Frequently Asked Questions & Myths About Foster Care & Adoption in Illinois

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between foster care and adoption?

In Illinois foster care is a temporary arrangement until a child can either be reunified with their birth family or placed with a permanent caregiver if reunification is not possible. Adoption is making a life long commitment to a child.

Do I have to be married?

You do not have to be married. You can be single, divorced, legally separated, or in a committed relationship.

How long does it take to become a foster or adoptive parent?

It takes four to six months to become a licensed foster or adoptive parent, although having a license does not guarantee an immediate placement. Well-trained, competent families are needed, so there is an in-depth training program and home-study process to complete.

Why do we need training?

Fostering and adopting is not the same as parenting a child born to you. Over time, you will need to talk with the child about his/her birth family or help the child manage his/her feelings. The training provided helps you understand the unique needs of children in care and it will prepare you to help your children.

How do children cope with leaving their biological family, even if they might have hurt them?

Some think that kids who have been abused will be grateful to be “rescued” and placed with another family. However, most kids really love and care about their birth families and want to return to their care. Even if they were abused, there were probably good times, too. One of the biggest challenges these children face is feeling that they have to “choose” or that one family is “better” than another. It takes patience, skill and training to help children understand that it is OK to care about all of our families and that families can be different.

What does it cost to foster or adopt?

There is no fee associated with foster or adoptive care. You may have to purchase items such as a fire extinguisher or pay for your doctor visit in order to become licensed to foster or approved as an adoptive family. There are also many resources to help cover certain costs. Foster parents receive a monthly payment to help cover the cost of the child’s food, clothing and personal allowance. Adopted children also qualify for an adoption subsidy. This allows for continued support from the State, even after the adoption is finalized.

Do I have to own my home?

No. Foster parents may own, rent, or be in the process of buying a home, condo, or apartment. Families who rent must have their landlord’s permission to become foster parents. Your local municipality may also require an occupancy permit.

As a foster parent, do I have a say as to which child is placed in my home?

Yes. Foster parents specify the race, age, gender, and number of children they wish to care for. You have the option to decline a placement.

Can I become a foster parent if I’m LGBT?

Yes. Per Missouri Children’s Division policy, “a license will be issued to either married couples or a single individual. Only one license can be issued per household, so the license will be in one adult’s name. All adults in the household who will have child care responsibility will be required to attend state approved foster parent training. Personal information elicited during the home study include: Lifestyles and practices, including sexual orientation of the foster parent(s).” In Illinois, licensing standards say that licensees shall be either a single person or two persons in a marriage or civil union with each other.

Are there income requirements for foster parents?

No, but traditional foster parents need to have enough income to meet their own family’s needs. Foster parents receive monthly assistance. However, the first check will not come until a month or so after the child is placed in the home, so foster parents need adequate money in their budget to support their families and the new child/children until the reimbursement arrives. The reimbursement amounts vary with the age of the child and whether or not there are special medical or behavioral needs. Individuals receiving public assistance or who are on small or fixed incomes generally find it difficult to foster. This could cause hardships for some families and is considered on a case by case basis.

What have children being placed in my home gone through?

Children in foster care have often been abused, neglected and exposed to domestic violence, substance abuse and community violence. They also face stressors of being removed from home. They have complex trauma histories and related emotional and behavioral problems. In addition, some children have special medical, physical and developmental needs present since birth or as a result of the trauma.

View frequently asked questions about foster care and adoption in Illinois. Debunk myths and hear from parents who have fostered and adopted in Illinois.


