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Can a Felon Become a Foster Parent?

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Felons are typically incarcerated for a number of years and separated from their families. All involved suffer from this time apart.

When felons do return home, they are eager to rejoin their family. They may already have children or may even want to offer children without a stable family situation a safe environment in which to live by serving as a foster parent. Does having a felony conviction prevent felons from being able to become a foster parent?

This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can become a foster parent.

  • What is a Foster Parent?
  • Criteria for Becoming a Foster Parent
  • Steps in Becoming a Foster Parent
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What is a Foster Parent?

A foster parent is an individual who provides temporary protective service through a governmental or social service agency to children when their families are unable to care for them. There are many circumstances that make it difficult for biological families to meet the needs of their children, which include poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness, or lack of social support.

Foster care is different from adoption in that in foster care, the placement is for a limited time with the legal rights of the child being maintained by the state. Adoption is permanent with legal rights being assumed by the adoptive family.

A successful foster parent typically has certain characteristics:

  • A strong desire to help children
  • Open mindedness and welcoming attitude
  • Flexibility with children
  • Coping skills to work with challenging behaviors
  • Values for diversity
  • Compassion for children who have experienced trauma

Criteria for Becoming a Foster Parent

The laws regarding qualifications to become a foster parent will vary in each state based on a number of factors. Generally, state laws require that people who want to become foster parents:

  • Be over 21 years old
  • Are married, divorced, single, or widowed
  • Have a regular source of income sufficient to provide for a foster child
  • Have no felony or misdemeanor convictions of child, elder, or sexual abuse
  • Have a home with sufficient bedrooms for a foster child
  • Submit to a home assessment of all family members
  • Attend all of the foster parent training sessions provided by the county or non-profit agency that coordinates foster care in their area

The agencies that coordinate foster parents also look at other characteristics of applicants, including:

  • Stability, maturity, dependability, and flexibility
  • Amount of experience with children
  • Ability to advocate for children
  • Capacity to work with children, the biological family, and the child welfare worker

Steps in Becoming a Foster Parent

A potential foster parent must complete the following to be approved and licensed by the state of legal residence to provide foster care:

  • Family assessment by a social worker involving the capacity of the foster family
  • Three references from individuals who know the applicant to assist the agency in determining their capacity to care for a foster child
  • Background check for criminal or child protective history, including finger prints for verification through the FBI database of local, state, and national registries
  • Home safety check to ensure the house or apartment is safe for children
  • At least 10-30 hours of classroom training including CPR and first aid training
  • Licensing report on the ability of the applicant to provide foster care and the type of child best suited for this environment along with any additional training that might be required
  • Appropriate forms submitted to the state by the welfare agency worker

An Opportunity for Felons?

All applicants to become a foster parent along with each member of the household are subjected to a background check in order to be approved and licensed. The Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG) states that criminal background checks are federally mandated for all prospective foster families. In all states, this involves a fingerprint check of each adult living in the home being run through a national database.

Foster care applicants will be rejected if they have a history of felony child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse, or crimes against children. Also, violent crimes such as rape, sexual assault, and homicide convictions will lead to automatic denial.

Any applicant convicted of felony assault, battery, or a drug-related offense in the last five years, will be disqualified. Other than these categories, the type of felony, how long ago it occurred, and an applicant’s age at the time of the crime will be considered in a decision on licensing as a foster parent.

If a felon applies to be a foster parent, he or she needs to be honest in reporting any conviction. A felony that isn’t disclosed but discovered on a background check is fraud, punishable by possibly being sent back to prison.

Felons have enough of a challenge, typically being seen as dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.

Having their felony expunged can give them a clear record and the chance they need to succeed in becoming a foster parent. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

It is quite challenging, but it could be worth it for a felon wanting to become a foster parent. Giving himself or herself the best chance for success by having his or her record expunged could make the critical difference. Documenting any programs, education, or training he or she has completed will also look good.

Having support from family, friends, and others like counselors or even previous employers is essential. Felons don’t have to be defined by their crime. They can begin again and live an honest life no matter how challenging it might seem.

Families of felons are usually very invested in helping their loved one become a foster parent to a child and creating a loving family. Stand by your loved one, encourage them, and help them do what it takes to seek approval for foster care.

