Vetting Prospective Foster Parents

The wrong foster parent can pose a security threat to a child and a liability threat to a human service agency. So, do you know someone who wants to be a foster parent? Expect them to be vetted as part of the home study process.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “In recent decades, the number of Americans who have had contact with the criminal justice system has increased exponentially. It is estimated that about one in three adults now has a criminal history record—which often consists of an arrest that did not lead to conviction, a conviction for which the person was not sentenced to a term of incarceration, or a conviction for a nonviolent crime.”

Vetting is the clearance process required for people who will have substantial unsupervised access to children. The purpose is to provide an appropriate level of assurance as to the trustworthiness, integrity, and probable reliability of the prospective foster parent. Such things as criminal background, identity verification, employment history, character, and residency are checked. Results of the vetting should not be taken at face value. Additional probing is key.

Foster care recruiters must have the correct vetting processes in place to reduce the risk of licensing parents who are dishonest and potentially dangerous. Pennsylvania attorney Katie Shipp of the Marsh Law Firm observes,

“Unfortunately, there are many cases where children are placed in foster care only to be retraumatized and abused by those who were selected to care for them. It is the responsibility of human service agencies to make sure that foster children are truly protected. This goes beyond just finding them a bed with a roof over their heads. Individuals who prey on foster children may specifically target high-risk children with no support system. An effective risk management approach unfortunately requires expecting the worst and hoping for the best in every single case. Only with constant vigilance and close supervision can agencies protect the vulnerable children in their care.”

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