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Foster Care

Your Step by Step Guide to Getting Started

Interested in becoming a foster parent? With any new and exciting journey in parenthood, the process and information can feel overwhelming. We caught up with Jenny Thompson, a Licensed Social Worker in McKenzie County, to help sort through the steps to successful licensing and placement.

According to Thompson, there’s great need for foster parents in Western North Dakota, but all it takes to get started on the process is a phone call or an office visit to the agency where the two parties go over questions and information. After the initial visit, the potential foster parents are guided through the steps to complete the licensing process, which starts first with the fingerprint background check.

“The agency does not start the home study until fingerprint background checks have been completed, which can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to be returned from the state,” said Thompson.

Once the background check is complete, the home study process will began. Home studies consist of meeting with all members of the household in the home, which is typically anywhere from 4-6 home visits and can take up to six months to complete.

Potential Foster parents are then required to complete an initial 27-hour training course, called PRIDE (Parents Resource for Information)

“Foster parents determine the gender, age and number of children that they are able to work with,” said Thompson. “Once a family is licensed to provide care, the family may start receiving calls from our agency to place children in their home right away.”

See the list below for more details on the step-by-step process, additional policies and the forms, tests and training required. Contact your county Social Services offices with additional questions or to start the process!

Foster Care: Separating Myth from Fact

Myth: I can’t be a foster parent because I am not married.
Fact: Foster parents come from all different backgrounds and can be married or single.

Myth:  I can’t be a foster parent because I do not own my own home.
Fact:  You do not need to own your own home to be a foster parent, all that is needed is proof of insurance and a home study.

Myth:  I do not have my own children so I can’t be a foster parent.
Fact:  Foster parents come from a variety of backgrounds, some have their own children living in the home, and some do not have any children of their own.

Myth:  Once a child is placed with you, you receive no outside help or guidance.
Fact:  Foster care is about working as a team to meet the needs of the child, foster parents are a part of a team which includes social workers, therapists, school personnel, and the child’s biological parents.

Myth:  I work outside the home and can’t foster parent because I am not a stay-at-home parent.
Fact:  In many foster families both parents work outside the home.  Financial assistance for daycare is provided for a licensed daycare provider when needed for foster families.

Myth:  I am too old to be a foster parent.
Fact:  Many foster parents have already parented their own children and still feel they have more to offer, they may be retired or still working, there is a minimum age requirement of 21 but no upper age limit.

For more information about becoming a foster parent, contact your local Social Services office. Visit the North Dakota Department of Human Services website at

McKenzie County Social Services
Jenny Thompson, LSW
201 5th St. NW, Ste. 790 Watford City, ND 58854
Phone # 701-444-7463