Foster care training requirements vary by region, but generally mandate that prospective foster parents complete an orientation class. These courses help foster parents understand the system and what is expected of them and the foster care agency. Part of the orientation usually includes first aid training, information about the special needs of foster children, and how to cope with a child with emotional or behavioral problems. In some regions, ongoing training that covers a wide range of topics is necessary to maintain a foster care license.
Many foster care agencies offer additional training that might focus on a specific issue, such as discipline. Some foster children become angry when taken away from their parents, despite being been abused or neglected. Foster care training teaches foster parents how to cope with feelings of loss and separation, and how abuse affects children emotionally. The parents usually learn to recognize signs that the child needs mental health counseling.
Foster parents working with children who have special needs typically enroll in foster care training that covers disabilities. Children in the foster care system typically suffer learning or behavioral difficulties that affect school performance. A foster parent is required to work with the school system and foster care agency to ensure the child receives the help he or she needs.
Other forms of foster care training might center on child development to help foster parents understand how children act as they mature. Classes might discuss infant development or specific behavioral changes typical in adolescents. This training prepares the foster parent to recognize normal and abnormal physical, mental, and emotional characteristics as a child grows.
Nutrition and physical needs of children are additional common topics in foster care training classes. Most foster care agencies require that children placed into their custody receive proper food and activities to keep them healthy. This might include a special diet for children with allergies. A foster parent might also have to cope with common childhood ailments, such as asthma.
Foster parents must provide a clean and safe home that meets requirements for where they live. Adequate space should be available to house a foster child without disrupting other children in the family. Potential foster parents need to pass a criminal background check and provide character references to show they are emotionally stable enough to deal with troubled children.
In 1562, the English Poor Law permitted placement of homeless children in residences as slaves until they reached adulthood. The New York Aid Society stepped in to address the number of immigrant children living on the streets a few years later. The concept of licensed and supervised foster homes did not emerge until the early 1900s, when the needs of children became a top priority. It evolved until government agencies began inspecting homes for safety and keeping records of foster parenting.