CA foster kids rules

10 Most Surprising Things You Can’t Do With Foster Care Kids

Even if you already have children of your own, you’ll realize that being a foster parent is much different from what you’re accustomed to or what you’ve come to expect.

As a foster parent, you’ll be required to adhere to various rules and regulations dictated by the state for the protection of foster care kids.

There are issues and complications you may encounter when foster parenting, but this doesn’t make it a less worthy or rewarding pursuit.

As long as you have the space and care to give, you can make a world of difference in a child’s life. You just need to be aware of some regulations and rules to ensure that you don’t overstep your boundaries or endanger the child in your care.

Here are some surprising things you cannot do with your foster kids that’d be totally appropriate for your biological children:

  1. Alter their appearance without permission
  2. Share their faces on social media
  3. Leave them with unapproved babysitters
  4. Refuse to vaccinate them
  5. Leave them at home without adult supervision
  6. Permit co-sleeping arrangements
  7. Change their names
  8. Move to a different state or travel overseas
  9. Share their names or photos in newspaper articles
  10. Allow them to partake in dangerous activities

Keep in mind that foster care rules and regulations are different from state to state. If you’re worried about any of these, you’ll have to reach out to the department of child and family services in your state or your foster agency to determine what requirements are applicable to you.

1. Alter their appearance without permission

As a foster parent, you cannot make any significant changes or alterations to the appearance of your foster child without seeking the approval of their biological parents or caseworker.

It is not within your authority to pierce the ears of the child under your care, cut their hair, or give them a different haircut from the one they arrived with. Things like this are considered to be capable of impacting the child’s identity of the child.

Your ability to alter the physical appearance of your foster child will depend on the care order that applies to the child, whether you or the state is the child’s guardian, or whether the birth parents or extended family are still involved in the child’s care plan.

Even if the child is asking for their hair to be cut, you may not actually have the authority to grant their wishes, especially if the child in your care is below the age of 12.

You’ll still be responsible for making sure that the hairstyle they currently have is maintained regularly and cut after permission has been granted by a parent or caseworker.

However, if the child is 12 years old or older, they’re usually allowed to decide what kind of haircut they want, but you’ll have to make sure whatever they get doesn’t go against their school or employment rules.

For foster children covered by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), getting permission to cut their hair is an absolute requirement.

2. Share their faces on social media

You may have noticed that foster parents place emojis over the faces of their foster children to hide their identity when they share pictures on social media, this is because foster parents are precluded from showing the faces of the children in their care on public platforms like social media and blogs.

In the same vein, you can’t allow your foster child’s picture to be taken and posted for the consumption of the public. It doesn’t matter if your social media account is private or that the photos are only being shared within a group composed of only your family members and close friends.

In some cases, this directive is to ensure the safety of the child, as well as you and your family, but it’s mostly because you’re not the child’s biological parents or legal guardians, so you don’t have the right to share their photos wherever and whenever you please.

3. Leave them with unapproved babysitters

In many places, you can’t leave your foster child with caregivers or send them to a daycare that hasn’t been approved by child and family services.

However, using reasonable judgment, you can be allowed to let a responsible adult babysit your foster child for up to 24 hours without getting prior approval from their caseworker. 

If you wish for another adult to babysit your foster kids for longer than 24 hours, you’re going to need to secure express permission, or you can leverage respite foster care services

Although this rule seems restrictive, it’s meant to ensure that the child is safe and protected at all times, especially when they’re being temporarily looked after by someone other than you or other members of your family.

4. Refuse to vaccinate them

If you’re an anti-vaxxer, you cannot use your beliefs as an excuse to not vaccinate your foster kids.

It doesn’t matter whether you think vaccines are a kind of evil or that you don’t even vaccinate your biological children, foster agencies and child services in most states will require you to vaccinate the foster children under your care.

If the foster child’s legal parents are against vaccinations, the state will have a judge rule that the child should be vaccinated.

5. Leave them at home without adult supervision

You cannot leave your foster kids who are below the age of 12 at home without supervision. However, you are permitted to do so for brief periods of time if the child is 12 years or older and has been in your home for at least 14 days.

If you or some other family member can’t pick up your foster child after school or won’t be home when they get back, they must be able to get into the house using a key or some other safe method.

They must also have access to emergency numbers and procedures, and a means of contacting you, your partner, or some other member of the household. Make sure all the phone numbers they can call in case of an emergency are posted in the living room or kitchen.

