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Human Services Agency of San Francisco
Department of Aging & Adult Services * Department of Human Services

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Foster parents provide care for court-dependent children in their homes. Foster parents are licensed by Family and Children's Services to take court-dependent children into their homes. They provide a caring environment while the family follows their case plan for reunification. Foster parents agree to perform all the functions of birth parents while the child is in their care, including meeting the child's health, school and parental guidance needs. Foster parents maintain a relationship with their children's child welfare workers and their own licensing workers, maintain their homes to the standards set by the state, and attend training. All basic health and education costs of the child are paid by the foster care system. There is a great need for foster homes in San Francisco. Please call for information or for an invitation to attend a no-obligation orientation.

For More Information

Foster Parent Program

(415) 558-2200

What is it like being a foster parent?

Here are the stories of five San Francisco foster parents who have welcomed children into their homes, lives and hearts, and in some cases have even adopted children they fostered.


Lorraine Hanks

I've been a foster parent for four years. I've taken care of eight children so far. In 1999, I began taking care of my cousin's baby boy while she was incarcerated. I took part in the relative caregivers program that DHS offers, and the trainings were awesome. It was so empowering to me that it allowed me to help my little cousin gain what he needed so he could function properly, and it also made it easy for me to become a foster parent. As a foster parent now I still go to trainings, and I guess that's what keeps us fresh and keeps us going -- we know how to handle the situation.

It's wonderful to be a foster parent. You just have to take it as it goes. I started by taking 5 to 10 year olds, and then got a couple of teenagers. I also took in two siblings who were 2 and 3 years old, and I'm in the process of becoming their permanent legal guardian now, several years later. I take care of my little grandson frequently as well. I work full time as an athletic director for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. The two little ones are in child care, which is paid for through the Children's Council.

It is a hard job but you see the positive outcomes of the children. When they come to you they're scared and depressed and you can help open them up and realize you're there for them. Watching them develop, reunifying kids with family, and knowing that I had something to do with that -- all that makes me feel good.

Julia Cody

I've been a foster parent for 18 years. I've cared for 39 children. I started off just taking newborns to 3 year olds, and then I began working with medically fragile infants. Medically fragile infants have issues such as asthma, failure to thrive, low birth weight, or drug and alcohol exposure in utero. Part of the requirements for caring for medically fragile infants is that the main caregiver can't work outside the home.

These kids, they just make you laugh. Like these two babies I have now -- they just sit there and laugh and draw you to them with a big old smile. I like to see their development from not doing anything, to when they start to roll over. Our whole family goes crazy. We're all so excited.

To be a foster parent is an amazing thing. I look at it this way: if something happened, would there be somebody willing to take care of my kids? I just love kids. I say to people considering being foster parents, just do it. For a lot of people this is like their second wind in life, they've already raised their kids and they have that nurturing spirit already. Bring that spirit and come and help out.

I have adopted one child who was placed with me. When he first came, it was as if he decided this was where he was going to be. He said "this is my place," and it's always been like that. He's still here. He was 2 days old, and now he's 12, and it's just a wonderful thing.

Fostering has been around a long time, especially in the African American community -- we just didn't call it fostering. Unfortunately, society is changing, and people aren't looking after kids like they used to.

I have two sisters who are foster parents, and a sister who just retired from being an elementary school teacher. It's in our genes.

Laura Isadore

I've been a foster parent for 21 years now. I've cared for over 500 teenagers, all girls. A lot of people are afraid of teenagers, but I love them, I really do. Some have stayed with me a few days, and some have stayed six or seven years until they emancipated. I had one girl stay with me until she was 21 years old. I helped her get a good job and she's doing really well. I've stayed in touch with quite a few of my girls. On Mother's Day my phone is ringing off the hook, I tell you.

It makes me feel good that I can help the children. So many have graduated from my house and are going to college. One who had been in gangs and was smoking and drinking is in college at Clark University in Atlanta now and doing really well. She came back home one Christmas and talked to the rest of the girls in my home. She said, "if it wasn't for Laura I'd be dead or in jail."

People say that it's a hard job, but to me it's easy. You have to treat these children with tender loving care. You have to have a child know you love them, and treat them nice. I let them know this is their home while they're here. I treat the children like I treated my own, and that makes my job very easy.

Joyce Lee

My husband Jesse and I have been foster parents for six years, and we've taken care of 24 children. I wanted to stay home with my son when he was small, and I thought I'd do child care. Then I saw all these billboards about foster care, so we went to an orientation. I hadn't been aware that there was such a great need for foster parents, and once I got the facts, I was compelled to get involved.

We took the classes and got our first placement a month later, and I knew that this is what I should be doing. I've always wanted a job where I really enjoyed what I was doing. I can say that this is my career now, because my heart and soul are in it. I love what I do!

I take care of children up to 5 years old, but mostly babies. That's where my heart is. I get them when they are so helpless and watch them thrive and grow. I have a 16-month-old little boy right now who I picked up from the hospital when he was just 3 days old. He was drug exposed in utero, and it's just amazing to see how far he's come. I also do respite for foster parents, CalWORKs families, and even families in shelters. It keeps me busy.

When I get a call from CPS saying they have a newborn or infant for me to take care of, my heart just starts racing. I wonder what the baby is like and I can't wait to pick them up. I've found my place in life. This is what I really enjoy doing, and I do an excellent job.

I encourage people who are interested in becoming a foster parent to go to an orientation and just listen. We even have a program at our church each year where we recruit foster parents. If they are not compelled to become a foster parent, it's not their calling.

Alice M. Smith

I became a foster parent 26 years ago. I have cared for over 300 children of all ages, from birth to age 19.

I started by providing respite care for a foster mother, and she suggested I become a foster parent myself. My husband was gone and my son and I were lonely, and I knew I was good with children, so I decided to do it. My son was always very loving and nurturing to the children. He's 30 years old now and still calls them all his little brothers and sisters.

I'm retired now but for many years I had a full-time job while the children were in school or child care. I often left work to take them to medical appointments, and then went back to work afterwards. Now I don't know how I did all that when I was younger. I prayed a lot.

When my son became a teenager I mostly took care of teenaged boys, but sometimes I'd have babies. I've even taken care of teenaged girls with their own babies, and children with special needs, both medical and behavioral. Now I take care of children from birth to age 4.

It took me years to realize that I couldn't change the world but I could play a part by being a foster parent. I felt so blessed that I was able to hold myself together as a single mom because it could have been my son in foster care with me falling by the wayside.

I do get attached to the children, and that is a very sad part about this work. Some of these kids just melt my heart and when they leave I'm depressed and emotional and I just have to give myself some time. It doesn't go away, but you learn to be able to deal with it better. But if you're not attached to these children, you're not doing your job. You're caring for a little human being.