Become a Foster Parent

Foster parents needed in Massachusetts!

On any given day in Massachusetts, approximately 9,000 children are in foster care. But with only about 5,500 licensed foster parents across the state, the need for more foster parents is urgent.

In a state and nation where every child is supposed to have a fair shot at success, we can do better. As the largest nonprofit provider of comprehensive foster care in the state, we believe Massachusetts can be a leader in ensuring every child has a safe, loving home. You can make a difference by helping to spread the word or by starting the process of becoming a foster parent.

Click here to learn more about becoming a foster parent or click here to connect with us or receive more information via email.

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Connect With Us

Contact Us Directly: Email info@hopewellinc.org or call 617-629-2710 and select option 3. A member of our team will follow up with you!

 
Media Inquiries: Email Torrie Mekos, Director of Communications, at tmekos@hopewellinc.org

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Foster FAQs

Why is there a shortage of foster parents? How many kids need foster homes?

On average each year in Massachusetts, about 8,000-9,000 children and youth experience foster care.

But the number of foster parents has been decreasing across the state. Currently, there are about 5,500 licensed foster parents in Massachusetts. Some of this decline was likely brought on by pandemic-related factors, such as stress, illness, and reluctancy to take in children due to fear of spreading COVID.

Even though COVID exacerbated the need for foster parents, it is a problem that has been building for decades in Massachusetts. There is a lack of widespread awareness and understanding. And even for people who are interested in becoming a foster parent, it can be a difficult decision.

HopeWell is the largest nonprofit provider of foster care in Massachusetts yet over the last 20 years, we have experienced a 68 percent decrease in the number of licensed foster homes.

Foster care providers and media outlets across the state have been ringing alarm bells — the press has repeatedly published stories about children and teens having to stay in hospital beds and state offices because there were no available foster homes for them to go to.

It’s hard to say exactly how many new foster parents are needed across Massachusetts. But the simple answer is: as many as possible!

To learn about public awareness and perceptions of foster care in Massachusetts, explore the results of our survey.

A mom and daughter hug outside on the street

Why do children enter foster care in the first place?

Children do not enter foster care because they are bad or dangerous. Children enter foster care because their parents are unable to take care of them at that point in time. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Substantiated reports of abuse — including physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Substantiated claims of neglect — when a parent is not fulfilling a child’s basic needs, such as food or a safe living environment. This can also include medical neglect.
  • Parent substance abuse
  • Parent illness that results in them being unable to care for their child
  • Parent incarceration
  • Abandonment
  • Death of the parent

Here at HopeWell, we also intervene upstream so that fewer kids enter the foster care system in the first place. We do this through our Family Support & Stabilization work, which provides intensive in-home supports to families who have been referred to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) and are at risk of having their children removed from their home.

A young boy wearing a button up shirt holds a drawing of a row of houses.

What are the requirements to become a foster parent in Massachusetts?

Adults from all walks of life can be amazing foster parents! What HopeWell’s diverse and amazing community of foster parents all have in common is a desire to provide care to children in need of a safe place. For example, you can…

  • Be older or younger — at HopeWell currently, our youngest foster parent is 26 and our oldest is 87!
  • Be married, divorced, widowed, in a relationship, or completely single
  • Be LGBTQIA+
  • Already have your own kids or not
  • Live in a city or a small town
  • Own a house or rent an apartment
  • Speak a language other than English at home
  • Have pets or not
  • Follow any religion, or no religion
  • Have a job where you work outside of the home, a work-from-home job, or you can be a stay-at-home parent
  • Have experienced foster care yourself when you were younger

 

There are standard eligibility requirements that all foster parents in Massachusetts must meet. For example:

  • You must be at least 18-years-old.
  • You must have a stable source of income.
  • Whether you rent or own your own house, your home environment must be clean, safe, and free of obvious hazards. For example, this includes:
    • Sufficient space
    • Adequate lighting, ventilation, water, plumbing, heat, and electricity
    • Functioning smoke detectors
    • A fridge and stove in safe, working condition
    • If you have firearms, they must be registered and licensed in accordance with state law and stored securely
  • If you own dogs, they must be up-to-date on their immunizations and rabies shots, and must be licensed in accordance with your local requirements. Some breeds can only be permitted in a home with a child under age 12 on a case-by-case basis.
  • You must have sufficient time and availability. For example, any children you foster, cannot be put into work-related childcare (such as daycare, preschool, or with a nanny) for more than 50 hours per week, or more than 25 hours per week if they are in first grade or older.
  • To help ensure the safety of the children in your care, you must complete a criminal background check.

 

In HopeWell’s nearly six decades of experience providing foster care services, we have found that there are characteristics that can help make a foster parent successful. For example:

  • A willingness to open your heart and your home
  • An environment that is safe, stable, and loving
  • An understanding that every child is unique and comes with their own background, interests, and abilities
  • An open mind about learning new parenting skills
  • Comfort navigating some uncertainty
  • A desire to work as part of a child’s support team
  • …And a sense of humor helps too!
One woman with short auburn hair holds a baby, while another woman (her partner) with short blonde hair looks on and smiles.

What is the process for becoming a foster parent in Massachusetts? How long does it take?

The process for becoming a foster parent in Massachusetts can take as little as three months to complete.

 

STEP 1: CONNECT WITH US

Whether you are just starting to consider becoming a foster parent, are wanting to learn more, or are feeling ready to start the process, we encourage you to connect with us using one of these options:

  • Sign up to receive more information via email
  • Email us at info@hopewellinc.org
  • Call us at 617-629-2710 and select option 3. A member of our team will call you back. You can also call the HopeWell office that is closest to you.

We are happy to answer any questions you have with full candor and honesty.

 

STEP 2: FILL OUT AN APPLICATION

  • A member of our team will fill out an inquiry form over the phone with you. This form is used for initial screening — it includes some basic information about you, your home environment, and the people who live in your home.
  • After this initial screening, you will be sent a more in-depth application to fill out.

 

STEP 3: PASS A HOME SAFETY CHECK

The next step is a physical standards check of your home to ensure it is clean, safe, and free of obvious hazards. A HopeWell team member will visit your home for 1-1.5 hours.  We will review the checklist with you prior to the visit, so you know exactly what to expect.

The types of conditions we will check for include:

  • Sufficient space
  • Adequate lighting, ventilation, water, plumbing, heat, and electricity
  • Functioning smoke detectors
  • A fridge and stove in safe, working condition
  • If firearms are present in the home, they must be registered in accordance with state law and stored securely

 

STEP 4: ATTEND TRAINING

Next, you will complete the Massachusetts Approach to Partnership in Parenting (MAPP) training program. This training is required by the state.

  • MAPP training is 30 hours total. Sessions are facilitated by HopeWell staff, and the method is comfortable and conversational.
  • Each HopeWell office (except for Dedham) offers MAPP training multiple times throughout the year. If scheduling is a challenge, we can connect you with other organizations to complete the training portion of the process, if needed.
  • The purpose of MAPP training is to help you understand the distinct challenges youth experiencing foster care face, to help you navigate the process of becoming (and being) a foster parent, and to help you plan for the changes to your life and your family’s lives.

 

STEP 5: COMPLETE PAPERWORK & VISIT WITH A SOCIAL WORKER

Around the time you are participating in MAPP training…

  • You will submit names and contact information for us to do a reference check.
  • You will also need to complete a criminal background check and fingerprinting (for anyone 15 or older in your home). If you encounter barriers, some less serious offenses may be allowed with discretionary approval.
  • You may be asked to submit other paperwork, such as: medical reports, school records, documentation of pet immunizations, and/or documents related to any support services that your family utilizes.

During this time period, you will also meet with a HopeWell social worker 3-5 times. As part of these visits, they will…

  • Answer any questions you or other members of your household may have, and discuss topics such as approaches to parenting.
  • Prepare a home study document that details your family’s strengths, any challenges or limitations, and if there are certain characteristics of a child that might make you a particularly good fit for one another.

Meet a few of HopeWell’s talented and supportive social workers here.

 

STEP 6: YOU ARE A LICENSED FOSTER PARENT!

Once approved, you are a officially a licensed foster parent and children can be placed in your home!

The process for becoming a foster parent in Massachusetts (MA)

Why foster with HopeWell? What supports do foster parents receive?

Simply put, at HopeWell, we show up for families. HopeWell is the largest nonprofit provider of comprehensive foster care in Massachusetts and we have nearly 60 years of experience guiding us. We provide foster parents with a range of supports, including professional guidance, emergency response, peer connections, and financial assistance.

Our foster parents often highlight that what stands out to them the most about fostering with HopeWell is that we truly support them — from the “small stuff,” like simply answering the phone and hosting fun days out at Six Flags, to the “big stuff,” like problem-solving and building a shared community.

 

EXPERT SUPPORT FROM OUR AMAZING STAFF

Our staff constantly coordinate with one another, so you will have multiple thought-partners to help guide your family’s journey.

  • As a HopeWell foster parent, you will have a family resource worker who will provide a home visit one time per month (more if needed). Their goal is to help you navigate state regulations, rules, and policies to keep you in compliance.
  • You will also have a social worker, who will work with you and your family on a weekly basis (more if needed). For about one hour each week, they will meet with a combination of you and the child you are fostering. They will also help by making referrals to any additional supports or resources that are needed. Meet a few of HopeWell’s talented and supportive social workers here.

 

EMERGENCY SUPPORT

In addition to routine support, we provide 24/7 on-call emergency support — any time, day or night. We want you to succeed and we’ll be there to help.

 

PEER SUPPORT

At HopeWell, you will have opportunities to participate in informal support groups, as well as in-person and online trainings that can help you build connections with other foster parents.

  • As a HopeWell foster parent, you’ll be part of a community of foster parents who support one another —  everything from having another shoulder to lean on, to babysitting.
  • Our Foster Parent Advisory Committee is a network of foster parent mentors who can provide you with guidance, advice, and encouragement.

 

FINANCIAL SUPPORT

We will provide you with financial assistance to cover daily living expenses for any child you are fostering, including clothing, extracurricular activities, and enrichment. You can find more information about financial support in the FAQ below.

 

OTHER SUPPORT

  • We know that the definition of family can look many different ways. At HopeWell, we provide programming and events throughout the year — not only for children and youth in foster care, but for your entire family, including any biological children you may have. Our goal is to help children and families build connections and happy memories.
  • We provide our foster parents with sign-on bonuses, referral bonuses, and gift cards.
  • HopeWell has a dedicated Policy & Advocacy Team, who can help elevate foster parents’ concerns or ideas to systemwide levels. For example, we recently helped advocate for the passing of the Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights.
A quote from Tunisia, a Senior Program Director at HopeWell. It says:

How much does it cost to be a foster parent?

There are no out-of-pocket costs associated with becoming or being a foster parent. Since caring for any child can be expensive, foster parents receive some specific types of financial support. This financial support is not intended to make being a foster parent lucrative — but it is designed to prevent fostering from becoming a financial strain and helps to ensure each child’s needs are met.

 

HEALTHCARE & MEDICAL EXPENSES

All children in foster care in Massachusetts have MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program for health insurance. Typically, this means that all medical care, dental care, and mental health care is covered by insurance with no out-of-pocket costs. If you are fostering a child under age 5, they are also eligible for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program.

 

DAILY STIPENDS

All HopeWell foster parents receive a daily stipend (per child) to help with expenses, such as food and activities. This includes extracurricular activities (such as sports leagues or dance classes) and enrichment (such as museum tickets or park fees). Stipends are paid out biweekly. You do not pay taxes on these stipends.

 

CLOTHING ALLOWANCE

In Massachusetts, funds are specifically allocated for clothing, so purchasing clothes does not need to come from the daily stipend support.

 

GIFTS

Additional funds and gift cards are provided for birthdays, the holidays, and enrichment.

A foster mom stands outside smiling with her two teenage daughters.

What are the kids like? Can I choose which child I want to foster?

There may be a range of ages, from newborns to teenagers —  and every child will have unique strengths and abilities. Children in foster care have needs universal to all children, such as safety, stability, and love. But by definition, many have experienced abuse, neglect, and trauma. They may have additional developmental, educational, psychological, or medical needs. For example, one child may have substantial needs, while another child may have minimal additional needs.

