Kate and I recently became interested in doing some foster care, so we contacted a local agency and have gone through the process. We’ve learned a lot about it; it’s fairly involved. Here’s a few things DHS requires before allowing a foster child or kinship placement in your home:

  • Income verification
  • Background check and fingerprinting
  • Auto insurance verification
  • Three (phone) interviews with non-family references
  • Health screening
  • Disclosure of parenting styles, marital and psychological history, and interviews with biological children (if applicable)
  • 27 hours of classroom training
  • 12 hours of continuing education/year
  • Home inspection, including presence of smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, appropriate controlled access to chemicals, etc
  • Approval to leave the child with a family member or other person overnight

(These are from memory, and not a comprehensive list)

To have a child apart from DHS’s control, you need to:

  • Be physically able to conceive and carry a child to term (repeat as desired)

These are good and red-tape and important procedures. The system needs this to prevent abuse: from those wishing to abuse the financial compensation provided and to screen the sick, unfit, and disturbed.

If society were able to impose a few of the items from the government checklist on prospective parents, there may not be as many children in DHS care. It seems strange that you have to have a license to get married or drive a car or operate a computer.* But not to bring a person into this world.

A license to have children is, of course, an unenforceable, impractical, and horrible idea.

I am grateful that as a society, we’ve determined that taking care of children is a priority. We have a system [that tries] to ensure kids have a home where they are valued, cared for, and loved. But only after they’ve been abused, neglected, ignored, or otherwise uncared for, even if their situation is temporary.

So I’m glad for DHS and the over-worked social workers and for those trying to make a difference in the future of children. There’s a lot to do. But that doesn’t make it a shame that it has to happen at all though (cue comments about the Fall, human nature, etc :-). It’s frustrating that there’s so much brokenness and pain out there and I wonder if it’s at least partially preventable.

* not really, but it’d be nice sometimes :-)

Postscript: I’ve been thinking about this for months and have reworked it 3-4 times. In re-re-reading it, I’m not sure how it comes across. I realize I’m human like everyone but left this as is. I don’t claim to be a great parent (or even a good one). Here’s to compassion, healing, and education.