Foster care for children

Hennepin County foster care is a temporary haven for children who cannot live safely in their own homes. Foster care offers time for parents to resolve their issues.

The first goal of foster care is to keep children safe while supporting families' efforts to come back together. Most children who enter foster care in Hennepin County do return to their families. When families are not able to reunite, foster parents provide a safe, stable and nurturing home until a relative is found to care for the children. In some cases, foster families may be asked to provide a permanent home. 

Foster parents make a difference every day. Their daily joys are in holding and rocking the babies and toddlers, being present to nurture and care for the children, listening to and guiding the teens. The biggest reward is seeing children heal and grow.


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Attend a foster care information session

The first step to becoming a foster parent in Hennepin County is attending an information meeting. Please join us and bring your questions. You will learn more about current foster care needs and about what to expect from the licensing process. After this two-hour information meeting, you can decide whether to take the next step and complete an application. Training is free and you don't have to pre-register.

If you are part of a two-parent household, both adults must attend a meeting. Child care is not provided.

Summer and fall 2015 foster care information meetings

  • Tuesday, October 13, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.. Hennepin County Library – Southdale, 7001 York Avenue South, Edina, Ethel Berry Room
  • Thursday, November 12, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., Hennepin County Library – Plymouth, 15700 36th Avenue North, Plymouth Meeting Room
  • Monday, December 7, 5 to 7 p.m., Hennepin County Library – Hosmer, 347 East 36th Street, Minneapolis

More information

Call 612-348-KIDS (612-348-5437), or email Please contact us if you are concerned about weather-related cancellations.

Deciding between foster care and adoption

If you are at a crossroads between foster care and adoption, we can help. Come to an information meeting for foster care or adoption to learn about both programs.  

Decide if foster care is right for you

Being a foster parent can be an incredibly rewarding, life-altering challenge, if you are ready to take it. You can decide when it is the right time. Children in the foster care system need a special kind of person. A successful foster parent is patient, an advocate, likes kids, a team player and able to love and let go when the job is done. 

Look at your life

  • You are at least 21 years old.
  • You are at least one year from a major life event, such as a divorce, birth of a child, or a significant loss, and two years from chemical dependency treatment.
  • You are open to a review of your criminal background, your human service and social service history.
  • You have enough income to meet your own family’s needs.
  • Your have a flexible work schedule.

Look at your family

  • You are single or a couple
  • Foster children may share a room with other children, in some circumstances.
  • Your family and members of your household would welcome a child and support the licensing process.

Look at your home

  • You live in Hennepin County.
  • You live in a home that has at least two bedrooms.
  • You need to have reliable transportation because foster parents must transport children to appointments several times a week.

Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

Contact ICWA staff: 612-348-5437

When Native American children can’t live safely in their homes, Hennepin County works to place them with foster families from their own cultures. Currently, there are more Native children in the child protection system than our foster care system can support. Our community desperately needs more caring, capable Native American families to step forward to be foster parents for Native kids.

Native American children need to be placed in homes where they can maintain ties to extended family and tribes, and continue to grow, rooted in their own cultural beliefs, traditions and celebrations. 

The federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) guides child protection work in the Native American communities. The act is enforced by the state of Minnesota and local tribes, and applies to all of the Native children who currently need placement for foster care or permanent family care in Hennepin County. 

Understanding ICWA 

The state is required to make efforts to place Native children in Native homes. The Indian Child Welfare Act provides "placement preferences," in this order: 

  1. With family members
  2. With a family who is part of the child's tribe
  3. In a nonrelative Native American family home 

Hennepin County must forward all Native American children’s referrals to tribes for review, regardless of the race or national origin of the prospective parent or the child. The tribe then determines whether to support or reject the placement. 

When no Native American homes are available

When placement with a Native American family is not possible, we look for a non-Native family that will be able to nurture the children’s cultural practices and beliefs. 

You should know

Any Native American individuals and families who are interested in becoming foster parents are invited to contact us.

Call us even if you are concerned about issues in your past. We will work with you. 

Get started

To start this process and/or learn more, call our intake line at 612-348-5437. Hennepin County social workers will be able to answer your questions and give you details about the next foster care information meetings. Please call if you already have a home study and want information about specific children, or are having a difficult time with this process.

