Q. What is foster care?
A. Foster care is home-like care provided by licensed foster parents and providers for children who cannot live with their parents because they:
have special care or treatment needs that their parents are unable to manage
other circumstances resulting in their parents or family being unable to care for them.
Placement in foster care is usually temporary and gives families time to make necessary changes so the child can safely live in his or her home and community. Most children in foster care return home to their families, which is called reunification. When children cannot return home, they find permanence through adoption, guardianship, or other means.
Q. How do children enter foster care?
A. Children are placed in foster care for various reasons. Some examples include:
- a child who has been neglected,
- a child who has been abused,
- a child whose parent is in jail or is hospitalized and has no one to care for them during their parent’s absence.
Typically, someone reports the situation to the Child Abuse Hotline, and either DCFS or the Arkansas Crimes Against Children unit at the Arkansas State Police investigates the allegations and determine whether those allegations are true. They also look at several factors to assess whether a child can safely remain in his or her home. If the child cannot remain safely at home and there are no safe and appropriate relatives, then the child will be placed into foster care.
Q. Are more foster homes needed?
A. Yes! Children in foster care do better in homes with families, not facilities. We need caring, patient, and flexible foster families who can provide temporary care to children while we work to get them safely back home to their original families as quickly as possible.
Q. How old do I need to be to become a foster parent?
A. Foster home applicants must be at least 21 years of age.
Q. Do I need to be married to become a foster parent?
A. Two-parent homes may apply and must demonstrate a stable relationship. A single person also may apply.
Q. Do I need to live in a big house to become a foster parent?
A. No. You must have enough space to adequately promote health and safety. Each bedroom should have at least 50 square feet of space per child.
Q. What kind of background checks will I have to have to become a foster parent?
A. All members of the household age 14 years and older must be cleared through the Arkansas Child Maltreatment Central Registry. All members of the household age 18 years and older must be cleared through a State Police Criminal Record Check, and a fingerprint-based FBI Criminal Background Check.
Q. Do I need to make a lot of money to become a foster parent?
A. No. You must have sufficient resources to meet the financial, medical, physical, educational, emotional, and shelter needs of the child without relying solely on state or federal financial assistance to meet those needs.
Q. Will I have help as a foster parent?
A. Yes because we are all working together for the children in foster care. You’ll have multiple DCFS staff to help support you and your family. Financial assistance, called a “board payment,” also is available for each child you foster to help cover the cost of room, board, clothing, school supplies, personal supplies and a small allowance for the child, if appropriate. The funds provided are to be completely used for the child.
Q. What are the biggest needs for fostering in arkansas?
A. While we need foster homes for all of our children in foster care, we especially need homes for teens and for sibling groups. Every child comes to us from some sort of traumatic experience. Teens feel this more than others, and they need extra support and guidance. Siblings were family before they came into foster care. They have the right to remain a family while in foster care.
Q. How do I become a foster parent in Arkansas?
A. If you feel you are ready to learn more about becoming a foster family, please visit https://dhs.arkansas.gov/dcfs/fcadoptinq/FCA_Inquiry.aspx and complete the Foster Family Home Inquiry form. DCFS staff will be in touch soon about next steps.
Q. Why do these children need an adoptive family?
A. Many of the children are removed from their birth family or legal parent due to neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and/or sexual abuse. DHS/DCFS has attempted to work with the birth family to resolve problems. Some the children’s parents have consented to the children being adopted and DHS/DCFS and the court have agreed. Other parents have not consented. In such cases, DHS/DCFS and the court have determined it is not safe for the child to live with the parent or other family members. An adoption cannot take place unless the birth parent or legal parent’s rights have been terminated by the court.
Q. How do I start the adoption process?
A. To start the adoption process, you must first apply to become a foster or adoptive home. You’ll find an online application here: https://dhs.arkansas.gov/dcfs/fcadoptinq/FCA_Inquiry.aspx. If you need additional information about being considered as an adoptive family, visit the Arkansas Heart Gallery web site.
Q. How much does it cost to adopt through DCFS?
A. DHS/DCFS is a public adoption agency and does not charge a fee to apply for adoption or for placement of a child. You would be responsible for any fee for a medical examination that is required during an adoption assessment or “home study.”