6. Permit co-sleeping arrangements

Another thing you’re not allowed to do with foster kids is to allow co-sleeping arrangements, whether it’s with you, your partner, foster siblings, or any other member of the home.

This is because some foster children have had unpleasant experiences in their past that might make co-sleeping seem invasive or even trigger some form of trauma. Whether you’re surprised by this rule or not, you have to agree that it makes sense.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from permitting co-sleeping with or amongst your biological children.

7. Change their names

It’s generally not permissible to change your foster child’s first or last names even if you become their permanent family. This is because the child already has their own identity, history, and family connections, and it’s important to respect that and allow the child to retain that connection.

These children come to you due to unfortunate circumstances, not because they’re looking for their first and only family. The goal is to one day return them to their biological parents or relatives.

To that end, it’s necessary to preserve their identity unless exceptional circumstances warrant a change. The particular situation your foster child is in and the state you live in will determine whether you’ll be allowed to give your foster child a different name other than the one they were given at birth.

8. Move to a different state or travel overseas

In most cases, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to relocate to a different state with your foster child in tow even if the child doesn’t have any relatives living in your current state or country. 

You’ll have to remain in the state where the child was placed in your care as long as you wish to keep them or return them back to the foster agency so they can be taken to a different home.

The process of getting a passport for a foster child can be incredibly complicated and time-consuming, so if your family has to travel overseas for a vacation or some other reason, it might not be possible to take the foster child along.

9. Share their names or photos in newspaper articles

In some jurisdictions, you cannot have the photos or pictures of your foster kids appear in newspaper articles or even in a school newsletter.

Many foster parents have criticized this rule for being too restrictive and harmful to foster children as it can prevent them from getting scholarships or internships or pursuing certain career opportunities like the rest of their peers who are free to have their achievements publicized in the media.

Although you may feel strongly about this rule, there’s not much you can do except enforce it or find out exactly how it applies to your particular situation.

10. Allow them to partake in dangerous activities

You may not have the authority to grant permission to your foster child to participate in any activity that may reasonably be regarded as dangerous. This includes activities like skiing or ice skating.

If your foster child is invited to a party where they may be required to engage in such an activity, make sure you consult your caseworker or foster agency ahead of time to determine what would be considered right or wrong in your circumstance and how best to proceed.

You may also not be able to permit the child to partake in certain extracurricular activities like playing football, joining the swimming team, going camping, or having sleepovers. This is because the child may not be able to continue such activities in future or when they leave your home, so it makes sense to manage their expectations.

You’ll need to seek approval from the child’s biological parents, extended family, or state authorities before making such decisions.


Foster parenting is a whole different ball game. It comes with its own unique set of rules and challenges that you have to work with or around while providing the best possible experience for your foster child.

Hopefully, these rules are not enough to prevent you from going forward with your foster parenting journey. 

If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, contact the Knotts Family Agency for guidance.

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This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Ophelia

    I want to foster/ adopt. And if we’re able to adopt said child, that child will almost certainly be getting a new name. Last name obviously, but also a first name. I feel like after it becomes your child, well….a parent gets to name their kid, and since it’s an older child and not a baby they can even help pick it! What kid doesn’t want to change their name at some point? Unless the child is just 1000% against it in every fashion and can’t be guided into it, then it shouldn’t forced. But if the kids ok with it, then we’re changing it. New life, new family, new name.
    But obviously I understand why you can’t go around changing the kids name of foster children, I just mean a child you adopt.

    1. Enigma

      No, no, no.
      This has a lack of awareness and empathy.
      Absolutely not. As an adopted child, who was in 5 foster homes, almost everything else NEW (which does NOT translate to good) & almost everything from the past taken…to take a child’s name also, shows complete disregard for the child, their identity, the impact of attachment trauma (which adoption is).
      That is wholly irresponsible and borderline abusive. It sounds like you are doing it for you…and from an inability to grasp the enormity and perspective of another human being. A human being who and their whole life turned upside down, shaken, and you want to add to the confusion by changing their name? The identity they associate with, when all else is gone? Really?

      As a grandmother, a former RN, and currently working towards my PhD in neuroscience, as well as the aforementioned experience of being an adoptee…I hope to god you reevaluate. Get involved and ASK children how they would feel to have their name changed. Not children you are thinking of adopting…because those children will acquiesce to almost anything, initially, because of learning to please others to get their needs met.
      I’m in an adult adoption trauma group (all adoption is trauma btw, read the book The Primal wound) and if you change a name…that just would add to the list of resentments of that child later, or not being seen, heard, allowed to be them.
      I hope you can gain some insight.

