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Foster care services

Click on the links below to find the information you are seeking about foster care services: 
What is foster care? | who can be a foster parent

 foster licensing process | what is a home study? | foster care faq

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If you're interested in learning more about becoming a licensed foster parent, please fill out the inquiry form here.


For general questions, contact our office.

What is foster care?

what is foster care?

On any given day there are approximately 14,000 children in foster care in Michigan; some 400,000 in out-of-home care in the United States (

Foster care is a temporary living arrangement which provides a family-like setting for abused, neglected, and dependent children who need a safe place to live when their parents or another relative cannot take care of them.

Often their families face issues such as illness, alcohol or drug addiction, or homelessness.

As a foster parent, you can make a positive impact in the life of these children and their families.

When Children’s Protective Services (CPS) believes a child is not safe, and a judge agrees, CPS removes the child from where they are living and takes custody of that child.  CPS finds a relative home or a non-relative foster home, if a relative is not available or approved to care for him or her.  HATW has a contract with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to provide foster care services for youth referred to the agency, which includes the licensing, assessment and support of relative and non-relative caregivers.  A child's length of stay in foster care varies from a few days to a year or more.


The purpose and primary goal of foster care is to allow the child’s family the time and services necessary to develop an appropriate parenting plan for their child and to resolve their family issues.

Foster care is meant to be temporary; adoption is meant to be permanent.

Because foster care is considered to be a temporary placement, it is not a good idea to become a foster parent with the expectation that you will always be able to adopt a child placed in your care. A foster parent is expected to work with the agency and child's parents in the hopes that the family will be reunited. If parental rights are terminated, though, foster parents will be considered as adoptive parents for the child. 

who can be a foster parent?

Who can be a Foster Parent?

Being a foster parent is a rewarding experience, although it is often challenging work. You must meet the requirements for licensing by the State of Michigan and go through initial and ongoing training. You must be willing to cooperate with this agency, the courts, and birth parents who are working towards reunification with their children.

You do not have to be married to foster a child or children. 

You do not need to own your own home. A rented home or apartment is fine, as long as there is adequate bedroom space per child. The home must be free from hazards and must have a safe play area for children.

You do not need to be rich to be a foster parent. Even if you receive financial assistance, you are still eligible to provide foster care as long as you have resources to provide for your family.


Anyone applying to become a foster parent must meet the following requirements:

  • Be 18 years of age or older

  • Be of good moral character

  • Be willing to provide care for children who are in foster care

  • Understand the care which must be provided to the children, or express a willingness to learn how to provide that care

  • Have enough time to provide care and supervision for the children

  • Have a specific source of income, and be capable of managing that income, to meet the needs of the family

  • Be of such physical, mental, and emotional health to be able to properly care for the children

  • Be stable, mature, dependable, and flexible

  • Be able to assure the proper care and safety of children

  • Have the ability to advocate for children

  • Be willing to comply with the licensing rules

  • Be a team player in the best interest of the child or children placed in your home

If you have a spouse or live-in-partner, they will also be required to participate in the licensing process.

Read the Foster Parents Bill of Rights here. 

Please call Hands Across The Water's main office (734-477-0135) to receive more information about becoming a licensed foster parent. To be licensed through Hands Across The Water, families need to live in Southeast Michigan.

foster care licensing process

Foster Care Licensing Process

The process of licensing a home to provide foster care is regulated by the State of Michigan.

  1. Your first step is to contact Hands Across The Water for more information. There may be many questions that you have and we can answer them for you.

  2. Next, attend a foster care orientation at this agency. The comprehensive orientation will not only review guidelines, but help illustrate what you can expect as a foster parent. Our Licensing Supervisor will be happy to answer all your questions during the orientation.

  3. After orientation, you will be provided with a licensing application packet. In general, the application steps are:​​

    1. Attend an upcoming orientation. Pre-registration is required - RSVP here

    2. Complete the foster home licensing application.

    3. Complete the Licensing Record Clearance Request BCAL-1326 form and take it with you to get fingerprinted. 

    4. Attend PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information Development and Education) training. HATW will assist getting you scheduled for a convenient session. This training is required and offers valuable information to make sure you are ready to become a foster parent. Every licensed foster parent needs to complete 12 hours of PRIDE training. Once you are licensed, you have 18 months to complete an additional 12 hours of PRIDE training.

    5. Work with your assigned licensing worker to complete the home study.

  4. Your licensing worker will meet with you and your family several times in your home to complete the licensing process.

  5. Once you are licensed to provide foster care you will receive calls from our licensing staff on potential children who need placement. When the first foster child is placed in your home, you will be contacted by our Foster Care Recruitment Specialist to answer any questions you may have with this first placement. 

This is an basic overview of the process, and you will likely have many questions along the way. Please don't hesitate to contact us.

What is a Home Study?

what is a home study? 

A home study is a detailed written report of your family compiled and prepared by a social  worker. In the state of Michigan the social worker must be a licensed child-placing agency’s worker. The process can take two to three months to finish, but Hands Across The Water works at your pace. Some families are able to complete the process quicker while others take longer.​


The home study requires the prospective adoptive or foster family to gather different documents, answer several questions related to their family history, and explore their reasons for adopting and/or fostering. Through a series of visits and interviews the social worker can get a complete picture of who you are and what life is like in your family.​

The home study can include the following pieces of information:

  • If the home study is for an international adoption, there may be some additional pieces the social worker will need to address.

  • Home studies for infant domestic adoption are written in a different format than any other type of adoption in case confidentiality is needed.

  • Waiting Child home studies are written in the same format as a foster care license home study as the family will be licensed for foster care.

  • A home study to be licensed for foster care is written on a state generated template and includes information related to parenting children in the foster care system.

