Home Study Requirements for Prospective Foster Parents - Washington

Date: February 2018

Who May Apply

Citation: Admin. Code §§ 388-148-1365; 388-148-1485

An applicant for foster care licensure must be age 21 or older. In addition, the applicant must demonstrate the following:

  • The understanding, ability, physical health, emotional stability, and personality suited to meet the physical, mental, emotional, cultural, and social needs of children in care
  • The ability to furnish children with a nurturing, respectful, and supportive environment
  • Sufficient regular income to maintain the applicant's own family, without the foster care reimbursement made for the children in care

Foster parents may not use drugs or alcohol, whether legal or illegal, in a manner that affects their ability to provide safe care to children. Foster parents may have alcoholic beverages or marijuana on their property as long as they are not accessible to people younger than age 21.

Training Requirements

Citation: Admin. Code §§ 388-148-1375; 388-148-1380

Prior to initial licensure, orientation and preservice training will be required for the primary caregiver (at a minimum). All members of the household older than age 18 who provide care must have and maintain the following training:

  • First aid
  • Age-appropriate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • HIV/AIDS, including blood-borne pathogens and infection control standards consistent with educational materials published by the Department of Health, Office on HIV/AIDS

Applicants with current and active medical licenses or certificates (nurses, physicians, and emergency medical services personnel) may submit their licenses or certificates to satisfy the first aid and CPR requirement.

After licensure, the foster parent and the licensing agency must develop an individual in-service training plan pursuant to the department's foster home training policy. The training plan will be based on the type of children in the parent's care and any previous training and experience.

Minimum Standards for Foster Homes

Citation: Admin. Code §§ 388-148-1440; 1445; 1450; 1465; 1470; 1475; 1480; 1495; 1500; 1510

The foster home must:

  • Have adequate indoor and outdoor space, ventilation, toilet and bathing facilities, light and heat
  • Be kept clean and in good repair and comply with all local and state zoning regulations, building codes, and fire codes
  • Keep all toxic materials out of the reach of children and separated from food items
  • Have access to a public water supply or a private water supply that has been tested for safety
  • Have access to a working telephone at all times
  • Have operable smoke detectors both inside and outside of all sleeping areas, on each story of the home, in all play areas, and in the basement
  • Have at least one approved all-purpose fire extinguisher readily available at all times
  • Provide a bedroom and appropriately sized separate bed for each child

Shared bedrooms must provide enough floor space for the safety and comfort of children. Foster teen parents may sleep in the same room with their children. No more than four children shall sleep in the same room. Foster children may not share the same bedroom with a child of another gender unless all children are under age 6. An infant must be provided with a crib that ensures the safety of the infant.

All animals on the property must be safe, properly cared for, and given required vaccinations.

Smoking is not allowed in a foster home or in motor vehicles when children are present. Adults are permitted to smoke outdoors away from children.

Guns and ammunition must be stored in locked containers out of reach of children. Guns must be stored separately from the ammunition unless stored in a locked gun safe.

Vehicles used to transport children in care must be kept in a safe operating condition, covered by liability insurance, and be equipped with seat belts and age-appropriate car seats. The driver must have a valid driver's license.

Approval Process

Citation: Admin. Code §§ 388-148-1370; 388-06A-0110; 388-06A-0150

The Department of Social and Health Services or child-placing agency will assess an applicant for a foster family license. This will include, but is not necessarily limited to, the following:

  • The applicant's ability to comply with the licensing requirements
  • The physical condition of the applicant's home and property
  • The physical and mental health of all members of the household
  • The applicant's ability to provide sufficient income to meet the financial needs of his or her family without the foster care reimbursements for the children in care

The department requires background checks on the following people:

  • A relative other than a parent who may be caring for a child
  • A person who is at least age 16 and resides in a foster, relative, or other suitable person's home and is not a foster child

The department must review criminal convictions and pending charges on each applicant. The background check may include, but is not limited to, the following information sources:

  • Washington State Patrol
  • Washington courts
  • Department of Corrections
  • Department of Health
  • Civil adjudication proceedings
  • Applicant's self-disclosure
  • Out-of-state law enforcement and court records

Background checks also include the following:

  • A review of child protective services case files
  • Administrative hearing decisions related to any department license that has been revoked, suspended, or denied

In addition, background checks for placement of a child in out-of-home care, including foster homes and relative placements, include the following for each person over age 18 residing in the home:

  • Child abuse and neglect registries in each State a person has lived during the previous 5 years
  • Washington State Patrol and Federal Bureau of Investigation fingerprint-based background checks regardless of the length of residency in Washington

Grounds for Withholding Approval

Citation: Admin. Code §§ 388-06A-0170; 388-06A-0180; 388-06A-0200

A person will be permanently barred from being licensed to provide care for children if he or she has a felony conviction for any of the following:

  • Child abuse and/or neglect
  • Spousal abuse
  • A crime against a child, including child pornography
  • A crime involving violence, including rape, sexual assault, or homicide but not including other physical assault

A person will be disqualified for licensure if it has been less than 5 years from a conviction for the following crimes:

  • Any felony physical assault or battery offense not included above
  • A felony violation of the following drug-related crimes:
    • The Imitation Controlled Substances Act (for substances that are falsely represented as controlled substances )
    • The Legend Drug Act (prescription drugs)
    • The Precursor Drug Act (substances used in making controlled substances)
    • The Uniform Controlled Substances Act (illegal drugs or substances)
    • Unlawfully manufacturing, delivering, or possessing a controlled substance with intent to deliver, or unlawfully using a building for drug purposes

The department will not license a person who has a criminal charge pending for a disqualifying crime described in the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, or a criminal charge pending for a disqualifying crime that relates directly to child safety, permanence, or well-being.

Kinship Foster Care

Citation: Admin. Code §§ 388-25-0445; 388-25-0450

When the department determines that a child needs to be placed outside the home, the department must search for appropriate relatives to care for the child before considering nonrelative placements. The department reviews and determines the following when selecting a relative placement:

  • The child would be comfortable living with the relative.
  • The relative has a potential relationship with the child.
  • The relative is capable of caring for the child and is willing to cooperate with the permanency plan for the child.
  • The relative is able to provide a safe home for the child.
  • Each child has his or her own bed or crib if the child remains in the home beyond 30 days.

The department may consider nonrelated family members as potential resources if these family members become licensed to provide foster care.

The department may exclude relatives who have criminal histories as included in the Adoption and Safe Families Act regulations. A relative will be excluded if the department finds that, based on a criminal records check, the relative or a member of the household has been convicted of a felony involving the following:

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

The department may not approve a relative placement if the department finds that the relative or a member of the household has, within the last 5 years, been convicted of a felony involving physical assault, battery, or a drug-related offense.

Foster to Adopt

This issue is not addressed in the statutes and regulations reviewed.

Interjurisdictional Approval

Citation: Rev. Code § 26.34.010

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

Resources from the Department of Children, Youth, and Families: