For Foster Care Month 2016, we interviewed JCCA’s Maria Taveras, Coordinator of our Foster Family Resources program. Maria has worked at JCCA for more than nine years.

What kind of person makes a good foster parent?
In my experience, anyone with an open heart, willingness to learn and a true desire to foster can do it. You do not need to have had children already and you do not need to be married. What’s important is that you are flexible and committed to helping children and families. There are challenges and lots of appointments to attend. If you’re not 100% committed, you will not be successful.

What are the benefits of being a foster parent?
Many people say it gives them a sense of purpose to care for a child, bringing families back together or building new ones. Some people say it’s a calling. Foster parents who are engaged and supportive with birth parents often contribute to successful reunification. They really do a wonderful job.

What are the steps to becoming a foster parent?
The first step is attending an orientation at JCCA’s Brooklyn or Bronx office. You will learn about the programs offered by JCCA, the policies and expectations, as well as the factors that can immediately exclude a prospective parent. For example, children need a bedroom with a door and a window, so people who live in studio apartments or basement conversions will be excluded.

After the orientation, applicants meet regularly with their recruiter, who helps them collect necessary paperwork and make their home safe and ready for kids. While this is happening, applicants must attend 30 hours of training over the course of five or ten weeks (depending on availability). The GPSII-MAPP training helps applicants learn what brings children into foster care, how to deal with challenging situations and how to build rewarding relationships.

Do I need a background check?
The applicant and every member of the household must go through state clearances, finger printing, physicals and PPDs (tuberculousis tests). Once all the paperwork is submitted, a homefinder consultant is assigned to complete a “homestudy” report about the household. The homefinder completes the report within 30 days and, if there are no concerns and the report is approved and signed by the applicant, the home is open to kids!

How long from approval to placement?
Some people meet their foster child the very day they sign their homestudy. Most of the time, it’s about a week or two until a child is placed in the home.

How long will the child stay with me?
The average placement lasts 15-18 months. During this time, the goal is to move toward permanency—either returning home or being adopted.

What are my responsibilities?
In addition to the regular responsibilities of any parent (love, food, school, fun, etc.), the foster parent will frequently attend family visits, medical appointments, psychological appointments and team meetings. Foster parents also need to keep up to date with physicals and in-service trainings to maintain their certification to board children.

Does JCCA provide support once the child is in my care?
JCCA staff—the case planners and case planning team—are available for any concerns during the entire placement. Additionally, JCCA offers KEEP meetings for new foster parents to share challenges and advice, as well as training to educate foster parents about ADHD and other diagnoses their foster children may be struggling with.

Will I be paid for my work?
Although fostering is not a form of employment, foster parents do receive a generous monthly stipend to cover all the needs their foster children may have: food, clothing, books, transportation, diapers if necessary, and even an allowance for the kids.

How do I sign up?
Call 718-742-8550 or email for more information.