Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have assumptions such as 'I can't foster if I'm single' or 'I'm gay, can I still foster' or 'I can't foster if I don't have my own children' ? Below, you will find the answers to a number of commonly asked questions about fostering, requirements and exclusions.

Qualification Questions

I’m not a Canadian citizen

Canadian citizenship is not required to be a foster parent in Canada. However, we would expect you to be a full-time resident in Canada. Children from a wide range of backgrounds need fostering. It is important for foster families to also come from numerous backgrounds and cultures.

English isn’t my first language

There are a growing number of children and young people in foster care who do not have English as their first language. Therefore, being placed in a family where English is not the first language can be beneficial to them. You will need a good level of spoken and written English to be able to communicate with the child/youth, other professionals, support children’s education and complete necessary documentation requirements.

I’m gay

Your sexual orientation is not important to being a caregiver and will not stop you from fostering. What is important is that you can provide a young person with a safe, nurturing and stable home.

I’m transgender

Yes, you can foster if you are transgender. Your gender does not, in any way, determine whether you are suitable to foster.

I practice a religion

It does not matter what your religion is, and this should not affect your application to foster. Children should be placed with foster families that can meet their needs, including religious needs. However, you would need to consider how you feel about discussing issues such as alternative religious beliefs or certain ethical issues with a child, ensuring that you abide by the agency’s policies.

I’m single

You don’t have to be married or in a relationship to foster. There are many fantastic caregivers who are single, but you should be able to demonstrate a network of support.

I’m a single man

When it comes to fostering, it doesn’t matter if you’re single or married. The role of a caregiver is to provide, your relationship status and gender is not considered.

Does my partner need to be involved as I will take care of the kids?

We understand most couples establish roles between them and often one person could be accurately described as the primary caregiver however both of you must want to do this work. The training requirements for both of you are the same.

I have a new partner

Having a new partner is not a problem. Best practice is to be open with Mountain Plains and inform them if there is someone new who starts playing a prominent role in your life. If the person is involved in the care of the children or young people you are looking after in any way, they must be assessed and approved too. The agency’s duty to safeguard the children will always be paramount.

I’m under 25

Mountain Plains has set a minimum age of 25. There is an expectation that caregivers will have sufficient life experience to enable them to meet the needs of children placed with them, and age can be a factor in this.

I’m over 60

Legally there is no upper age limit to foster, and there are many successful caregivers in their 60s or 70s. What matters is that you are fit and able to care for and meet the needs of any child you are approved to look after.

I have a criminal record

A criminal record does not necessarily stop you from becoming a foster parent. The law states that the only criminal convictions that prevent people from fostering are those that relate to an offence against children or a sexual offence. Minor offences should not count against you in your application to foster. All criminal convictions will need to be disclosed when you apply and the agency will obtain an enhanced disclosure of your criminal convictions. Any convictions or cautions will be explored with you by the agency.

I don't have my own children

You don’t have to have your own children to foster. Any relevant experience of working with or caring for children is helpful (for example through work, looking after the children of relatives or friends), as is an understanding of child development. However, a lack of relevant experience is not an automatic bar to fostering.

I have no experience of working with children

You will need to have some degree of experience dealing with children to foster. Although you need experience, this does not have to come from having your own children. If your profession involves dealing with children, such as a teacher or in a nursery setting or youth work, this can be deemed appropriate experience. Alternatively, your experience might come from family and friends’ children.

Career & Occupation Questions

I have a full-time job

It is often possible to work, particularly if caring for school-age children. Depending on the needs and age of children in your care it may also be possible to work full-time outside of fostering. Cargivers are expected to be available to care for children, attend meetings, training, support groups, and to promote and support contact between a child and their family. Mountain Plains would not usually consider it appropriate for a fostered child to be in full-time daycare while their caregiver works but may consider the use of afterschool clubs and other childcare arrangements for children if they are seen to be in the child’s best interests.

I don't have a steady income/certain salary

Not having a steady income/certain salary will not restrict you from fostering, if you can demonstrate financial stability. Fostering is unpredictable - you may not always have a child living with you - and so the allowances and per diem received from fostering should not be seen as the main form of income. You will need to think about how you will manage financially during such times when there is no fostering income.

I am on benefits

You can still foster if you are receiving benefits. As a caregiver, you will receive fostering payments when a child is placed with you. Generally, fostering payments are not considered as income when calculating income. Any money received from fostering is not taxable income.

Residential Questions

I don’t have a big house

The size of your house will not necessarily be a determining factor in whether you can foster or not. What will be looked at is whether you have a spare room that is big enough for a young person to live in, and whether the accommodation is safe. The room designated for children 0-12 years of age needs to be on the same level of the home as the caregivers.

I don’t own my own house

Not owning your own house does not bar you from fostering but you will need to demonstrate stability. There are many caregivers who live in rented accommodation. Mountain Plains requires you to have a spare bedroom to ensure the child you foster has the privacy and space they require.