Autobiography/Family Background

Hands Across The Water has experienced social workers working very closely with you to finish this part of the home study.  Additionally, there is a detailed list of questions that you will need to respond to so we can gather a complete picture of your family. These questions are typically about your family, past and present; how you feel about discipline, your fondest childhood memory, or your greatest fears.


Some of this information will be gathered by the home visit your social worker will make. You will also be asked to describe your environment related to the school system, your neighbors, resources within your community, and the diversity of your community.

Physical/Emotional Health

You will need a physical or health exam, a Tuberculosis (TB) test or chest x-ray, and a urine drug screen. The social worker will also be interested in hearing how you have any health issues under control. Be prepared to explain how these health issues will or will not affect your ability to care for a child. This is not done to rule you out from fostering or adopting, but rather look at what you have in place to support your parenting. If there is a significant physical or emotional issue, an additional medical letter may be needed to support your ability to be a foster or adoptive parent.

Financial Statements

You must be able to show that you can care for an additional person(s) with your current family income. Be prepared to verify your income with paycheck stubs, W-4, and/or an income tax form 1040 for the past 3 years. You will also need to show current statements on your savings, insurance coverage, investments, monthly bills, and debts. There is a worksheet to complete that covers your bills, such as mortgage or rent payments, care payments, and charge accounts.

Criminal Clearances

Criminal clearances and child abuse record checks are required. This is an area that is a bit concerning for some. There may be misdemeanors from long ago or even events you had expunged from your record. It is very important that you give the agency information about all possible criminal activity to be addressed. Fingerprint clearances, BCAL state clearances, and child abuse clearances are completed on adopting parents. An explanation about the behavior which led to the charges and court records are needed. Felony convictions of any charge involving children or illegal substances will most likely disqualify you from being able to adopt or foster. There are different requirements depending on the type of adoption being pursued.

For any domestic adoption, adopting parents must be fingerprinted on the state level.

For any domestic adoption, adopting parents must get a child abuse clearance from any state or country they have lived in within the past 5 years.

For any international adoption, adopting parents must get a child abuse clearance from any state or country they have lived in since the age of 18.

For any international adoption, fingerprinting is not required on the state level but is done through USCIS.

For any adoption, any person living in the home 18 years or older must have criminal and child abuse clearances.



You will need the names, addresses, and phone numbers of three personal references and a letter from your employer. Hands Across the Water will send each personal reference a form to complete. You should choose people who have known you for several years and know your family.


Social Worker Visits


The Hands Across the Water social worker assigned to your family will meet with you, face-to-face, at least 3 times. At least 1 visit will be in your home, but they may all be based on where you live. These meetings are a time for the workers to go over your paperwork, learn more about you, clarify anything in your autobiography, and see that your home is a safe and healthy place for a child. The worker will tour your home and discuss safety measures needed for the child you plan to adopt or foster. This is often a scary part of the home study process, but remember, most of our social workers have adopted or fostered and do understand. 

foster care faq

Foster Care FAQ

Yes. Once a month while a foster child is placed in your home. This is a state requirement. Other assistance may be available as well depending on your or the child’s needs.

Will a caseworker visit our home to check on us?

Infants, toddlers, school-aged children, and teenagers need foster care. A single child, or a child and his/her siblings need foster care. Children with varying religious and cultural backgrounds need foster care. Children of all races and cultures need foster care.

Who are the children needing foster care?

The State of Michigan Department of Human Services shares this responsibility with Hands Across The Water and the foster parents. The foster parents are responsible for the day-to-day care of the child, while DHS/HATW carries overall responsibility for decisions about the child.

Do foster parents

have full responsibility for foster children in their home? 

What will I need to do for children placed in my home? 

Love and accept them without trying to replace their biological parents. Give them a normal family life and a feeling of belonging. Provide nutritious meals and give good daily care. See that their health needs are met. Give them the training and guidance that will help them become good citizens. Help them become a part of the community, by involving them in community recreational activities. Cooperate and work with the local educational system to ensure continuity of the foster child's education. 

A foster care worker from HATW makes regular visits to the home to help with problems that arise. Foster parents are expected to discuss with the foster care worker problems that come up throughout the placement and other plans may be made if necessary. Changes in placement must be planned carefully to prevent further emotional distress to the child.

What if there is a problem with the child placed in my home?

Foster care is intended to be a temporary placement for the child. Reunification of the family is the primary goal. If that's not feasible, workers try to place the child in a permanent adoptive home as soon as possible. Each case is unique; you could keep a child for a few months or even a year.

How long will a foster child stay with us?

Twice monthly, you'll receive a payment, based on the age and needs of the child. You will also receive a semi-annual clothing allowance. Children in foster care are eligible for Medicaid, which pays for medical, dental and mental health care. Many foster families will qualify for reimbursement for a portion of the costs of day care.

Will I receive a stipend to help with food and clothing costs?

Becoming a licensed foster parent is free to you. You may need to pay for medicals or criminal clearances or other such paperwork, but the training and process of becoming licensed is of no cost to you.

How much does 

it cost to become licensed?

Often this is possible but the original intent of foster care is reunification with the biological family. Some children may go home before you are able to adopt.

Will I be able 

to adopt the child in my home? 

Foster parenting requires a lot of patience, compassion and skill. Foster parents understand that the children that come to them are hurting and that it takes a long time to reduce that pain and change the resulting behaviors. You have to be willing to commit to the children placed in your home. It is also helpful to have a strong support base such as extended family or community to help you family when needed

How do I know if I would be a good foster parent?

Disclaimer: HATW shall make all written policies, procedures and program statements, required by the State of Michigan Bureau of Children & Adult Licensing –Licensing Rules for Child Placing Agencies, available for review by the public.

For more information, please contact our office by filling out the inquiry form here.

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