The Foster Parent NETwork

San Joaquin County


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Questions About the Caretaker

Q: What is a Foster Parent?

 A foster parent works as a partner with the Child Services Division providing out-of-home care for children who are temporarily placed outside of their biological families. The foster parents provide self-esteem building, stability, guidance and nurturing for all children in their care. They also:

  • Help children feel they have a home of their own
  • Help children maintain and improve relationships with others
  • Help children adjust well in school
  • Understand the importance of the children's bond with their biological families
  • Meet the needs of their own children while sharing their family with the children in their care

In the event children are not reunited with their biological parents, we encourage foster parents to consider becoming a legal guardian or adoptive parent.  Foster parents should be:

  • Emotionally mature, with enough income to meet their own needs
  • Over 18 years of age
  • In good health (determined by physical examination) and with energy enough to work well with children
  • Without conviction of a crime (other than a minor traffic violation). Police records will be evaluated through required fingerprints
  • Without a substantiated allegation of Child Abuse as determined through a Child Abuse Index Check

Every member of the family must be willing to accept a foster child as a part of the family.

Q: What is the difference between a foster parent, a legal guardian and an adoptive parent?


A foster parent is a person who furnishes food, clothing, housing and nurturing to a child who can no longer (for whatever reason) live with his birth parents. When a child is in foster care, the birth parents still have rights and responsibilities such as inheritance and visitation rights. A foster parent is always under the supervision of the child welfare agency. Foster parents usually have the expectation the children they are caring for will be reunited with their biological parents in the future.


A legal guardian is a person who is given the legal authority and responsibility to care for a child. A guardian may be related or unrelated to a child. Guardianship suspends the rights and responsibilities of the birth parents. A child may still inherit from the parents if a guardianship exists. The court may order visitation with the parents or other relatives as a part of its decision. The legal responsibilities of a guardian are much greater than those of a foster parent. It is a formal commitment made between the child and the guardian. Foster parents (as well as other interested parties such as relatives) may become legal guardians.


An adoptive parent is a person who has legally adopted a child. When a child is adopted, all parental rights are terminated, including inheritance and visitation rights. When a person adopts a child, the legal relationship with that child is the same as a child born to that person. An adopted child becomes your own child in all respects.

Q: Is there a minimum age for Foster Parents?

A: Yes. You must be eighteen years of age or older in order to obtain a license.

Q: Is there a maximum age for Foster Parents?

A: No. However, you must be in good physical and mental health and capable of caring for children.

Q: I'm single. Will I still be able to obtain a license?

A: Yes. We have many excellent Foster Parents who are single.

Q: I'm partnered, but not married. Will I still be able to obtain a license?

A: Yes.

Q: Can same-sex couples obtain a license?

A: Yes.

Q: What else is expected of us as Foster Parents?


A foster child in your home needs full-time care and supervision. The child must be under the general supervision of a reliable adult at all times. Adequate supervision of a child must be provided in your absence.


All adult caregivers in the household shall have completed First Aid and CPR training and be able to provide verification of current certification.


Must be fair, reasonable and consistent and must be related to the offense. Unacceptable forms of discipline include:

  • Corporal punishment which includes spanking, striking, whipping, slapping or any other form of discipline that inflicts the child with physical pain is not allowed, even though the child's parents may have given consent. Disobeying this regulation is cause for the revocation of a foster home license.
  • Punishment connected with sleeping, eating or toilet training shall not be used nor punishment which would cause the child humiliation.


We encourage foster parents to provide transportation for children in their care to medical appointments, counseling appointments, and sibling and parental visitation.


The religious beliefs of the child or his family must be observed. Each child must be given the opportunity to attend religious services and activities of his faith or that of his parents, except where permission to do otherwise has been given by the parent.


Social and recreational activities of children are necessary for their healthy development. Therefore, foster parents must make it possible for each child to have a part in the social and recreational life of the community.


A child can grow only when he is fed well. What he eats shall be well-balanced, adequate and suitable for the age of each child. Meals must be served regularly.


A child needs training in personal hygiene and cleanliness. Each child must have his own comb, toothbrush, towel, washcloth and other necessary toilet articles.


A child's appearance affects his self-esteem. Each child shall have their own clothing that is attractive, well fitting and in good repair.

Q: What is an alternate caretaker?

A: An alternate caretaker is a person designated by foster parents to care for foster children when they are not home. An alternate caretaker undergoes the same background checks as a foster parent (i.e., fingerprinting, TB test, criminal history, DMV, Child Abuse Index, etc.). An alternate caretaker must be over 18 years of age. Foster parents must have a designated alternate caretaker who can care for the children placed in their home when they are unavailable.

Q: Is there a Foster Parent Association?

Yes. More information about this will be given out at Orientation.

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