We believe it’s important to be candid about the types of emotions and behaviors that children can have. They may experience depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, sadness, or anger. These feelings can manifest in behaviors such as tantrums, defiance, lying, or aggression. A child’s behavioral tendencies and needs will be discussed with you before any potential placement. If you agree to the placement, you will be provided with ongoing support. It is important to remember that they are still kids and will act happy, silly, curious, kind, and loving.

 

THE PLACEMENT PROCESS

You and your social worker will work together to decide which child/children would be a good fit for your home based on characteristics, such as age and individual needs. You and your family will ultimately have the right to say yes or no to any potential placement.

Research shows that sibling relationships can support positive outcomes for children experiencing foster care, so we aim to keep siblings together in the same foster home, if possible.

We do a pre-placement visit, whenever possible. During this time, you will receive information, such as:

  • Reason(s) for the child being placed into foster care, their placement history, and their legal status
  • Education information
  • Medical information
  • Information on mental health and/or behavioral needs
  • Family visitation schedule (if applicable) —  a child’s contact with their biological family is determined on a case-by-case basis

We understand that once a child is in your care, some placements may end up just not being a good match. If this situation occurs, your HopeWell social worker and family resource coordinator will be there to help you navigate next steps — whether that is putting in place extra services and supports, or deciding that a placement change is necessary.

How long is the commitment? Can I adopt the children I foster?

The short answer is: it depends! Factors such as court proceedings and the circumstances of a child’s biological family can factor into the length of time they are in foster care or if they are legally able to be adopted.

Being a foster parent does not necessarily need to be a permanent commitment.

  • Many children are in foster care for a few weeks, months, or years. In many cases, the ultimate goal is reunification with the child’s biological family. That is why HopeWell’s Family Support & Stabilization program works intensively with families who are working to regain custody of their children to ensure they are set up for long-term success.
  • HopeWell foster parents also have the option to provide emergency shelter placements and respite care — these are shorter-term placements, but are still incredibly needed and important! You can find out more about these types of placements in the FAQ below.

However, there are many kids in foster care who are legally free for adoption or who are on that track. Many HopeWell foster parents have adopted children who were placed with them. If a child’s goal is adoption, HopeWell will support foster parents who decide they want to make the permanent commitment to that child.

 

 

2 parents help a child ride a bike

If I'm considering becoming a foster parent in Massachusetts, what are my options?
Are there different types of foster care? Can I "try out" being a foster parent?

Yes, you have options.

 

CHOOSING A PROVIDER

You can choose which foster care provider to work with. The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) contracts with various social services agencies throughout the state. These agencies — such as HopeWell — recruit and train foster parents, help to place children in foster homes, and provide children and foster parents with ongoing resources and support. Even though agencies can vary in size and the types of services they provide, all foster parents in Massachusetts (regardless of which provider they work with) are required to meet common sets of standards for eligibility and licensing.

HopeWell is the largest nonprofit provider of foster care in Massachusetts. With nearly six decades of experience guiding us, we are ready to provide you with information, honesty, and personal support as you consider the decision to become a foster parent. Click here to get in touch with us or to receive more information via email. 

 

TYPES OF FOSTER CARE

There are different types of foster care, and therefore different types of foster parents.

Kinship or Child-Specific Care: Typically, before a child is placed into a traditional foster care placement (with a foster parent), the state will look for another family member or known adult who is willing and able to care for the child — for example: a grandparent, aunt or uncle, teacher, or family friend.

Unrestricted Foster Care: DCF places children in foster homes and supports foster parents.

Comprehensive Foster Care: Comprehensive foster care agencies (such as HopeWell) provide foster parents with more robust support, 24/7 emergency access, and additional training opportunities. This is because children placed into comprehensive foster care may have additional needs — for example: multiple doctor’s appointments if they did not have consistent access to health care, meetings with therapists to support their mental health needs, or visits with occupational therapists to support their development, such as fine motor skills.

Fostering & Adoption: In certain circumstances, children who have been placed into foster care can be legally adopted. Numerous HopeWell foster parents have legally adopted children in their care.

