving Care. Foster parents should also have the time and energy to commit to the immersive and rewarding experience of playing a critical role in supporting nearly every aspect of a youth’s life. 

Whether you’re looking for a short-term way to have a positive impact on a young adult's life or take on a long-term role while on your way to becoming a licensed caregiver, Host Homes may be the perfect option for you!  

Interested in becoming a Host in your community? Learn more >>  

If you’re ready to take the next step and become a Foster parent, our staff will work with you every step of the way. Learn more >>