Home Study Requirements for Prospective Foster Parents - Arkansas

Date: February 2018

Who May Apply

Citation: 016 15 Code of Rules & Regs. 017, § 5

In a two-parent home, each person will be a joint applicant and each will actively participate in the approval process. This joint family commitment will be reevaluated annually.

Applicants must have the personal characteristics that enable them to assume the responsibility of caring for children in foster care, including:

  • The capacity to love and care for children and respond to children's needs
  • Ethical standards and values that are conducive to the well-being of children
  • Satisfactory and stable adult relationships, which may or may not include a partner, but does include satisfactory, meaningful, and supportive relationships with several relatives and/or friends
  • An absence of any qualities that indicate that they could abuse children

Applicants must be age 21 or older. Applicants will not be approved as a foster home if one or both applicants are under age 21. A policy waiver must be obtained if one or both applicants are younger than age 21 (which may only be approved in rare circumstances for provisional homes) or age 65 or older or when one or both foster parents of a currently opened foster home reaches age 65.

Applicants must provide the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) with the health history of each household member. A physical examination of each household member is required prior to approval. The examination must verify that all household members are free of any physical or emotional health conditions that would adversely affect the welfare of a child in foster care. Immunization for all children in a foster home (birth/legal children of the foster family and children in care) must be kept up to date.

Single-parent households are welcome, particularly for those children whose need for a two-parent household is not a crucial aspect of the care required. In a single-parent home, the major life changes also will be considered when assessing the person's ability to be an effective foster parent.

Training Requirements

Citation: 016 15 Code of Rules & Regs. 017, § 3; 010, § 6

Family foster parents are required to have a minimum of 30 hours of preservice training. The family foster parent must complete cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid training and receive certification in both areas prior to approval to become a foster parent.

At least one parent in the foster home must be able to communicate effectively in the language of the child. However, this does not apply to foster parents for infants or short-term emergency placements. It is necessary to improve the skills of existing foster parents through ongoing training and supervision following preservice training. Foster parents are required to earn 15 hours of continuing education each year.

DCFS will require participation in continuing education through local education and training opportunities. Each foster parent shall annually participate in a minimum of 15 hours of approved training. Training classes may cover a wide range of topics related to parenting, child development, behavior problems, medical needs, etc., and may be offered by educational systems (colleges, universities, local school systems), the Health Department, community mental health centers, the Foster Parent Association, and others. Special TV programs related to child abuse, parenting adolescents, etc., also may be considered training. However, videos, TV programs, online courses, and books are accepted only on a limited basis. No more than 5 hours of videos, books, online courses, or TV programs for each foster parent will be accepted per year and must have prior approval by the area director or designee.

Minimum Standards for Foster Homes

Citation: 016 15 Code of Rules & Regs. 017, § 6

The interior and exterior premises of the foster home must be clean and free of physical and health hazards. The home must have adequate light, heat, ventilation, and plumbing for safe and comfortable living and adequate space for privacy, play, and study for all household members. The number of children placed in a foster home will be limited by the number of persons who can satisfactorily live within the physical limits of the home.

All firearms must be unloaded; maintained in a secure, locked location; and stored separately from ammunition.

Working smoke detectors must be located within 10 feet of the kitchen and each bedroom. The cooking area must contain a working fire extinguisher. The home must have a working telephone or cellular phone that is accessible to all children.

All pets must have proof of current rabies vaccinations. The home should have adequate toys that are safe and developmentally appropriate for children who will be placed in the home.

Foster children must sleep in a bedroom, not in a living room or any other room where others may pass through. Each bedroom must have at least 50 square feet of floor space per occupant. Each bedroom used for a foster child must have a window to the outside that is capable of serving as an emergency escape.

No more than four children may share a bedroom. Each foster child must be provided a comfortable bed, in good condition. Children of the opposite sex will not share the same bedroom if either child is age 4 or older, except for a mother in foster care with her child. No children will share a bed if either child is age 4 or older; and any applicable children sharing a bed must be the same sex. Children in foster care, except infants younger than age 2, will not share a sleeping room with adults.

The home must have a continuous supply of sanitary drinking water. If the source is not a municipal water system, the water must be tested and approved annually by the Department of Health.

Approval Process

Citation: 016 15 Code of Rules & Regs. 017, §§ 3; 5

The home must meet foster home standards and the individual child's needs for the duration of placement. In order to have an appropriate foster home for each child in care, to minimize the risks involved in placement of a child in foster care, and to ensure that the child in foster care will not be moved from one foster home to another, it is necessary to select families on the basis of careful assessment. The purpose of the assessment process is to:

  • Evaluate the applicants' personal qualifications and physical requirements of the home
  • Educate prospective foster parents on the characteristics of children in foster care
  • Evaluate their ability to meet those needs
  • Evaluate the applicants' compliance with minimum licensing standards and DCFS policy requirements

Applicants and all household members age 14 and older must consent to a child maltreatment central registry check in all States in which they have lived in the past 5 years. Household members must have no history of substantiated abuse and/or neglect.

Applicants and all household members age 18 and older must consent to an adult maltreatment central registry check. DCFS will repeat the child maltreatment and the adult maltreatment registry checks every 2 years on all persons required to have the check.

Applicants and all household members age 18 1/2 or older must consent to a State police criminal record check. DCFS will repeat a State criminal record check every 2 years on any person required to have the check. Household members with criminal convictions may, under some circumstances, request approval under an alternative compliance.

A Federal Bureau of Investigation fingerprint-based criminal background check will be conducted on applicants and all household members age 18 1/2 or older. This check need not be repeated.

Grounds for Withholding Approval

Citation: 016 15 Code of Rules & Regs. 017, §§ 7

Any person who is required to have a criminal check who has been found guilty of any of the offenses listed in the licensing standards is presumed to be disqualified to be a foster parent, unless the conviction is vacated or reversed.

The Child Welfare Agency Review Board may permit an alternative compliance for an applicant who has been convicted of an offense listed in regulation upon making a determination that the applicant does not pose a risk of harm to any person. In making this determination, the board will consider the following factors:

  • The nature and severity, number and frequency, and consequences of the crimes
  • The relation between the crime and the health, safety, and welfare of any person
  • The time elapsed without a repeat of the same or similar event
  • Documentation of successful completion of training or rehabilitation pertinent to the incident

An alternative compliance may not be requested by any person who has been found guilty of any of the following offenses as he or she is permanently disqualified from being a foster parent:

  • Felony abuse of an endangered or impaired person
  • Arson
  • Murder
  • Endangering the welfare of an incompetent person in the first degree
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape or sexual assault

An alternative compliance may not be requested by any prospective foster parent with a felony conviction for the following offenses, as no child in foster care may be placed in that person's home:

  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Spousal abuse or domestic battery
  • A crime against children, including child pornography
  • A crime involving violence, including rape, sexual assault, or homicide, but not including other physical assault or battery

A prospective foster parent may request an alternative compliance for a felony conviction for physical assault, battery, or a drug-related offense if the offense was not committed within the past 5 years.

Kinship Foster Care

Citation: 016 15 Code of Rules & Regs. 017, § 2

In an effort to preserve family connections and expedite placement of children, DCFS may place a child in foster care with a relative or fictive kin if one has been identified and is appropriate. 'Relative' means a person within the fifth degree of kinship to the child by virtue of blood or adoption. 'Fictive kin' means a person not related to the child by blood or marriage but who has a strong, positive, emotional tie to the child and has a positive role in the child's life, such as a godparent, neighbor, or family friend. This type of placement is classified as a 'provisional foster home.' The purpose of opening a provisional foster home is to enable DCFS to make a quick placement for a child with a relative or fictive kin with whom a bond already exists. Provisional foster homes must meet certain requirements, including an expedited child maltreatment central registry check, an expedited State criminal record check, a vehicle safety check, and a visual inspection of the home to verify that the relative/fictive kin and the home meet standards.

Once opened as a provisional foster home, DCFS staff work with the provisional foster parents in that home to bring them into full compliance within 6 months. Provisional foster homes that are not in full compliance at the end of 6 months must be closed and the children removed unless the relative/fictive kin have been granted permanent custody by the court. Provisional foster homes will not be paid a board payment until the relative meets all of the licensing requirements and DCFS standards and is reclassified as a regular foster home.

Foster to Adopt

Citation: 016 15 Code of Rules & Regs. 010, § 13

Once parental rights have been terminated, children may be adopted. A foster parent may apply to DCFS to adopt a child. A distinction is made between foster parents who apply through the regular adoption program and foster parents who apply to adopt a particular child.

Foster parents applying through the regular adoption program must meet the same requirements as all other adoption applicants. The caseworker will refer any interested foster parent to an adoption specialist.

When foster parents are interested in adopting a child in foster care in their home, DCFS will consider the benefits provided by them for that child and other certain conditions. The child's desires especially will be considered. The caseworker will speak with the child alone regarding this major decision in his or her life and help the child consider all the facts.

If a foster parent wishes to adopt a child in their home, the foster parent should make the request known by requesting and completing CFS-489: Foster Parent Request for Consideration to Adopt (if the foster parent meets the basic qualifications outlined on the form).

Interjurisdictional Approval

Citation: 016 15 Code of Rules & Regs. 011, Policy VI-H

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is used to move children in need of a foster or preadoptive placement, adoption across State lines, or reunification with parents in an orderly and timely manner.

When a child requires placement for foster care or a possible adoption outside the resident State, DCFS shall use the ICPC process. DCFS will ensure all potential out-of-State relative placements are given the same opportunity as in-State relative placements to become foster homes. Homes of relatives approved under the Articles of ICPC will be considered approved foster homes.

Links to Resources

Division of Child and Family Services, Apply to Be a Foster or Adoptive Parent