Emergency Shelter Placements: Sometimes, children need care for a short period of time until the state or provider works out where their longer-term foster care placement will be. Emergency shelter placements are often for a night or two, but can last up to 45 days. Numerous HopeWell foster parents have raised their hands to help when emergency shelter placements have been needed.  This type of placement can be a good fit in circumstances where you may be unable to commit to a longer-term placement, but are still able to provide a safe space for a brief time and help a child through transitions.

Respite Care: Respite care is used when foster parents “need a break” — for example, to heal from surgery or to go on a vacation. During that time, the child will stay with a respite foster parent. Many HopeWell foster provide respite care. To provide respite care, you still must meet statewide requirements and be licensed. This type of placement can be a good fit in circumstances where you may be unable to commit to a longer-term placement, but are still able to provide a safe, loving environment for a short time.

Congregate Care: Congregate care programs are staffed residential programs, such as group homes and shared living arrangements. HopeWell does not provide this type of foster care.

A young boy lays in the grass making the peace sign with his hand. He has a soccer ball.

I'm not ready to become a foster parent, but I still want to help. What can I do?

You can still support children and teens who are experiencing foster care without becoming a foster parent. Here are five ways you can make a direct, meaningful, and immediate difference:

 

SPREAD THE WORD

Share information and start conversations on social media and in-person. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

 

BE AN ADVOCATE

HopeWell is currently supporting a number of bills that have the potential to positively impact children and youth experiencing foster care. To learn more about our policy and advocacy work and how you can get involved, please contact Julie Segovia, our Vice President of Research, Policy, and Learning.

 

VOLUNTEER

Explore opportunities to volunteer with organizations such as CASA or Silver Lining Mentoring, who both do incredibly impactful work right here in Massachusetts.

 

PURCHASE NEEDED ITEMS OR MAKE A DONATION

Children experiencing foster care often have few belongings to call their own. Click here to see our Amazon wishlist and purchase needed items or to make a donation to support children and families.

 

LEARN MORE

If you think you might be interested in becoming a foster parent at some point in the future, you can sign up here to receive occasional emails with information and insights.

A group of 3 young women together smiling

Meet Some of Our Social Workers

DATA TALKS:

Survey Results About Foster Care in Massachusetts

Amid a shortage of foster parents, HopeWell commissioned a statewide survey of Massachusetts residents to gauge public awareness and perception on the topics of foster care and foster parenting.

What does the public know about foster care? What misconceptions are floating around out there? What are the barriers to people becoming foster parents?

EXPLORE SURVEY RESULTS

More Resources

HopeWell on WCVB 5 Boston

We share results from our statewide survey about public awareness of foster care, address some common misconceptions people have about fostering, and encourage more Massachusetts residents to consider becoming foster parents.

WATCH NEWS CLIP

 
 

Winning off the field by uplifting children and families

HopeWell is proud to be one of six organizations to receive grant funding from the New England Patriots Foundation, the New England Revolution Foundation, Robert Kraft, and the Kraft family. HopeWell foster parents and staff recently had the opportunity to celebrate together and raise awareness at Gillette Stadium.

SEE MORE

 
 

Panel Discussion: Foster Care in America

What does the current state of foster care in America look like? HopeWell President & CEO Shaheer Mustafa joins other nonprofit foster care providers from around the country to share key insights about what’s working and not working in our nation’s foster care systems.

WATCH PANEL

 
 

How to talk to your kids about fostering

One of the most common questions we get from people who are thinking about becoming a foster parent is: “How will this impact my own children? How do I explain it to them?” Here, we share few pieces of advice for navigating this situation.

READ THE ADVICE

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“To be able to give these kids memorable experiences is an amazing feeling. When they grow up, they can say:
‘I was in a foster home and Mari and her family gave me love, cared for me, and advocated for me.’

- Mari, HopeWell foster parent

 

About Foster Hope MA

Through Foster Hope MA, HopeWell seeks to achieve two main goals: (1) To build public awareness about foster care and the urgent need for more foster parents across Massachusetts, and (2) To find and support Massachusetts residents who may be interested in becoming foster parents.

We envision a future where every child who is placed into foster care in Massachusetts has the safe, loving foster home they need to grow and thrive.

The Foster Hope MA logo - a smaller orange heart overlapping a larger blue heart with the words "foster HOPE MA" underneath