      I didn’t even change my dogs names from the shelter…would NEVER change a person’s name. IF they want to later (of their own idea and volition) that is totally different.
      Please investigate further into the neuropsychological realms of adoption. It seems you are vastly ignorant.

  2. Karina

    If a foster parent is harassing me and created a FB with her foster son’s name and photo to harass me how do I go about reporting her

  3. Melissa

    My 14 year old male nephew (i call him her) who is transgender was adopted through the system of DCF her rights to be herself are not ok. She was brought to tennesse to attend a week long youth program for a church. The purpose was to hear from preists and others that she will get killed on her way to school for being gay. We all new from the age of 2 that our baby my nephew and our family knew he was going to be gay we just new so at the age of 10 she came out as transgender. He adoptive family say to her shes going to hell and possibly killed if she steps out of the house as a transgender.

  4. Mike keep

    If your heart is what completely motivates you to become a foster parent!!! Then good job and I know there are still good people in this world. Honestly, I would say 65% of foster providers are in it for the money. If not……then deny the checks that come with fostering!!! If you do not deny the checks that foster kids generate in that household, then just say fostering is your job.

    1. Rae

      The checks that foster parents receive are not meant to be compensatory. Raising a child costs money. The checks are meant to cover their cost of living.

      Screenings to obtain your license require potential parents to have the finances to provide for themselves without the checks. While they are stable enough to support themselves, denying the checks could deny the foster child general cost of living things like diapers or school fees.

      While your point may stand, it’s not fair to say all parents who accept the checks are corrupt or only looking for a job.

  5. J. Walker

    I agree but prob more like 80% are in it for the money but the other 20% who are not don’t deny the check. Some people actually feel that maybe they can make a difference in a child’s life & have the extra room & maybe even feel they would rather spend their time making a difference rather than being home alone all the time Cause they are retired or for what ever reason can’t work anymore but they are on a fixed income & without the payment for foster care they would not be able to provide for the child’s needs like clothes, shoes & money to give the child if age appropriate to be able to participate in school field trips or pay for drivers Ed & training or simply go to the movies not to mention the necessities to live like food toilet paper laundry soap & self care items. The 89% who are in it for the money should have to provide so much of their payment for those things. Of course if age appropriate u give them chores for allowance for things like the movies or to buy something they want but clothes & Personal hygiene items should be required , verified & confirmed with the child every so often cause that’s neglect to place a child with a family who doesn’t do anything extra or even required as far as money spent & then the child is left being given used clothes 100% & not able to participate in things like school field trips & the foster parent families that already have biological children & buy new clothes & money for the other things their own children want but not their foster child is in my opinion mental, psychological abuse.

    1. Ann

      I’m curious what study these statistics were pulled from, so I can research the results? Thank you in advance for the information. I want to make sure I’m informed and understanding this correctly.

  6. Candice Mitchell

    My grandchildren’s names were changed 8 to 10 months prior to the parental rights termination hearing in Houston Missouri texas county. They were residing in the [REMOVED] public school district. When my grandson scored touchdowns they said [REMOVED] instead of [REMOVED]. Is this legal for foster parents to change a child’s name in public schools before parental rights are taken?

  7. I have an 18 Yr old under s.s till his 21 here recently he was kicked out by his Foster mum which I feel is down to her partner she recently took bag. All the time his been at hers he has no Dr and hasn’t really had the help in finding accommodation she really has stressed the poor boy out by causing nothing but problems even to point of contacting the biological mother whom is the reason he was in care in first plc. His social worker ain’t much help I’m not quite sure what I can do to help but no way on earth am I or my friend gonna see this boy on his own with nothing or no one he is also vulnerable. Any suggestions plzzz

  8. K

    We have unvaccinated foster kids here for almost two years. We don’t vaccinate our bios and we don’t vaccinate our fosters. Mom got permission from the court to keep the kids vax free. So #4 isn’t necessarily correct 100% of the time.

  9. azha

    this is from MY perspective
    i am in foster care and i recently had a sleepover with my foster carers sister (who is also a foster carer of 2 twins).After that the sister got in trouble by the social worker which i understand after reading the rules I dont mind doing sleepovers with the my carer’s family. Infact i enjoy it! I love the company of her 2 grown daughters, her sister etc. my point is that some kids who are in foster care are okay and the reason they could be in foster care is their household or parents and not them.
    I just wanted to share that because i realise i wont be able to experience a full child with sleepovers again :,)

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