Complete the licensing process

Once you have attended an information session, spend some time looking at your life and considering whether this is the right time to become a foster parent.

Then you can start the licensing process. You must have a license to offer foster care to children who are not related to you.

The foster care licensing process takes about four to six months, depending on your schedule. This is what you will have to do:

Fill out an application

You will receive the paperwork at the information meeting. We will walk you through all of the questions. After the meeting, we will be available to help you by phone or email. Contact us at 612-348-5437 or    

Participate in a background check

Hennepin County foster care is required to determine whether your life and your home will meet state and county standards to offer a child or teen a healthy haven. We will work with you to look at your

  • Mental, physical and chemical health
  • Criminal background human service and social service history
  • Family, friends and the members of your household

Meet with a social worker

A Hennepin County social worker will schedule a series of interviews with you and your family members, to assess your family and your home, and to gather information to aid in the matching process once you are licensed. 

Get an invitation to foster care training

Over the course of several training sessions, you will learn more about children in foster care and the tools that will help you to care for them. We also will share information about resources that the county and other organizations offer to help you.

Your licensing worker will invite you to complete six pre-service training classes and foster care orientation before you earn your license in Hennepin County.

You must register for each class, at least 10 days in advance of the class. Contact us at or 612-348-KIDS (5437).

More information

If you are concerned about a weather-related cancellation, contact us at or call 612-348-KIDS (5437).

Training for licensed foster parents

All licensed Hennepin County providers need 12 hours of training each year, and five of the 12 hours must be sponsored by Hennepin County.

Parents who have adopted a child though the Hennepin County foster care program also are welcome to attend training, even if your license has expired.

See the foster care licensing process, described above, for information about becoming a foster care provider.

Register for a class

Registration is required, at least two weeks in advance. Classes will be canceled if not enough people sign up.

Email registration is preferred, at You also may call and leave a message at 612-348-5840. Please provide us with the class title, your name, your licensing worker's name, and a daytime phone number. You also can register with your licensing worker.

Other details:

  • You are welcome to bring your own meal. Light snacks will be provided for training classes that are three or more hours.
  • Please remember that children are not allowed at any training sessions. Child care is not provided.
  • For weather cancellations, call 612-348-5840, after 5 p.m. In case of other cancellations, participants will be notified by email or telephone.
  • A parking voucher for the Hennepin County Medical Center parking ramp is again available for everyone who pre-registers for training. No vouchers will be given to drop-ins.

Training topic schedule 2015

Unless otherwise noted, all training will be held in the Health Services Building (HSB), 525 Portland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55415.

Pre-service training and foster care orientation

Classes are held at Hennepin County Health Services Building, 525 Portland Avenue South, Minneapolis.  

Orientation and overview of foster, adoptive and kinship care

Check back for future classes.

Impact of abuse and neglect on child development 

Saturday, November 7, 9 am to noon                 

This training provides an overview of normal childhood development and the impact of abuse and neglect. It also explains how to recognize developmental delays or challenges.

Attachment, separation and placement  

Saturday, November 7, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.           

This training outlines normal, healthy attachment and the impact on attachment of separation from primary families. Participants will explore how children’s developmental levels affect their understanding of and reactions to out-of-home placement. 


November 21, 9 a.m. to noon                 

This training examines the importance of discipline based on the child’s age, developmental level, past experiences and their current situation. It also explains the rationale for statutes and rules on physical punishment in alternative care homes. 

Mental health

Friday, November 20, noon to 3 p.m.

Deena McMahon provides mental health training for foster parents related to children’s mental health disorders,  and the behavioral and neurobiological challenges that children face.  

Sexual Abuse

Saturday, December 5, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.           

This training examines the definition and dynamics of child sexual abuse. Participants will learn that sexual abuse is a complex problem and that children who have been sexually abused may have a hard time adjusting to a new home. Additional training and resources to successfully care for these children and teens will be discussed.

Ongoing training

Foster parents must complete these classes to maintain their licenses. All training classes are at the Hennepin County Health Services Building, 525 Portland Avenue South, Minneapolis, unless specifically indicated otherwise. See class descriptions below. 

Introduction to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder for resource families

Wednesday, October 21, 9 a.m. to noon

Participants will learn how Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) can impact emotional, behavioral and physical development from infancy to adulthood. They will learn the differences in brain development and the importance of early assessment and intervention. Participants will explore daily challenges at home and in school and discover effective strategies to address the emotions and behaviors of the children. 