I still live with my parents

You can apply to become a caregiver when you live with your parents, but during the assessment the fostering service will explore who would be the ‘main’ caregiver. If anyone else will be involved in caring for the child or young person, they will have to be assessed and approved too, to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of a child placed.

Health and Mobility Questions

I have a chronic illness

Mountain Plains is looking to ensure that people who apply to become foster parents are physically and psychologically fit enough to care for children and meet their needs. A medical reference is included as part of the assessment process. Medical information is only one part of your assessment.

I have a disability

Having a disability does not prevent you from being a caregiver. Mountain Plains is looking to ensure that people who apply to become caregivers are physically and psychologically fit enough to care for children and meet their needs. Medical information is only one part of your assessment. Mountain Plains must treat applicants fairly, without prejudice, openly and with respect.

I have mental health problems

The agency will seek a medical report as part of the assessment process, and any relevant mental health problems may appear as part of your medical information. Medical information is only one part of your assessment. Your application would not solely be based on any named illness, disability, past or current medication or treatment. Mountain Plains must treat applicants fairly, without prejudice, openly and with respect.

I smoke

Caregivers in Alberta are prohibited from smoking in their homes and vehicles. This provincial regulation considers the impact on the health of any children that would be placed with you and the importance of caregivers as role models for young people in care. It is important you discuss any smoking habits with Mountain Plains. All caregivers must provide a smoke-free environment for children.

I can’t drive

To foster, it is important to be able to meet the needs of the child or young person that comes into your care. This might include getting them to school every day or taking them to contact appointments with their birth family. If you cannot drive, you will need to demonstrate that you have access to good public transport links.

General Questions

I am unsure if I can make a difference

Children and young people come into the care system due to a range of different reasons. Some children may have witnessed domestic violence, a parent’s depression, or drug or alcohol abuse. Others may have been abused or neglected. Therefore, a fostered child will need somewhere they can feel safe and secure and that will likely have a positive effect.

I have a dog

Having a dog does not stop you from fostering. Pets are very much part of normal family life and can even be seen as a huge positive to a foster family. However, every pet will be assessed as part of the process of becoming a caregiver, considering factors such as their temperament and behaviour. As a pet owner you should also take into account how you would react if a child harms one of your pets. There are certain breeds of dogs which would disqualify you from becoming a foster caregiver.

I own a gun

Owning a gun is not an automatic bar to fostering. For those applicants who live in rural areas, owning a gun is not uncommon. During your assessment, Mountain Plains will thoroughly explore all of this, check your licence to own a gun (and every other legal requirement for gun possession, including storage, etc.) and make sure everything is lawful.

Am I obligated once I have submitted an application?

No and be mindful that submitting an application does not mean you are approved. After completing an application, you must finish the required training and have a home assessment written. The home assessment recommends approval, and the agency will confirm their recommendation. Once approved by Mountain Plains and licensed by the government we ask you continue to foster with Mountain Plains for at least 1 year.

What training is required?

You must initially complete the Orientation for Caregiver’s Training and First Aid and CPR certification. Every caregiver has annual training requirements and certificates that must be kept current such as First-Aid, Medication Administration, Suicide Awareness etc. There are ongoing training requirements which are provided to you at no cost.

Will I receive financial assistance to care for the kids?

Caregivers are paid each day a child/youth is in their home. The amount depends on their age and it is a per child/youth amount. These funds cover such items as food, clothing, recreational/craft supplies, gifts, etc. Caregivers also receive a skill fee based on their training and skill level.

Will I have control over who comes into my home?

Yes. Caregivers are included in the matching process. As part of the home assessment and orientation processes you, together with the agency, will indicate what age, gender and behaviors you feel will best fit with your family dynamics.

Will I get information about the child/youth being placed in my home?

Before a child is placed in your home, you will be given as much information as possible for you to decide whether or not to accept a placement. There are times when very little information is provided, and your role will be working with the children and youth not knowing things about their histories.

How long can I expect a child/youth to stay in my home?

The goal is for your family to provide a temporary home until the child/youth can return/transition to a permanent home. This means you provide a stable and caring environment with skilled care, which can be for a few days, weeks, several months or longer. Fostering is not an avenue to grow your family.

How many children can I care for?

To begin you may care for up to 2 children. This will depend on the recommendations made in the home assessment and in conjunction with Mountain Plains.

How long does the process take?

The entire process from application to licensing generally takes 4 to 6 months. Delays typically occur when paperwork is not submitted by families within a timely manner, when training is not completed on time or the home assessment is delayed due to your availability. Becoming a foster caregiver is a significant life change and is not a quick process. This can seem like a long time, however Mountain Plains needs to ensure you are suitable, and prepare you as best as possible, to foster a child or youth.