Every year, thousands of foster families across Illinois provide a temporary safe haven for children who have been placed in DCFS care by local courts. DCFS strives to reunite children with their birth families, and nearly half of all foster children are reunified with their families within 12 months. When reunification simply is not possible, as determined by the courts, many foster families choose to adopt the children they have cared for.
How do you become a foster family?
Foster families come from all walks of life and are needed all across Illinois. Foster parents must be at least 21 years old and can be married, in a civil union, single, divorced or separated.
To ensure your success as a foster parent, prospective foster families are required to:
- Participate in a home inspection and social assessment.
- Complete 27 hours of training focused on foster care and the needs of children who are in foster care.
- Complete a criminal background check of all household members.
Be financially stable.
- Complete a health screening that includes verification that immunizations are up to date.
DCFS maintains an online listing with pictures and descriptions of children in need of a loving family. Please click here to learn more.
For more information about foster care, read the Top 10 things you need to know about becoming a foster parent information card in English or en español and the You Can Make a Difference in the life of a child in your community: Be a Foster Parent! in English or en español. You may also fill out the online interest form and a foster/adoptive parent recruiter will contact you with more information and next steps.
How are licensed foster care and unlicensed relative foster care different?
Where it is in a child's best interest, DCFS and the courts may place a foster child in the home of a willing and able relative who is not yet licensed as a foster home. While relative foster families help meet urgent needs and provide some continuity in a child's life, it is most beneficial for relatives to become fully licensed as foster parents. During the period relatives are unlicensed, they receive significantly lower reimbursements for costs than licensed foster parents. DCFS strongly encourages all family members proving relative foster care to become licensed foster parents, but because licensure can take several months, many family members start out in the relative foster care program.
For more information about becoming a relative caregiver, read the DCFS publication What You Need to know about Being a Relative Caregiver in English or en español. You may also fill out the online interest form and a foster/adoptive parent recruiter will contact you with more information and next steps.
DCFS exit interviews for youth in care (FARE)
To ensure that all Illinois youth in care have their voices heard and their experiences considered and documented, the Illinois House of Representatives passed House Bill 4304, known as the Foster Care Assessment and Rating at Exit (FARE) interview, that became effective on January 1, 2023 and the department began implementing on August 14, 2023. This mandate requires that all children 5 years and older who exit a foster home complete an exit interview about their experiences. The interview is to take place with a qualified DCFS designee in a private setting outside the home they are leaving. Learn more by reading the FARE Overview for Foster Parents.