Understanding and building attachment

November 5 and 19, 6 to 9 p.m.

This training focuses on the initiation and development of attachment in children, and is designed for licensed foster caregivers with placement experience. The first half of the training distinguishes characteristics of secure attachment from those of insecure attachment, and provides information on how the crisis created by separation and placement impacts and is impacted by the child’s attachment pattern. Because research demonstrates that the most consistent predictors of secure attachment are caregiver variables, the last half of the workshop presents a template for parenting children with insecure attachment. Participants will be provided with case scenarios and asked to consider attachment patterns and formulate strategies to maintain/build attachment with their foster children.

Primary families

Saturday, November 21,12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

This training helps the participants to understand the grief process of a birth parent whose children have entered an out-of-home placement and the importance of involving the birth family in case planning, daily decision-making and other activities to support reunification. 

Effects of caregivers on the family 

Saturday, December 5, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Participants will learn to recognize signs of family stress and know the importance of developing and using support systems to prevent a family crisis. Procedures will be outlined that are required if allegations of maltreatment are made. Health, hygiene and nutritional issues will be explored. 

Permanency issues for children

Saturday, December 12   9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.          

Participants will learn the unique aspects of becoming a permanent home for a child who will not be returning to their biological parents. They will begin to understand how post-placement issues such as loss, identity and loyalties can be complicated for these children and begin to prepare for them. Caregivers will explore the supports for parents and children in their community. 

Permanency issues for families 

Saturday, December 12, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.                  

This training helps participants recognize the long-term adjustment to adoption for the parent and the child. This includes dealing with grief, loss, identity, control, divided loyalties and fertility issues as well as the fantasy of being a “dream family.”

Sudden unexpected infant death/abusive head trauma and car seat safety

Classes on preventing sudden unexpected infant death and abusive head trauma are paired with car seat safety seminars to give busy foster parents the opportunity to take one or both classes on the same night. Classes are offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. 

Sudden unexpected infant death/abusive head trauma and car seat classes are free only to Hennepin County foster parents. Class fees for private agencies and certain other individuals are $25 for sessions fewer than four hours and $50 for sessions that last more than four hours. Prepayment for classes is preferred but payments will be accepted at the door. No cash payment; checks or money orders only, made out to the Hennepin County Treasurer.

Saturday, October 24

  • 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Car seat safety
  • 12:30 to 2 p.m. Sudden unexpected infant death and abusive head trauma

Thursday, November 5 

  • 4:30 to 6 p.m. Sudden Unexplained Infant Death and Abusive Head Trauma
  • 6 to 9:15 p.m. Car Seat Safety

Saturday, November 14

  • 9 a.m. to 12 :15 p.m. Car Seat Safety
  • 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sudden Unexplained Infant Death and Abusive Head Trauma

Thursday, November 19

  • 4:30 to 6 p.m. Sudden Unexplained Infant Death and Abusive Head Trauma
  • 6 to 9:15 p.m. Car Seat Safety

 Saturday, December 5

  • 9 a.m. to 12 :15 p.m. Car Seat Safety
  • 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sudden Unexplained Infant Death and Abusive Head Trauma

Tuesday, December 15

  • 4:30 to 6 p.m. Sudden Unexplained Infant Death and Abusive Head Trauma
  • 6 to 9:15 p.m. Car Seat Safety

Respite care providers needed

Respite care gives foster parents a needed short-term break. Respite care parents go through the same licensing process as other foster parents. If you want to become a respite care provider, you must attend the foster care information meeting and receive an application to begin the licensing process.

Respite needs

Children with developmental disabilities

Some of our greatest respite needs are for providers who can care for children with autism, cerebral palsy, Asperger's Syndrome, medically involved children, or children in wheelchairs. Respite requests for children with developmental disabilities are almost always for one child at a time. The care may be provided for one or two weekends a month for several months in a row, or for a week at a time.

Children with behavioral and emotional problems

Respite care is also given to families who need a break from children who have challenging behaviors and or emotional problems. Most of these children are adolescents or younger children in larger sibling groups. These children need care for a week or more at a time.

For foster parents

If you want to arrange respite care, you must contact your licensing social worker at least 30 days prior to your proposed respite date(s) when possible.

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