Make an Impact That Lasts a Lifetime

There is a critical need in Washington state for foster homes that have the skills, passion, and commitment to support kids and teens until they are reunited with their parents. Becoming a foster family is not an easy decision but there are many easy steps and actions you can take to improve the health and welfare of foster kids and families. Start by learning more about the issues and then decide what a small action or next step for you looks like.



Get Answers to Your Questions

Who are the children in care?  

Young people 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 three times more likely, and African American children are two times more likely to be placed in out of home care.

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 families. 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 important facts on the experiences of children and youth in care: 

  • 80 percent of children and youth in foster care suffer significant mental health issues as compared to 18-22 percent of the general population  
  • Children and youth in foster care suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at two times the rate of war veterans 
  • A student in foster care loses six months of academic progress every time they change schools 
  • High school graduation rates for youth who have experienced foster care are below 50 percent in Washington and less than 3 percent will earn a bachelor’s degree 
  • Nearly one-third of teen girls in foster care become pregnant before their 18th birthday 
  • One in four youth who have experienced foster care will become involved in the criminal justice system within two years of aging out 
  • More than a third of foster care alumni will experience at least one episode of homelessness by age 26 
What geographic area does the Y serve? 

The Y 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 good start. Here are some other attributes that make great foster parents: 

  • 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 individuals
  • Any level of experience from 0 to 30+ years 
What qualifications are required to become a foster parent?
  • Be age 21 or over
  • Be able to pass screening and training requirements
  • 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) 
  • Have a social security number or employee identification number (only one person required per license) 
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

Full-time foster parents 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 Department of Children, Youth, and Families (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 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 give full-time parents time off or to help stabilize a child going through a challenging time. Respite can last a few hours, overnight, or for several days. Foster parents may also be asked to assist with a 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.  

Receiving Care

Foster parents have the option to provide short-term care through what’s called Receiving Care. This type of care supports youth who are brand new to foster care and placements typically last 14 days but may be authorized up to 30 days. Providing short-term emergent care as a foster parent helps prevent children from spending nights in hotels or shelters and gives the social worker more time to identify the most appropriate placement for that youth. It also ensures that kids 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? 

Each family with a long-term placement is assigned a case manager who works with the foster family and the youth’s social worker to support the youth. The case managers regularly assess the needs of the family and youth to connect them to further services as necessary within and outside the YMCA. 

Throughout the time a child is in the home, all foster parents also have access to a dedicated Y staff member who focuses on foster parent education and support. The Y also has monthly Foster Parent Support Groups moderated by a veteran foster parent with over 20 plus years of experience. 

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

The Y 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. Similar 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? 

Once you become licensed, our placement team will work directly with your family and the state to coordinate placement of children in your home. Our placement process involves getting to know your family and making thoughtful decisions together about how your skills, experience, and home dynamic will be the best fit for a child needing placement.

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 Y, 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. 

  1. Complete a screening interview with a YMCA licensing team member 
  2. Complete Caregiver Core Training (CCT)
  3. Provide certificate of completion to your Y licensor and receive a YMCA application 
  4. Submit your YMCA application to your Y licensor
  5. Schedule a pre-home inspection with your Y licensor
  6. Register on the Washington Caregiver’s Application Portal and complete paperwork
  7. Complete your home study assessment and home inspection
  8. Complete the remaining training sessions and documentation requirements 
  9. Attend a Y New Foster Parent Orientation
  10. Receive your license


Counseling Services

We’re here for you with counseling services that span mental health, substance use, and psychiatric care for people of all ages in King County.

Are you experiencing a crisis?

For immediate assistance with a behavioral health crisis or a young person’s safety or shelter, call the King County 24-Hour Crisis Hotline at  866-427-4747.

Join the Y!

With a shared commitment to nurturing the potential of kids, improving health and well-being, and supporting our neighbors, your membership will not just bring about meaningful change in yourself, but also in your community.