Foster Parents are the foundation of the SOS Illinois model of care. Being a professional Foster Parent at SOS Illinois is definitely a unique job. In fact, to refer to it as a job doesn’t really capture the essence of what it is to be an SOS Illinois Foster Parent; a calling might be a better way to describe it. Having said that, like any job, there are certain requirements and skills that make people good candidates; a combination of practical skills and passion. It’s a calling for individuals, domestic partners and married couples to provide a nurturing environment to children in need of stability; a calling to change the trajectory of life for children; a calling to make a difference. In honor of Foster Care Awareness Month coming up in May, we invite you to learn about if Foster Parenting at SOS Illinois is the right fit for you.
The Unique Difference of the SOS Illinois Foster Parents
One of the things that set SOS Illinois apart from traditional foster care is full-time, professional Foster Parents. It’s not the kind of position that has set hours. Like any type of parenting, it requires full-time dedication. The SOS Illinois model places Foster Parents in single-family homes in one of its Villages, where up to six children ranging in age from infants to young adults call home. Daily life involves taking care of each child’s diverse needs and schedules, from school runs, doctor’s appointments, court visits, after school activities and more. However, by having case managers and clincial therapists on site, Foster Parents can ensure that the children in their care have the mental health and case management resources needed without having to leave their Village
Foster Parents at SOS Illinois are supported with ongoing professional development through our educational and training program, “SOS University,” as well as through other professionals in the Village communities. Included among these professionals are our on-call Relief Parents, who provide much-needed and well-deserved relief time for our Foster Parents for eight hours each week
Benefits, Qualifications, and Qualities of an SOS Illinois Foster Parent
Because being an SOS Illinois Foster Parent is a full-time job, it comes with resources and benefits including:
- Training before and after children are placed in a Village home
- An annual salary
- Health, dental, and vision insurance
- Contributions to a 403B retirement plan after one year of service
- Housing, including utilities
- Use of an SOS Illinois vehicle
- A household budget for food and other expenses for the children in their home
As with any type of employment, there are expectations and requires for this position. Keeping in mind that being an SOS Illinois Foster Parent is an unusual job, it not only necessitates core requirements and competencies, but also a dedication to the mission of SOS Illinois.
- Valid driver’s license, proof of insurance, and clear driving record
- Department of Children and Family Services (DSFS) background check and medical clearance
- At least 25 years of age
- A high school diploma or equivalent; higher education a plus
- Willing to commit to at least three years of service as a full-time, professional Foster Parent
- Willing to relocate to one of the three Villages
- Adherence to the policy of bringing only one biological or adopted child into the Village home, if applicable
- Experience either raising children or working with children
- Ability to provide fair and safe discipline, and are willing to learn behavior management skills
- Managing a household and a budget
- Adept at managing children with complex behavioral issues, such as mental, emotional, or physical trauma
- Ability to act with self-sufficiency, critical thinking, a collaborative spirit
Through a Foster Parent’s Eyes: Perspective from An SOS Illinois Foster Parent
A good way to get a sense of what it’s like to be an SOS Illinois Foster Parent is to read about one person’s experience. Michele “Mickey” Haldeman was one of the very first Foster Parents at SOS Children’s Villages Illinois, specifically working and living at the Lockprot Village. For 25 years she has served as a caregiver to over 20 children. Through her insight, you can get a glimpse into what to expect as an SOS Illinois Foster Parent, as well as the challenges and the rewards of the position.
Becoming an SOS Illinois Foster Parent
If you’re interested in providing hope and security for abused and neglected children, and think you might be a good candidate to become an SOS Illinois full-time, professional Foster Parent, we would love to hear from you!