Getting Clear About Foster Care

Here are some frequently asked questions about fostering with the Y.

Who are the children in care? 

Children, youth, and young adults in foster care range from age 0-21 and come from a variety of diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. Children of color are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system across the US; in Washington, Native American children are 3x more likely, and African America children are 2x more likely to be placed in out of home care. Research also suggests that LGBTQ+ youth are also over-represented in the foster care system and lack affirming foster placements.

Children in foster care are on a wide spectrum when it comes to their individual strengths, development, needs and behaviors. All children in foster care are affected by the separation from their family. Children or youth who have faced trauma sometimes have learned behaviors to keep themselves safe, or to meet their needs in other ways, and need extra understanding and patience. 

Our friends at Treehouse have highlighted some important facts on the experiences of children and youth in care:

  • 80% of children and youth in foster care suffer significant mental health issues as compared to 18-22% of the general population 
  • Children and youth in foster care suffer PTSD at 2x the rate of war veterans
  • A student in foster care loses 6 months of academic progress every time they change schools
  • High school graduation rates for youth who have experienced foster care are below 50% in WA and less than 3% earn a bachelor’s degree
  • Nearly 1/3 of teen girls in foster care become pregnant before their 18th birthday
  • 1 in 4 youth who have experienced foster care will become involved in the criminal justice system within 2 years of aging out
  • More than 1/3 of foster care alumni will experience at least one episode of homelessness by 26

You can be a part of changing these outcomes by providing children in foster care a loving temporary home, where each child can heal at their own pace and is celebrated for their unique gifts, with the ultimate goal being reunification between the child and their family.  

What geographic area does the Y serve?

The YMCA Foster Care Program predominately serves western King County, but has licensed and currently supports some foster families in Snohomish and Pierce counties.

Would I make a good foster parent?

If you have the passion and patience for helping kids and families heal and grow, you're off to a great start. 

  • Willingness to help children heal at their own pace
  • Commitment to keeping children connected to their culture and community 
  • Genuine desire to make a positive difference in the lives of children in foster care 
  • Recognition that growing up is hard and messy 
  • Embrace the challenges children and youth in care experience
  • Values and practices compassion towards children and their families
  • Willingness to grow and learn 
  • Desire to work as a team and build community

Who can become a foster parent?

  • Any race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or education level
  • Single, married or partnered people
  • Young families or empty-nesters
  • Homeowners or renters
  • Professionals, stay-at-home parents or retired
  • Of any level of experience - 0 to 30+ years

To qualify for foster care licensing, you must: be age 21+, be able to pass screening and training requirements, and be able to provide a bedroom for children in a safe and caring home. Foster children can share a bedroom with other children in the home. One person on the license needs to have a social security number or employee identification number.

What are the different ways of fostering at the Y?

Sometimes youth placed in our foster homes are ready to move to their permanent home within a matter of days, and sometimes placements last a few years. It’s always our goal that Y foster homes are the last places young people will live before achieving permanency.

  • Long-Term Care: Foster Parents who take full-time placements provide a loving and stable environment for children during their time in foster care with support and guidance from Y staff.  Some youth who are referred for placement to the Y have qualified for Behavior Rehabilitation Services (or “BRS”) and have been enrolled in the program by their DCYF social worker. All youth in foster care face tremendous feelings of grief and loss regardless of this designation. Additional training requirements exist for families who choose to foster youth enrolled in BRS, and these families receive a greater reimbursement.
  • Short-Term Care: At the Y, there are multiple ways to provide short-term care to children in foster care.
    • Respite Care: Foster Parents can provide short-term, respite placements for youth in foster care. Respite is provided to help stabilize a child going through a challenging time or to give full-time foster parents some time off. Respite can last a few hours, overnight or for several days. Foster Parents may also be asked to assist with respite on an emergency basis. Foster Parents often have the opportunity to provide respite care for the same child or youth on a regular basis if the match works well. 
    • Emergent Care: Foster Parents also have the option of providing care through Receiving Care. This type of care supports youth who are brand new to foster care, and placements don’t exceed 30 days. In some situations, foster parents may also provide emergent night-to-night care for youth in foster care who are not new to care but who are awaiting a long-term placement. Providing emergent care as a foster parent helps prevent children from spending nights in hotels, shelters, and DCYF offices. It also ensures that youth have a warm and nurturing place to land when they are first removed from their home of origin.
    • In-home Respite Care: Certified in-home respite providers care for foster children in the community and in licensed foster homes. In-home respite care does not require licensing.

What types of staff support does the Y offer?

The YMCA has extensive experience in caring for children affected by trauma and our team is well-equipped to support all of our families. Each youth placed in a YMCA home is assigned an intensive case manager who works closely with the foster family and DCYF social worker to support the youth in identifying and achieving their goals. The case managers regularly assess the needs of the youth, and connect them to further services as necessary within and outside the Accelerator YMCA. For example, a case manager may refer a youth to a YMCA behavior specialist for intensive skill building support, or to office-based outpatient mental health therapy and psychiatric support which are available to youth at the Accelerator Y’s main office when suitable. 

Some youth in foster care are also enrolled in Behavior Rehabilitation Services (BRS) by their DCYF social worker. When the YMCA supports a youth with this designation, a wraparound team consisting of an intensive case manager and a child and family therapist is assigned, and the youth’s mental health is included in the treatment planning process.

The YMCA is also a provider of Wraparound with Intensive Services (or “WISe”), and some youth supported by the Y will be eligible for this type of service as well. Similarly to BRS, WISe teams approach the care of each youth from a wraparound perspective. Teams consist of an intensive case manager, a therapist, and a family partner.

Throughout the time a child is in the home, all foster parents also have access to the support of a Foster Home Developer who has been a licensed foster parent for over 20 years.

How does the Y work with me to decide if my home is the right fit for a child?

The Y obtains consent to share all known information about the children we place, so the family can best serve the child’s needs. The Y also has a designated Placement Coordinator on staff that works closely with the family to ensure a good fit. Foster parents can also choose to be on the email list of the DCYF placement desk.

How long will it take me to get licensed?

It typically takes around six months depending on how quickly you are able to advance through the process.

Can I transfer my license to the Y?

Yes! However, DCYF does not have a process for transferring your license between agencies. You will have to re-license with the YMCA, but we can review your licensing file and we may be able to utilize some of the documents and certificates. Please contact us to speak with a licensor who can provide more details depending on your unique case. 

I'm ready. What do I do now?

When you decide that becoming a foster parent is the right decision for you, there are some initial steps the Y takes to ensure each caregiver is eligible to foster. Applicants will also have a chance to talk to current YMCA foster parents.

  • Step 1: Complete a screening interview with a YMCA licensing team member 
  • Step 2: Complete Orientation and Caregiver Core Training (CCT)
  • Step 3: Provide certification to your YMCA licensor and receive application 
  • Step 4: Submit your application to your YMCA licensor
  • Step 5: Complete the remaining trainings sessions and documentation requirements 
  • Step 6: Complete your home study assessment and home inspection
  • Step 7: Attend YMCA New Foster Parent Orientation
  • Step 8: Receive your license!