Q. What is an adoption assessment or home study?
A. An adoption assessment, also called a home study, includes a home visit as well as questions about your life experiences, relationships, lifestyle, strengths, challenges, parenting skills, expectations for children, support systems, problem solving skills, communication skills, child development, child abuse and neglect, motivation for adoption, adoption issues, preferences for a child, and more. An Adoption Specialist meets with household members individually and as a family. You’ll also be asked to fill out certain forms and all household members must have a medical evaluation completed a doctor chosen by the family interested in adopting. The Department also completes a criminal record check on everyone in the household who is 18 years of age or older and a child abuse and neglect check on everyone in the household who is 14 years of age or older. The assessment is a mutual learning experience between DHS/DCFS adoption staff and you. We do not expect perfect families, but we do expect them to passionate about caring for children in foster care, committed to reunifying those children with their biological families when it is safe to do so, and invested in the lives of the children and families we serve.
We know you need more than a home visit to make informed decisions about adoption and to ensure that you can meet the needs of a child who has experienced trauma. You can learn a lot of information through group meetings (trainings) with other adoptive applicants. You’ll also get opportunities to talk with adoption staff and usually experienced adoptive families.
Q. How long will it take?
A. The adoption assessment/home study may take up to six months to complete. If you have expressed an interest in a child on the adoption web site, a determination will be made about the appropriateness of selecting you as the adoptive family for that child if the child has not been placed with an adoptive family. You will be considered along with other approved adoptive applicants. If another family is selected for the child because it can better meet the needs of that child, you still have the opportunity to adopt other children. As an approved family, DCFS staff will consider you for other children who match your preferences. We encourage you to express interest in other children who are registered on the adoption web site.
It may take a few months, a year, or longer for a selection or “match” to happen. A factor in the length of time is your preferences. The greatest need is for adoptive families for school aged children especially teenagers, and sibling groups. DHS/DCFS cannot guarantee that a child will be placed with your family. Our main goal is to find a family for the child, not a child for the family.
At the time you are selected as an adoptive family for a child, you will be provided a full disclosure packet about the child and his or her experiences. If you are interested in considering the child after assessing the information, the child will get information about you. Planned visits between you and child will occur. During these visits you also will talk with DCFS staff. You may meet with the child’s foster parents/care providers, mental health counselor, medical professionals, teachers, attorney, advocate, and others. The length of the visitation schedule is based upon the child’s needs. However, a minimum of three preplacement visits will occur before a child can be placed in your home.
If you live in another state, DCFS will follow the law and regulations of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). The approval of the ICPC office in each state must be secured prior to a child’s placement with an adoptive family that lives in another state. DCFS will initiate the ICPC procedures.
A child must live with an adoptive family for at least six months before an adoption can be legally finalized by a judge. During this time, an Adoption Specialist will help you with questions, problems, locating resources, etc.
Q. Is financial assistance available?
A. Financial assistance may be available in the form of monthly support for the child, one-time reimbursement for expenses related to initial adoption expenses, and/or a federal tax credit for the year in which the adoption takes place. The monthly support, called an adoption subsidy, is available for children who meet certain eligibility requirements. A subsidy helps to meet the costs of providing for the child’s daily needs. Subsidies may be available to help pay for medical or psychological services and legal fees to finalize an adoption.
Q. When children are abused or neglected, do they automatically come into foster care?
A. No. Our mission is to keep children safe and families together. We do that by engaging families and working together to build supports to assist parents and families in successfully and safely caring for their children. When we investigate allegations of abuse or neglect, and see that abuse did happen, we’ll engage the family to see what can be done to keep the child safe and the family stable. Sometimes that means that a child must come into foster care temporarily while we work with the family. However, most of our cases are “in-home” or protective services cases where we work with families to keep children safely in the home. This is our goal each time we engage families.
Q. What is done to keep children safe in their homes?
A. A wide array of services are provided to families involved in DCFS in-home cases. These services are tailored to meet the specific needs of each family. In other words, there is no “one size fits all” approach to helping stabilize and strengthen families. Available services include: Parenting skills improvement, Substance abuse treatment, Counseling (family and individual), and Homemaker services (cleaning, organization, budgeting, etc.).
