Model Family Foster Home Licensing Standards

The American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Generations United and the National Association for Regulatory Administration have developed Model Family Foster Home Licensing Standards that, for the first time, help ensure children in foster care are safe while also establishing a reasonable, common-sense pathway to enable more relatives and non-related caregivers to become licensed foster parents.

Download the Standards.

These standards, which are the only comprehensive national guidelines, fill a previous void by giving the federal government a set of clear and practical requirements to reference and guide states in their efforts to license homes. Under federal law, states have extraordinary flexibility to create family foster home licensing standards, and the law requires only that states develop guidelines “reasonably in accord” with national organizations’ recommendations.

Model Family Foster Home Licensing Standards help ensure that children in foster care:

  • live in safe and appropriate homes under child welfare and court oversight,
  • receive monthly financial assistance and supportive services to help meet their needs, and
  • can access the permanency option of assisted guardianship in the states and tribes that
  • participate in the federal Guardianship Assistance Program (GAP).

The Model Family Foster Home Licensing Standards, which encompass all the necessary components to license a family foster home, are flexible enough to respond to individual circumstances, but most importantly they help ensure that children in out-of-home care have safe and appropriate homes. These standards should not be considered “minimum” criteria, but instead should be adopted as all the criteria necessary to license a safe home.

The standards are accompanied by an interpretative guide and crosswalk tool. The guide summarizes the purpose of each standard, and provides instructions necessary for compliance determinations. The crosswalk tool is designed to assist states compare and align their current standards with the model standards.

While we acknowledge that not all states will be able to implement this model in its entirety without any modifications, we challenge all states to use it to assess their own standards and ultimately to align their standards with this model. For the development and implementation of tribal foster care standards, please refer to the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) materials at

In creating these model licensing standards, our hope is that all children, regardless of the state in which they live, will be in homes that have met the same reasonable and achievable safety standards.