This can be a frustrating, discouraging process to go through. In being a foster parent to a child in need of a safe and loving environment, living an honest life will be vital.

What do you think about this blog post? Are you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a foster parent with a felony? What was that like for them, and how did they achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

13 thoughts on “Can a Felon Become a Foster Parent?”

  1. From experience, I would like to state that each state has their own policy for foster/adoption parent. And more often than not, felonies of any kind and even misdemeanors will disqualify a person, and it does not matter when it occurred. Sadly, there are no exceptions.

    Conviction- simple assault, 1999. No felony.

    Idaho- Year 2012, red flagged it in the background for disqualification. We then asked for a meeting to discuss it. Supervisor agreed that the crime would not interfere/be negative toward being a foster parent. Fostered in Idaho for 4 years.

    South Dakota- Year 2018, on website, states no felonies in 5 years. We move to here, excited to continue fostering and ready to adopt. We go through the entire process, including all the classes to then be told that crime disqualified us as foster parents. We asked them for a meeting, but they would only talk over the phone. They did not even consider our 4 years of fostering in Idaho and we were noted for successful parenting families of 5, and our supervisor wanted us to become mentors. I even emailed our governor for help, we were still denied. But yet, DSS has newspaper articles of how much they need foster parents… I wonder why? The absolute worse part is that we can not even adopt because it would need to go through South Dakota.

    My advice to any person trying to become a foster/adoption parent is to research what your state has for disqualifications. Then if your “crime” appears to be an issue, call your local office manager and tell them your background. See if they would still be willing to consider you as an applicant.

    And if you are passionate about becoming a foster/adoption parent, be willing to relocate to a state that believes in you.

    We are currently in that process.

    Best wishes to each if you whom has a record and don’t give up the fight, cause there are kiddos waiting for you!

  2. Hello everyone. My husband and I applied to become foster to adopt parents in Arizona. We got our level one fingerprint cards, got our CPR and first aid cards, completed the required training and received our certificate of completion were all the way up to the home life safety inspection when our licensing agency called said they were not going to recommend us as foster parents. Of course we asked why not the reasons they gave us were…..1.)because of my criminal background(I do have a criminal background but all of mine are misdemeanors nothing involving children, abuse, drugs or violence. And it has been 18 years since my last arrest). 2.)because we smoke (we were only smoking in one small closed room in the basement with an open window and we have since moved to only smoking outside away from our children and any other children). The rejection so far has made it impossible for us to transfer to a different licensing agency. They may as well have painted a scarlet red A on us. Now every agency has to review with the original agency and I am sure you know how that goes. Any one have any suggestions that will help us

  3. I found the information on this blogg very informative and very helpful. My oldest is almost grown and I can no longer have children because I had ovarian cancer, so fostering seems like the best solution. I am only 37 years old and I have so much love to offer…with how many children are out there needing a family I would love to be able to do my part in making the world a better place. It does sound like if you have ever committed a felony and you’d like to adopt or foster a child/children then getting your record expunged would be your best course of action. Unfortunately this is not a quick procedure as I believe you have to wait at least 7 years before you can apply to be expunged and in the 7 years there can be no new convictions. But that’s okay because at least you are still being given the opportunity to help a child. Your not being told no. Or I should so I am not being told no bc I myself am a felon. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t really commit the felon or not bc I was charged. I am willing to wait another 2 years and then file to get my record expunged and then I will proceed with my application to foster children. I wish you all luck and pray God’s perfect will be done in all our lives. God bless

  4. @johnny. Idk how to reply specifically to you but I’m curious as to the details regarding the situation that allowed you to bring a newborn into your home using guardianship paperwork.
    I have a friend who’s just had a child’s and desperately needs someone to take this child into her home as she’s tested positive for drugs.
    Were you able to keep the child out of protective services…. If you could email me, I’d really appreciate any information.
    foreversocal @ gmail.com