Q. How do you prevent child abuse and neglect?
A. We want to provide families with the tools, resources, and supports to become the best versions of themselves possible. We believe that strong families equal safe kids. Each of us has the ability to help children and families in our communities. If we educate and encourage people to find ways to get involved, children prosper at home.
Mutual Consent Voluntary Adoption Registry (MCVAR)
Q. What is the Mutual Consent Voluntary Adoption Registry?
A. Each licensed adoption agency in Arkansas is allowed by law to establish an adoption registry. Qualified persons may register to be identified to each other or to receive non-identifying information about the genetic, health and social history of adoptees placed by their agency. The Arkansas Mutual Consent Voluntary Adoption Registry (MCVAR) is operated by the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS). (This agency has previously been known as the “Welfare Department” or “Social Services”.)
Q. How does the MCVAR work?
A. If you are a qualified person and you want to be identified to your birth relatives, you must register to do so. In order for identification to take place the birth relatives must also register their consent to be identified to you.
When your registration is received, the Registry Coordinator will search the files to determine if the other persons you want to be identified to have registered. You will be informed of the outcome of the search. If they have not, your registration will be held on file. Each time a new registration comes in, the files will be searched to determine if there is a match. It may take years for the relatives you want to be identified to register or they may never register. However, if a match does occur you will be contacted by the Registry Coordinator.
Please note that registration is a voluntary act and the Registry Coordinator will not contact eligible persons to ask them to register.
A. If you are a qualified person and you want to receive information about the genetic, health and social history of the adoptee, you must also register to request this information. Upon receiving your registration the Registry Coordinator will search the agency adoption records for information about the background of the adoptee. The information will not identify any birth or adopted relative of the adoptee. If available, a comprehensive report will be forwarded to you.
Any qualified person may choose to remove his or her name from the registry at any time by filing a notarized affidavit with the registry.
Q. Who is Qualified to Register?
A. The adoption must have been arranged by the Division of Children and Family Services or an Arkansas licensed adoption agency which has transferred its Adoption Registry to DCFS.
To register to be identified to your birth relative(s) you must be:
- An adult adoptee who is at least 18 years old, or
- A birth parent of an adopted child, or
- A birth grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, or sibling of an adoptee.
To register to receive a genetic, health and social history of the adoptee you must be:
- An adoptee who is at least 18 years old, or
- A birth parent of an adopted child, or
- In the event of death of the adoptee, the adoptee’s children, the adoptee’s widow or widower, or the guardian of any child of the adoptee, or
- The adoptive parents, or in the event of their death, the child’s guardian, or The legal guardian of any child of the adoptee, or
- Any child welfare agency having custody of the adoptee.
If you are not sure that your adoption was arranged by the state of Arkansas, you may register. Also, you may contact other licensed adoption agencies regarding registration.
Q. How do I register?
A. To register to be identified to your birth relative(s) you must complete an Affidavit/ Registration form, attend a one hour counseling session, and pay a fee of $20.00. The minimum one hour of counseling must be provided by an Adoption Specialist who is employed with DCFS, if you live in Arkansas; the Registry Coordinator will provide you with a list of Adoption Specialists. If you live in another state, counseling must be provided by a social worker employed by a licensed agency in your state. Any affidavits filed and sealed adoption records shall be retained for ninety-nine (99) years following the date of registration or finalization.
To register to receive a genetic, health and social history of an adoptee you must complete the Affidavit/Registration form and pay a fee of $5.00. You may register to receive both services on the same form.
Q. How do I get Affidavit form?
A. The DCFS Registry Coordinator will send you an Affidavit/Registration form if you submit a written request to the address at the bottom of this page or you can print an affidavit form by clicking here. You should not send any money to the Registry Coordinator until you return your notarized Affidavit/Registration form.
You may call the Registry Coordinator at (501) 682-8762 and ask for Tracy Dickinson or click here to send an email.
Mail Correspondence to:
AR DHS/DCFS Adoption Services Unit
ATTN: Tracy Dickinson/MCVAR
PO Box 1437, Slot S565
Little Rock, AR 72203-1437