Home Study Requirements for Prospective Foster Parents - Mississippi

Date:

Who May Apply

Citation: Code of Rules 18-006-106

Applicants must be residents of the state of Mississippi. A legal alien may obtain a license if all adult household members are legally in the United States.

The applicants must:

  • Be at least age 21
  • Be financially self-sufficient and have an adequate income, exclusive of the foster care maintenance payment, to meet the needs of the family

Married applicants must verify they are legally married. Previous marriages and divorces must be verified. Applicants may not have unrelated adults living in the home.

The applicants must have knowledge and understanding of:

  • The type of children needing placement
  • Child development
  • Separation, loss, and attachment issues
  • Appropriate child behavior management practices

The applicant must be able to protect children from harm, give and receive appropriate affection, and have the ability to maintain the child's permanent connections. The applicant also must have the willingness and ability to commit the time necessary to provide supervision and guidance. At least one parent in the home must be able to assist a child with checking homework assignments and giving help, as needed, with their homework.

Resource applicants must demonstrate:

  • Their understanding that the use of corporal punishment or mechanical restraints of any kind cannot be used
  • The ability to discipline the foster child with kindness based on the child's age and developmental stage and taking into consideration the child's past traumas and experiences
  • The understanding that they may not withhold food for any reason
  • An understanding that verbal abuse, threats, and remarks of a derogatory nature regarding any foster child or his or her birth family is inappropriate and unacceptable

The applicant(s) shall possess competent physical, cognitive, mental, and emotional capacities with reasonable life expectancy that is anticipated to continue through the minority of the child.

Training Requirements

Citation: Ann. Code § 43-15-13(6)(a); Code of Rules 18-006-106

The Department of Child Protection Services, with the cooperation and assistance of the State Department of Health, shall develop and implement a training program for foster care parents to indoctrinate them as to their proper responsibilities upon a child's entry into their foster care. The program shall provide a minimum of 12 clock-hours of training. The foster care training program shall be satisfactorily completed by such foster care parents before or within 90 days after child placement with the parent.

In regulation: All caregivers in the home are expected to complete 27 hours of preservice training that consists of the following:

  • Mississippi PATH (Parents as Tender Healers) (15 hours), that focuses on the following areas:
    • Working to foster permanent connections
    • Separation and attachment
    • Developmental stages
    • Behavior management
  • Universal blood-borne pathogens (1 hour video)
  • Car seat safety (up to 3 hours)
  • First aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training (up to 5 hours)
  • Travel/finance training (up to 3 hours)

Resource parents who have a swimming pool or body of water on their property must be CPR certified.

All adults residing in the home who will participate in the care of a foster child must receive no less than 10 hours of ongoing annual training. Resource parents shall be permitted to attend any training session, seminar, workshop, or conference specifically dealing with children or parenting issues that has been approved by the National Association of Social Workers, Mississippi Chapter or the Child Welfare Training Institute.

Minimum Standards for Foster Homes

Citation: Code of Rules 18-006-106

The resource home must meet the following requirements:

  • Be well-heated or cooled and well-ventilated
  • Have a working telephone
  • Provide safe storage of hazardous chemicals, cleaning materials, medications, and firearms
  • Ensure that outside play areas are maintained clean and free of hazards
  • Have a continuous supply of clean drinking water, interior plumbing, and a functional sewage system
  • Have at least one operable smoke detector in each living area and located in close proximity to sleeping areas
  • Have a readily visible and fully charged fire extinguisher
  • Ensure that household pets and outdoor animals have current vaccinations
  • Have a written plan for emergencies and evacuation of the home during any type of fire or natural disaster

The interior home environment shall be safe and sanitary. The home shall have the following:

  • A kitchen equipped for safe and sanitary preparation, serving, and storage of food
  • An operable refrigerator, stove, and oven
  • At least one flushing toilet with a seat and lid, one wash basin, and one bathtub or shower

No more than four same-sex children shall share a bedroom. Each foster child shall have a standard bed appropriate to the child's age and needs. Children under age 18 months shall sleep in a crib. Children over age 18 months shall not sleep in the same room with an adult who is older than age 21. Children over age 3 shall not share a room with a child of the opposite gender.

Resource families must be able to provide transportation for children in care. Parents who transport children in their own vehicles shall provide proof of a valid driver's license, properly maintained vehicles, registration, inspection, and vehicle insurance. Children must be in an age-appropriate passenger restraint system at all times. Smoking in a vehicle or the home when the foster child is present is prohibited.

Approval Process

Citation: Code of Rules 18-006-106

Following receipt of an application, the licensure specialist must complete the screening process, which includes the following:

  • Fingerprinting the applicant
  • Conducting local criminal background checks on all household members age 14 and older
  • Conducting checks of department records for prior history
  • Conducting checks of the child abuse central registry and the sex offender registry

The applicant shall supply four character references; only one of these references may be a close relative (parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or first cousin). Adult children who do not live in the home should be contacted as additional references. The licensure specialist also must seek at least two additional references not named by the applicants. These references may be school personnel, law enforcement staff, clergy, other licensed resource parents, neighbors, or other department staff.

