By Desiree’ Sterling

Once the foster parent certification process is complete, it’s time to match foster youth to the family. Matching takes much more care and consideration than simply placing a youth in a home with an available bed. A lot goes into the process ensuring the family and foster youth are a good fit to create a successful placement. Without these considerations, youth can face further stress on top of what is often already an overwhelming experience.

Here are the four biggest things considered when matching foster youth and families:

Location. It’s important to match a youth with a family who lives near where they currently live, or close enough to keep them connected to their accustomed lifestyle. Visitations with biological family, school enrollment, or any other beneficial connection for their success is considered when looking at location.

The capacity of the home to accommodate a new placement. How many foster youths can be placed in each home is determined during the home study. For example, every youth that comes into a home must have his or her own bed, and they can only room with another adolescent of the same sex if they are over three years old. No adults may share a room with a foster youth unless agency-approved. Making sure there is ample space for another placement is an important part of the matching process.

Preferences of the foster family. Welcoming a child into a home is a big commitment for a family. Both the youth and family need to be comfortable with the placement. The foster parent and agency should be in constant communication about the family’s preferences of things like age, gender, and behaviors. A family who has teenagers of their own may feel more comfortable welcoming another teenager into their home. A family who has pets may feel most comfortable with a youth who has shown care and interest in animals. Paying close attention to these preferences ensures the youth is being placed with a family who is ready to support their needs.

Willingness. A foster family’s work schedule, leisure activities and lifestyle also play a role in the matching process. Accepting a new youth into a home has a huge impact on day-to-day normalcy. Doctor and therapy appointments, family visitations, school activities and other obligations must be taken into consideration. Finding the right match between a family and a foster youth to ensure these things remain a priority is critical to the success of the placement and the youth involved.

Matching foster youth and families is not an easy process. If there is any aspect that does not seem to be a fit, it is best not to move forward with the placement. Finding the right fit helps avoid another disruption in their already confusing lives.

Desiree’ Sterling is a youth and family treatment specialist, intake/adoption for Lutheran Family Services of Virginia.

Read Becoming a foster parent (Part three): The home study

Interested in becoming a foster parent in the Richmond or Tidewater/Virginia Beach area? Contact Mandy Tennity at or fill out our form.