Becoming a Foster Parent in Montana

The Child and Family Services Division (CFSD) of the state Department of Public Health and Human Services is responsible for providing protective services to children. Foster care is one such service.

Who Are the Children

The children who are placed in foster care by CFSD range in age from infants to teenagers. They come from many different backgrounds and reflect the cultural diversity of the state.  On December 30, 2022, 2,600 Montana children were in foster care because they had been abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents or other caretakers.

Many of the children in foster care are insecure, frightened, confused, and angry about what has happened to them. Emotional, behavioral, mental, or physical problems related to the abuse or neglect are common.

What Is Expected of Foster Parents

Foster parents are expected to provide for the physical and emotional needs of children placed in their home and provide a safe and stable home environment. Foster parents are expected to work closely with the child's protective services specialist.

Frequently Asked Questions 

While experience as parents is an asset, all we ask is your willingness and abilities to develop the skills necessary to meet the needs of children who need foster care.

There is a strong need for families that can support teens and children with developmental and medical needs, and a particular need to keep siblings together. When a family is in crisis and children are unable to remain with their caretaker, we need loving, stable foster families to step in and walk with a child through this challenging time.  These children, like all children, need love, support, guidance, and structure in their lives. You have the opportunity to make a real difference in a child's life at a time when they need it most!

Montana’s licensing requirements are intended to be non-discriminatory.  Requirements apply equally to all applicants regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or marital status.  Foster parents must be at least 18 years old, pass background and reference checks, complete training, and complete the home study process. Foster parents must be able to use sound judgment like a prudent parent and must demonstrate a responsible, stable, and emotionally mature lifestyle.

  • You can be single, married or have a domestic partner. If two adults are presenting as a couple, then both must go through the approval process.
  • You can own or rent a home, condo, or apartment of any size, but you must provide a safe living environment, which includes adequate room for a child.
  • You can work inside or outside the home. Couples with both partners working outside the home are also eligible to be foster parents.
  • You must have sufficient income to support your current family.
  • You must be able to physically care for a child or youth.
  • You must pass child abuse and criminal background checks required by state and federal laws.
  • You must be able to work with the department and caseworkers and be willing to complete ongoing training.

Foster parents provide a temporary safe, stable home for children who have experienced abuse and neglect and whose parents need time to learn new skills to become the parents their children need them to be. Foster parents care for and meet the physical, emotional, and social needs of children in foster care. The intent is to safely reunify children with their families. Foster parents are expected to work closely with the caseworker and department, birthparents (when possible), the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL), the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), the schools, and other service providers.

No.  Foster parents receive a “reimbursement” to offset some of the costs of a child’s room, board, clothing, and related expenses.  Children’s medical expenses are also covered, most often by Medicaid. In some situations, additional financial assistance is available to meet a specific child’s needs.

Circumstances vary so it is hard to predict in many cases.  Some children are in foster care only a few days or weeks while others may end up being adopted by their foster parents. The length of time a child spends in foster care really depends on what is best for them in the long run and depends on how soon a child can safely be reunited with their family or, if that isn’t possible, how soon a permanent placement can be made.

Most of our current homes have pets.  We find it therapeutic for our youth to be around animals in a home setting.  However, we do try to make sure there is no history of animal abuse or a problem with pet allergies before placing a youth in a home with animals.

We encourage contact between foster parents and birth parents based upon the caseworker or treatment team’s recommendations.  It may be helpful for the foster and birth parents to meet at the beginning of placement to allow the parties to focus on the needs of the child. Topics may include foods the child may like or dislike, interests, routines, and other important information that will reduce the trauma and help with the transition into the foster home.  Additionally, contact with the birth family can reduce anxiety and reduce loyalty issues for children in foster care. There are many levels of contact, which may include:

  • Sending written information about the child or youth.
  • Telephone calls.
  • Face-to-face contact.
  • Inviting and transporting parents to appointments.
  • Coaching on parenting techniques that work for the child.

Foster parents may adopt, but it is not always a guaranteed process.  The number one goal of the department is to safely reunite children with their families.  When that is not possible, the department will look for a permanency option for the child.

We are always looking out for what is best for the children. The bond between parents and their children is irreplaceable- losing a parent is the most traumatic experience a child can go through. This is true even when it may seem like the parent has not taken proper care of the child. Research has demonstrated that reunifying families whenever possible creates the best outcomes for children and caregivers alike.  Remember, most children are removed from their homes due to situational concerns that can be resolved through treatment and addressing and eliminating those concerns. However, there are some situations where reunifying children with their parents is not feasible, in which case longer-term options, including kinship care and/or adoption, are explored by the youth’s caseworker and treatment team. While the department’s goal is reunification, we have also had foster families who have become adoptive families for some of their placements when the reunification was not possible or successful.

The application and background check will begin the licensing process. However, in certain cases, the background check may deter families from moving forward with the process due to instances in the past that may be brought to light through a background check. It is important to note that the main objective of this step is to fully understand where a potential foster parent is coming from and where they currently are, and less about what they have done in their past. Oftentimes, if a foster parent has a past that they have grown from, it is easier for certain youth to relate and grow as well.

Successful foster families provide safe, stable, and loving homes for children who need to heal from past experiences and trauma, and reform healthy bonds with their original family.  The home study and licensing process will help determine if fostering is a fit for you and your family. This is you and your family’s chance to learn more about fostering and what it takes. It’s also our chance to understand your situation, needs, and preferences before placing a child in your home.

There are many ways to help children and families without being a foster parent. Volunteering, mentoring, donating, making space available in your community for parent/child visitation, and assisting foster parents with transportation are all examples of ways you can help.  Reach out to your local Child & Family Services offices to find out more ways you can become involved in the life of a child.

There are no income requirements to become a foster parent other than the ability to demonstrate that you can support your current family on your income.
Yes. Home ownership is not a requirement to become a foster parent. The home you live in must meet the health and safety requirements for licensure.

Self-Assessment for Families

As part of your journey to foster care licensing consider completing the attached self-assessment guide.  The NTDC Self-Assessment is based on competencies and characteristics that have been identified as important when caring for children who have experienced trauma, separation, and loss. The Self-Assessment supports you in identifying your individualized strengths and areas you could improve upon when parenting children who have experienced trauma, separation, and loss.

More Information

To learn more about becoming a licensed foster parent, please call 1-866-936-7837 (866-9FOSTER) or fill out the Foster Care Inquiry Form