The licensure specialists shall conduct a minimum of three home visits and a minimum of four home study interviews with the applicants, as outlined below. Each home visit should be conducted approximately 1 week apart, as follows:

  • At the first home visit, interview one is a joint interview that is conducted to 'get to know the applicants.'
  • At the second home visit, interviews two and three are conducted separately, scheduled back-to-back, with each applicant.
  • At the third home visit, interview four is a joint interview that should focus on the marriage (for married applicants) or support system (for a single applicant) and the applicants' parenting plan. This is also where questions that still need answering are addressed.

During the home study process, the licensure specialist will discuss with the applicants their plans related to employment and their willingness and ability to take time from work, as necessary, to meet the needs of the children.

Grounds for Withholding Approval

Citation: Code of Rules 18-006-106

Any applicant or person residing in the home who has been convicted of a crime or who has a pending indictment of a crime, whether misdemeanor or a felony, that bears negatively upon the individual's fitness to have responsibility for the safety and well-being of children will be evaluated as to his or her fitness to be licensed as a resource parent. This evaluation will include, but is not limited to, child abuse or neglect; domestic violence; crimes against children; crimes involving violence, including rape, sexual assault, homicide, physical assault, or battery; or drug-related offenses. If one of the following felony offenses has been committed, a license shall not be granted:

  • Felony offense against a spouse or former spouse
  • Felony offense against children, including child pornography, child abuse, or child neglect
  • A crime involving violence, including sexual assault, rape, or homicide, but not including other physical assault/battery
  • Felony physical assault or battery or a felony drug-related offense within the last 5 years

Other grounds for denial may include, but are not limited to:

  • A person residing in the home:
    • Has been convicted of a crime that would prevent licensure
    • Has a record of evidenced child maltreatment
    • Refused to submit to background checks
  • The minimum standards are not met.
  • There is just cause to deny the license. 'Just cause' exists when:
    • The conditions in the home would or could be physically, mentally, or emotionally harmful to a child placed in the home.
    • The applicant has a history of alcohol or drug use without documentation of successful treatment and aftercare.
    • The applicant has been involved in illegal activity.
    • The applicant makes ethnic or racial slurs about certain groups of people or expresses other extremist views during the home study process.
    • The applicant shows an inability to work with the department.

Kinship Foster Care

Citation: Code of Rules 18-006-106

First priority for placement shall be given to a relative when it is suitable and appropriate to do so. If a child is in department custody and placed with a relative, the relative must be licensed as a resource family within 90 days of placement.

All foster care settings, including relative, fictive kin placements, and court-ordered nonrelative placements, shall be screened prior to the initial placement of foster children to ensure that children receive safe, sufficient, and appropriate care. Screenings shall include criminal and local law enforcement checks and child welfare background checks of all household members who are at least age 14.

The department shall maintain an expedited process for licensing screened relative, fictive kin caregivers, and court-ordered nonrelative placements to enable a child to be placed quickly upon entering foster care. The licensing process for these placements shall take place in two steps:

  • An emergency process that enables a child to be placed with relatives/fictive kin/court-ordered nonrelatives as soon as the child enters placement, following an initial screening of the relative's home
  • A full licensing process, to be completed no later than 90 calendar days after the child has entered placement

The department may waive non-safety-related licensing requirements for relatives/fictive kin foster placements in individual cases, in accordance with Federal regulations. Federal guidelines clearly state that waivers are to be used only on a case-by-case basis and that all foster care licensing standards should provide equal protection in terms of safety, sanitation, civil rights, and admission policies for all children in care, regardless of their special situations. Children living in the homes of relatives are entitled to no less protection than children living in nonrelative foster homes.

Foster to Adopt

Citation: Code of Rules 18-006-106

A resource home is a single-family home licensed to provide care for a child in the custody of the department when that child cannot return safely to his or her own home for a period of time, temporarily or permanently. A resource home may be a foster, adoptive, or kinship care home.

While all applicants may not want to provide both foster and adoptive care, the same licensing process is required in either program area. All applicants applying to become a resource family shall go through an initial screening, assessment home study, preservice training, and meet the resource licensing requirements.

The department utilizes a single application for licensing resource homes, including foster, adoptive, and kinship care homes. This includes placing children in suitable foster and adoptive homes approved by licensed child-placing agencies in cases where restoration to the biological family is not safe, possible, or appropriate, thus creating resource families, both temporary and permanent.

Interjurisdictional Approval

Citation: Ann. Code § 43-18-1

Any out-of-home placement of a child outside the State is subject to the provisions of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

The child shall not be sent into the receiving State until the appropriate public authorities in the receiving State notify the sending agency, in writing, that the proposed placement does not appear to be contrary to the interests of the child.

Links to Resources

Mississippi Department of Human Services, Division of Family and Children's Services, Policy Manual: