Frequently Asked Questions
Read answers to common questions below. If you have additional questions that you would like assistance with, please call Iowa KidsNet at 1.800.243.0756 (Hablamos español).
Prospective & Current Foster & Adoptive Families
DHS and Other Partner Organizations
Prospective & Current Foster & Adoptive Families
For more questions and answers, click here.
Do I need to be licensed to be a foster parent?
Does my spouse (or live-in significant other) really need to come to all the trainings?
Are there specific requirements for my home?
I don’t think I fit the typical foster or adoptive family model.
Is there a cost to go through the training and licensing process?
Do we get to choose which kids are placed with us?
This is a big commitment. How do I know if I can do it?
I’m not very good with the kindergarten crowd. Can I foster just teenagers?
Am I too old to be a foster parent?
Can I adopt my foster child?
Q: Do I need to be licensed to be a foster parent?
A: Yes. The state of Iowa requires all individuals caring for non-relative children to be licensed.
Q: Does my spouse (or live-in significant other) really need to come to all the trainings?
Yes. You will be learning about how the court system works, why children have certain behaviors and how you can provide the support and nurturing children in foster care need. It is essential that the adults living in the home work as a team.
Q: Are there specific requirements for my home?
Yes. There are both physical space and safety requirements for providing foster care. If you are hoping to only adopt, these requirements are recommended.
Some physical standards for bedrooms that will be used by foster children:
1) The room must be constructed for the purpose of sleeping; it must have permanent walls; it must have a door that closes; it must have a working window that opens from the inside; it must have a closet, wardrobe, armoire, or dresser; there should be at least 40 square feet per child; and the room must have a bed (couch beds, cots, or pack-n-plays are not allowed).
2) Rooms below ground (basement bedrooms) must have everything in #1 plus a direct exit to the outside and one inside stairway exit.
Some safety standards for your home include the following:
1) Floors where foster children will sleep must have a working smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector.
2) In addition to foster child bedrooms having a window, that window must be large enough to allow a child to pass through it, open 24 inches, have a width of 20 inches and a finished sill height of 44 inches or less from the floor.
3) Homes must have at least one approved fire extinguisher.
4) Prescription medication and poisonous substances must be stored appropriately in locked cabinets.
5) Guns and ammunition must also be stored appropriately and separately in locked cabinets.
In some instances, these requirements can be granted an exception and some physical or safety requirements can be met with simple (non-structural) modifications. If you have specific questions regarding your home, you can request to speak with one of our licensing specialists.
Q: I don’t think I fit the typical foster or adoptive family model.
Actually, there’s no typical model. Some of our foster families are single-parent families. Some have kids in their home while others don’t. Some older foster parents have already raised their own family, but want to open their hearts and homes to more kids. Some are homeowners, and some are renters. And our parents come from all racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds and sexual orientations.
Q: Is there a cost to go through the training and licensing process?
We’re excited to tell you there’s no cost to Iowa KidsNet orientation, training, licensing or support services! It’s free to families and funded through DHS.
Q: Do we get to choose which kids are placed with us?
When you get a call asking if you will take a child into your home, the final decision is yours. Iowa KidsNet uses a matching database to match the strengths and preferences of a family to a child's age and background, so the placement is the best possible fit for everyone.
Q: This is a big commitment. How do I know if I can do it?
If you have a big heart, patience, flexibility, stability and a sense of humor, you can do it. But you don't have to do it alone.
After completing your training, you will automatically be assigned a support specialist who will work with you to determine your individual needs and create a support plan. He or she is available 24-7 to answer questions, provide resources, assist with a crisis or behavior management and advocate on your family or child's behalf.
Respite care can also offer additional help, and Iowa KidsNet will provide you with information and resources through our newsletter and our website. Through the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association (IFAPA), you can also receive mentoring and peer support.
Iowa KidsNet also offers free post-adoption support services to families with an adoption subsidized by the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS).
Learn more about support services here.
Q: I’m not very good with the kindergarten crowd. Can I foster just teenagers?
Yes! Some foster parents like caring for a variety of children. Others find they work best with just boys or just girls. Some work with younger children. Some foster parents become experienced at caring for children with medical needs. In time, you will find your own niche.
While working on your home study, the social worker will ask you about the age, gender and special needs of children you are interested in fostering. Once you are licensed, a social worker will call you and describe the children needing a foster home before any child is brought to your home. If you would not feel comfortable caring for any child described, you simply decline the placement.
Q: Am I too old to be a foster parent?
Foster and adoptive parents must be at least 21 years old. Otherwise, your age is only a consideration if it affects your ability to care for a specific child and function in a parental role.
Q: Can I adopt my foster child?
A: While the primary goal of foster care is reunification of the child with his or her birth family, some children cannot return home. When this happens, DHS will then develop a permanency plan for the child, which may include adoption.
DHS and Other Partner Organizations
For more questions and answers, click here.
How do I make a referral to Iowa KidsNet for a family to become licensed as a foster or adoptive family?
How do recruitment and orientation activities work in this project?
How do matching services work for adoptable children in this project? Who calls the family to see if they will take the child? Who makes the final placement decision?
As a DHS supervisor/administrator, what is my role with this Project?
Q: How do I make a referral to Iowa KidsNet for a family to become licensed as a foster or adoptive family?
A: All your inquiries and referrals can be made to Iowa KidsNet at 1.800.243.0756. Customer Service staff are available to answer the phone 24 hours/day. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org to help families start the process.
Q: How do recruitment and orientation activities work in this project?
A: Iowa KidsNet is responsible to organize, carry out and track all recruitment and orientation events statewide. These events will be planned to correspond to each DHS Service Area’s recruitment plans for the number and type of families needed for children who need homes and designed to reduce the waiting time for families. Once a family contacts Iowa KidsNet, they will be scheduled for an orientation session and the background check process will be initiated. For further information about recruitment and/or orientation activities in your area, contact Iowa KidsNet at 1.800.243.0756.
Q: How do matching services work for adoptable children in this project? Who calls the family to see if they will take the child? Who makes the final placement decision?
A: DHS staff is invited to make referrals for children who need an adoptive home placement by contacting Iowa KidsNet at 1.800.243.0756. You will be asked to share all the information you have about the child, so that Iowa KidsNet can locate a family that will best meet your requirements and the child’s needs.
The contract does not include adoption matching. However, DHS needs to work out how to get current information on waiting families. As a DHS Adoption Worker, you make the final placement decision.
Q: As a DHS supervisor/administrator, what is my role with this Project?
A: In addition to providing guidance and approval to the work the DHS licensing and adoption staff do with the project – you are also a key part of helping to form and oversee the recruitment targets and providing feedback on project operations. Iowa KidsNet has a Service Area Leader (SAL) assigned to you and your staff, who oversees all aspects of project services in your area. You are welcome and invited to communicate regularly with your SAL.
What is the Recruitment and Retention Project?
Will Iowa ever have enough foster and adoptive families?
What are project services?
What’s new or different about foster care and adoption in this project?
What is Iowa KidsNet?
What is the Heart Gallery of Iowa?
I have a question, but I'm not sure who to call.
Q: What is the Recruitment and Retention Project?
A: The purposes of this project are to:
1) increase the number of resource families that are available to be successfully matched with children who need out-of home care in a foster family care setting, adoptive placement or relative placement.
2) help children achieve permanency through reunification or adoption.
Q: Will Iowa ever have enough foster and adoptive families?
Unfortunately, the need in Iowa is ongoing throughout the state. Children continue to enter the foster care system and foster and adoptive families leave the system, often because of positive reasons such as adoption from foster care.
Q: What are project services?
A: The Recruitment and Retention Project combines a full array of services, including:
- Marketing and recruitment activities
- Orienting and providing PS-MAPP training
- Background (child abuse, criminal and sex offender) checks
- Home studies for relative placements and foster and adoptive initial licenses and relicensing.
- Identifying homes (matching) for children referred for foster care.
- Providing on-going support services to foster, pre- and post-adoptive families, including crisis and behavior management to maintain the stability of children in placement.
Q: What’s new or different about foster care and adoption in this project?
A: Iowa has a strong foster care and adoption program. This project was developed by the Department of Human Services to make it even better – by bundling all the existing services under one contract to reduce confusion, to make it easier for families to get and stay involved and to help serve children more successfully.
The Recruitment and Retention Project includes activities and services that were previously offered separately by different providers and DHS staff. The project includes recruitment, background checks, orientation, home studies (licensing and relicensing) and matching and support services for foster and adoptive families. Relative home studies and connections between foster children and birth families are also offered to facilitate reunification and life-long connections.
The project has clear performance targets to ensure consistent, improved outcomes for resource families and children in out-of-home care statewide. It is operated by a new statewide network of agencies and staff called Iowa KidsNet.
Q: What is Iowa KidsNet?
Iowa KidsNet is a partnership of experienced, credentialed organizations: Four Oaks, Children's Square U.S.A., Family Resources, LSI and Quakerdale. Iowa KidsNet was formed in 2006 for the purpose of providing local and statewide solutions for kids that meet the quality, capacity, efficiency and comprehensive needs of the Department of Human Services, Juvenile Court Offices, Iowa Medicaid Enterprise, Magellan and other state and local funders.
The Recruitment and Retention of Resource Families Project is a statewide contract between Four Oaks (on behalf of Iowa KidsNet) and the Iowa Department of Human Services. Other agencies that are involved by subcontract on this project include Youth and Shelter Services.
Q: What is the Heart Gallery of Iowa?
The Heart Gallery of Iowa is a traveling photography exhibit of Iowa children who are currently in foster care and available for adoption. Members of the Professional Photographers of Iowa and other volunteer photographers donate their time and talent to create portraits that bring out the unique personalities of these children. This helps significantly increase the chances of children finding an adoptive home. These photos are also used to promote the children on this, the Iowa KidsNet website.
Q: I have a question, but I'm not sure who to call.
See our "Who To Call" list here for the answer!
If you still have questions, please call Iowa KidsNet customer service at 1.800.243.0756 for further assistance and direction.