  5. Hi, my name is Nettie have been a foster parents for 4 years. I have a son that recently came home from prison. He is a felon . He went to prison for 12 years for something he did when he was in his twenties selling drugs. He’s 40 years old now
    They told me that I could not foster kids if my son lived with me. I even did a guest house in the back of my house for my son that they told me I could do. After I finish doing that they still told me my son could not be on my property for me to keep foster kids. Is allow my license to expire in April of 2020. So now we are in the process of finding him somewhere to live so I can renew my license. I don’t think that’s fair because I didn’t do anything. I love Foster and foster kids that was one of my joy. I have been working with kids for over 20 years I have my own license home daycare, and kept private families kids. I feel like they should change that my son love kids he don’t have any of his own. He’s 40 now and I’m being punished for something he did when he was in his twenties. I’m praying that I’ll be able to get my license back and also allow my son to live on my property in the guest house. My child have not stayed home since he was a teenager, and I find it hard to not help him get a stable foundation in his life, and not be able to still foster kids. I’m looking forward to hearing back from somebody to tell me that things will changing and get better so that this won’t affect anyone else

  6. Hello I too have a felony from 1989, 1991 and 1995. All are non- violent and non are against children or sexual drug related. Larceny our come was fine, shooting at a dwelling which is a violent crime today but was considered non- violent 3 months before the state statue was changed, Outcome was probation fine. Caring a concealed weapon and ethnic intimidation. Outcome was sentence to department of corrections. All these felonies no one was hurt physically . Was 17, , 21 and 24 , I’m 50 1/2 yrs of age Today. Since then I’ve been married raised 5 children and have 5 grandchildren. My oldest was raped at 16 and since then had some mentor problem. Pain, anger and self medicating. She’s done good and then slipped into negative personality thru out the yrs. Me and my wife have used permanent guarding-ship as a legal way of taking care of The children. Ages 11 and 7 . Recently we took into our home a new born straight from the hospital. Because the mother abandon the baby at the hospital and had drugs in her system it’s made things complicated for us all. Baby is 10 month now and at the stage of the courts putting the letter in the paper asking her to reply or she loses any rights to baby. Is there hope seriously for me to keep baby and possibly keep all children together? Anyone o been a really torn inside thinking it’s possible that baby may be separated. I been denied a Clarence card and attempting to appeal in front of a board. Arizona state is where I’m trying to do my best to care for children. Any advice is appreciated as well as prayers Thankyou.

  7. There is a friend in California who was arrested back in 2009 as a Sex Offender even though he did not know the girl was 14 years old because he was told that she was 18. He did not have sex with her nor did he force her or rape her at all. They were at a public park and were both clothed. The police charged the person with alot of penal codes even though he did not do them and it was suppose to be a felony, but then the court lowered the bail amount and the penal code and also the felony to a misdemeanor. Will this person be able to foster or adopt even though he did his jail time, paid the fines, went to therapy, completed his summary probation, got his record expunged, and also got his registration terminated by the Department of Justice recently in April 2020? It has been 11 years of the incident and this person has been a good person who has done nothing wrong or not even get arrested throughout these years.

  8. I’m currently in the foster to adopt process with my nephew. I’ve had him since he was 2 weeks old and now he’s almost 3 months. I have no criminal history at what so ever. I recently got married and my husband has an assault with a deadly weapon from 17 years ago. He picked up the charge one night going home late at night and he was jumped beaten and they tried to rob him. Beaten pretty badly. He fired his gun in any direction just to scare them away. In the process he shot someone. Didn’t kill them. I know it sounds bad but he never ment to hurt anyone. They all took the stand against him and lied. He did his time but it’s been over 17 years now. We’re from wv would i be turned down on raising my nephew for his history from long ago. Please help anyone with any info. He just did his fingerprint for our home study process. Thank you and god bless!!!

  9. This info is so helpful. I have am a 56 yr old woman. I have a felony and looking in to getting it expunged . Ive never been blessed with my own Angel from heaven . God layed it on my heart to become a foster parent. So YES this is very helpful. It has given me the encouragement to move forward in my life to enrich it with the laughter and JOY children will bring to our home. Thank you so much. God BLESS you always for doing this to help other’s.

  10. Well in actuality a felon and was considering adoption because I don’t have any kids but love them so would love to help a child in need. Of a safe and loving home . It could help is both really. Thank you for the info it was very informative. I might considerate I just gotta see if my budget can swing it.


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