Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions 2016-11-06T09:08:43+00:00

Your curiosity is an important asset.

The most successful parents, volunteers, partners and donors tend to have a lot of questions about what we do, what requirements there are, and what role they can play. Here are some of the questions we’ve most frequently been asked over the years.

The foster care licensing and adoption preparation process takes a great deal of work, time, focus and emotional energy. Many of the children we place from foster care have experienced trauma, requiring foster parents to be present for them in a way that often greatly exceeds the level of energy and emotional capacity necessary to parent children who have experienced consistent, nurturing care from the beginning.  In the interest of the vulnerable children we serve, it is imperative that families are wholly present and singularly committed to this path to grow their family, and that they are equipped and prepared for success. For these reasons, we do not accept applications from families who are currently pregnant, engaged in fertility treatments, or who are actively pursuing pregnancy, surrogacy, private adoption, or other methods of growing their families.
While safety, stability, and well-being of the children in our community are the primary goals of the foster care system, the State also strives to strengthen, preserve, and promote positive relationships between children in foster care and their families in an effort to return a child home. Parents with children in foster care are offered supports, services, and visits with their children to help them learn to safely parent so their child may be returned to their care. Many children are able to be successfully reunited with their parents while other children eventually become eligible for adoption.

Each child’s case must move through a legal process; generally, the younger the child, the less we will know about the longer-term or permanent placement plan (i.e. whether the child will be able to go home, be placed with another family member, or become eligible for adoption). Some Amara families choose to parent kids further along in the legal process for whom adoption is already the permanent placement plan or who are legally free for adoption. These kids are usually older and will have been in foster care for an extended period of time already. You will receive support from your caseworker and from Amara’s Child Placement Coordinator in making an informed decision about the child you welcome into your family. You will also receive training that will enable you to better understand the child welfare system and to determine your comfort level with each possible placement. Once a parent’s rights are permanently terminated and an adoption is finalized, it is irreversible.

No. Although occasional travel outside of Washington may be permissible, children who are in the custody of DCFS must remain living in the State of Washington. If you are uncertain about your plans to remain in the state but think you will eventually pursue adoption through foster care in Washington (or elsewhere) we recommend that you consider taking the 24-hour Caregiver Core Training (CCT). It is offered at no charge and provides a wealth of information about the child welfare system, as well as the effects of trauma, grief, and loss on children from foster care. It may not transfer to another state, but may help you in your decision-making. If you do remain in Washington, you will have completed an important requirement for foster care licensing. The full CCT schedule can be found on the Fostering Together website .
Amara offers our services to families regardless of marital status. However, in the interest of assuring stability for the vulnerable children we place, it is important to be able to assess the stability of your relationship commitment over a substantial period of time. We will be assessing your capacity and willingness to make a commitment together to children who have already experienced considerable loss in their lives. While we understand that no one can predict the future, we are looking for families who can offer stability and predictability to children for whom it is crucial to their healing and development. Thus, applications will not be accepted from couples who have been in their relationship for less than two years.
Amara understands that openness in fostering and adoption may be a new and intimidating concept for some. We often find that once applicants learn more about what “openness” means and also about how it may serve the child they eventually foster or adopt, their thoughts about this shift. We hope to answer your questions, build on your strengths, and provide you with guidance as you create openness in your home.

The circumstances from which foster children come are varied. Foster and adopted children benefit from knowing their roots and being able to ask questions and get answers about their placement into foster care, their adoption, and birth family. There is no one right way to approach relationships with their birth families. However, what we know now, after years of research, is that the details of the child’s story and the ability to have some kind of connection with birth family members is beneficial to foster and adopted children. Children’s identities are formed by both the family from which they came and the family that raises them. Open, comfortable communication on the part of foster and adoptive parents, the sharing of information that belongs to foster children and adoptees, and forming connections with their families, are all supports to children as they understand their story and who they are. As Amara values highly the importance of birth family relationships, applications will not be accepted from persons who are resolute in their decision to have a closed adoption.

Amara does not have a policy around the ownership of weapons, but we must reach our own family-specific assessment regarding the safety of children around weapons. The existence of weapons must be noted in the home study document and this may well raise questions for State social workers or licensors who read the document. To ensure child safety standards are being met, we will ask probing questions about any and all weapons. Additionally, we will require that you comply with all State statutes regarding weapon safety and storage.
We know that your pets are very important to you; in many cases they are a family’s “first children.” As part of the licensing process, we must obtain copies of your pets’ vaccination records, where applicable. We must meet your pets and assess children’s safety around them. Some dog breeds are scrutinized more heavily (but will not necessarily preclude licensure) by State licensors due to past incidents of harm to children. If we think your pets may present challenges to children, we will speak to you about possible solutions.
If you have children that live with you, either full or part time, we must interview these children as part of the home study process. Interview length, style and questions used will be appropriate to the age of each child. We will also be observing the children in their interactions with you and will interview you about each child. Our goal is the same for every family – we are looking to ensure that any child placed with you will be safe and well-nurtured. Similarly, we must interview any older or adult children who have left your home. These interviews are often conducted over the phone and follow a set protocol.
All applicants for foster care and adoption must complete criminal background authorization forms that will enable DSHS to perform a multi-system check of records. While there are some crimes that permanently disqualify an applicant from foster care or adoption, a past criminal charge or conviction will not necessarily preclude you from moving forward. We will assess criminal history as we do all other aspects of your individual and family background – in terms of its relation to your ability to provide a safe and nurturing home for children. We have found that it is not unusual for a charge from an individual’s past to appear on a criminal record even when that individual believes the charge was not actually made, was determined to be unfounded and thus stricken from the record, or was formally expunged. As part of the home study and licensing process, you will be required to explain, and in many cases to provide records related to, past criminal charges and/or convictions. It is in your best interest to disclose all actual or possible charges and convictions that may arise on a criminal records check. If you do not disclose something and it appears on your record, it raises a question for us as to whether other self-reported information is accurate or if other important information has been withheld. We encourage you to be honest and proactive in bringing up any record that could surface in the background records check as early as possible in the process. The home study process relies on openness and candor on the part of applicants as well as Amara staff.
If alcohol or drug addiction is part of your past, we will spend focused time in our interviews exploring this area with you. It will be important to understand the stability of your sobriety across multiple years and the lifestyle changes you have made to support your recovery. It would not be uncommon for us to ask to speak to professionals that have assisted you in your recovery process. Occasionally we may request a current chemical dependency assessment. Similarly, if we are concerned that you may currently have an issue with alcohol or drugs, we will address this with you directly. The stress of the adoption process and of parenting children who have experienced trauma can increase vulnerability in this area. The information that we gather through interviews and contacts with treatment providers is intended to enable us to determine whether you have the stability, capacity, and resources you need to succeed. Applications will not be accepted from persons who are currently experiencing substance or alcohol abuse. As it is important to be able to assess the stability of your sobriety and commitment to recovery over a substantial period of time, Amara limits its acceptance of applications to those persons who have been sober and in recovery for a minimum of two years.
A core component of the home study assessment is an individual’s overall ability to parent children. We must therefore evaluate physical health as well as emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Standard practice requires that all applicants submit a detailed report from their medical provider. It is not uncommon for us to follow up with a medical provider or specialist for additional information. Similarly, if you have been in counseling or therapy recently and/or for an extended period at any time, or if we have concerns about mental stability, we may request a letter from and/or ask to speak to your therapist. If you have received inpatient mental health treatment at any time in your past, we are required to obtain records from the provider. Making any determination will require our having a complete picture of your health.