  • All foster children remain in State care forever. Most children enter foster care because of abuse, neglect or abandonment. If the problems leading to placement are solved, children may be returned home. If not, children may become free for adoption. Children in state care range in age from birth to 18 and have various backgrounds.
  • There is a set limit for how long a foster child may stay in my home. There is no set length for a foster placement. It depends on the circumstances of the child and his/her birth family. When a child is placed in your home, there may be an estimated length of time the child is expected to stay.
  • I do not have a say in which child is placed in my home. Foster and adoptive parents specify the race, age, gender and number of children they wish to care for. You have the option to decline a placement. However, state requirements may limit those preferences.
  • Once I become a foster parent, the rest is up to me: When a child is placed in your home as a foster or adoptive placement, you receive a monthly reimbursement for expenses you will incur. The reimbursement depends upon the child’s age and the number of foster children in the home. Medical and dental insurance are provided by the state. A yearly clothing allowance and transportation reimbursement is also available. If counseling or therapy services are needed, the state also provides for those services. The Coalition offers support services to provide ongoing assistance to foster and adoptive families.
  • I must own my home to foster or adopt a child. Foster and adoptive parents may own, rent, or be in the process of buying a home, apartment or condo. Families who rent must have their landlord’s permission to become foster parents. Your local municipality may also require an occupancy permit.
  • I cannot afford to care for an additional child. Foster parents receive a monthly payment to help cover the cost of the child’s food, clothing, and personal allowance. The amount varies with the age of the child and whether they have special medical or behavioral needs. Medical and dental insurance is covered by the state.
  • Love will make everything better for the child that I foster. Due to their complex trauma histories and related emotional, behavioral, medical, physical and/or developmental problems, love is important, but not the only ingredient needed to meet their needs. Intensive training and on-going support, in its various forms, are necessary in order to understand and meet the needs of each child placed in your home.
  • As a foster parent, I am responsible for daycare expenses. Child care and after school care is paid by the state. The state pays the provider directly. Foster parents must be working and provide employment verification

What Parents Say

“Build your network at every opportunity and share your blessings with the network. Others will be there for you when you need it, if you ask. Respite, diapers, furniture, a cup of coffee… you never know the gifts of your community until you give and receive.”

“I love it and still want to foster even after this adoption. Yes, it is hard. I don’t know what I would do without family and friends.” – single foster parent

“Remember you are there to meet the needs of the child. Provide structure, but be intentional and flexible. Most of all…LOVE THAT KID TO PIECES!”

“You are a safe place for a child TODAY! Take it one day at a time.”

“[Have] patience, and document everything. Enjoy every minute with them, love them, and make lots of memories!!”

“Don’t get rid of them because they make a mistake. Treat them like they’re your own.”

“Don’t take stuff personal. Use your respite! Be consistent! Find a pediatrician, dentist, and optometrist.”

“Push past the fear… jump on in!”

“Document everything, know your strengths, work on weaknesses, take breaks, make a date night, take pictures, focus on the little things that are good, and most of all, patience is a virtue.”

“Take it one day at a time and when that becomes overwhelming moment by moment, love them and just keep going. Cherish every step forward.”

“Network with other foster parents… you will learn more from them than any worker!”

“Don’t give up on what is right for the child. Don’t stand for a mediocre answer. Protect and nurture! That’s your job. If you don’t do it, no one will!”

“Go to court and all other appointments that the kids have. Show them that you are there for them and you know what is going on with them in their time with you.”

“Find a church and go every single Sunday. God may be the only consistent for them, and faith may be all they have to pull them through the day.”

“Provide a stable home and lots of encouragement. The Magic House is also free for foster children and a great source for building social skills.”

“Love, love, love! Keep them in church, teach them to pray. Pray for them always. Never give up! Be realistic but never degrade where they came from. Always give hope that they are the generation to change things for the better.”

“Love without fear.”

“Take to the doctor every kid you get in care the first 24 hours. Document Everything. Stand strong. Pray. And, most important – we Love you for doing this.”

“Practice patience… As a foster kid there’s a lot of thoughts and emotions going on inside. We don’t always know ourselves why we are acting out. Just because a foster kid doesn’t seem grateful that doesn’t mean they are not. Maybe its new to be treated in a better way or maybe they don’t know how to express their appreciation.” -former foster youth

“Treat them and love them like they are your own children.”

“Start building your village as soon as possible. Keep in touch with people from your training, and network to meet experienced foster parents. Help them when they need it, and ask for help when you need it (because you will). The village of foster parents will make your life so much easier. They will help you navigate the system to advocate for your child, give you a new and/or different perspective on every situation, and help you find resources for your family. The people in my village have held my sanity together, benefited my daughter tremendously, and have enriched my life. They are some of my dearest, closest friends, and they understand and love my daughter and I as individuals, and as a family, in a way that non-foster parents can’t.”