Foster Care, Photo: Nick Loomis

Foster Care

Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) provides placement and casework services for children who have been removed from their birth families because of abuse or neglect. LSSI is the largest provider of foster care services in the state. Approximately 10 percent of Illinois children under the guardianship of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) are served by LSSI.

LSSI provides training, licensing and services for foster families. Because the goal of foster care is returning the child back to his or her birth family if possible, LSSI asks its foster parents to support the child’s connection to his or her birth family by providing transportation to or hosting sibling visits, and visiting with birth parents when the child welfare team mutually agrees upon this.

A special program for teens in foster care is Steps to Life, which assists adolescents in their transition to adulthood. Youth meet weekly and participate in a program with a life-skills curriculum based on motivational principles such as inspiration, perseverance, competence, responsibility and integrity. Participants enjoy enrichment/life skills seminars, group rap sessions, field trips, motivational speakers, overnight retreats, movies and music. Steps to Life is available in Chicago, Champaign, Peoria and Rockford.

LSSI is an Illinois Licensed Child Welfare Agency - License #013005

Learn More

888/322/5774 (foster care)
312/949-4786 (Steps to Life, Chicago)

Frequently Asked Questions About Foster Care

What is foster care?

Foster care is the temporary placement of a child in a new home away from his/her family due to abuse or neglect. Placement in a foster home protects the child while working with the birth family towards the ultimate goal of returning the child home. When it is not possible to return a child home safely, a new goal of adoption may be sought.

What are the different types of foster care?

There are two kinds: regular/relative foster care and specialized foster care.

  • Regular/relative foster care provides placement and case management for children who have been removed from their birth families because of abuse or neglect.
  • Specialized foster care serves children who have been abused or neglected and also have serious medical, emotional and/or behavioral problems.

How do I become a foster parent?

Call 888/322-LSSI (5774) (or email to talk to a resource worker. You will be referred to the LSSI office closest to your home. Also, many LSSI offices hold orientation meetings for prospective parents to learn more about fostering or adoption. Ask the resource worker about attending one.

What are the qualifications of being a foster parent?

To qualify to be a foster parent, you:

  • Must have a desire and commitment to care for and work with children.
  • May be single or married.
  • May rent or own your residence.
  • Must be stable, understanding, caring and in good health.
  • Must be able to work as part of a team.
  • Must have sufficient financial resources to provide for yourself and your family.
  • Must be able to support children’s ties to their birth families and support reunification efforts, when applicable.
  • Do NOT have to be Lutheran.

What is the foster parent licensing process like?

  • A resource worker will guide you through the application packet, which includes information about you and your family, background check forms and medical evaluations.
  • Adult members of your household will need to be fingerprinted to check for criminal history (minor criminal history in the past does not necessarily prevent you from fostering).
  • A resource worker will make one or more home visits to ensure that your home meets licensing standards.
  • A resource worker will have several discussions with you and your family to understand your interest in foster care.
  • You (and your spouse, if applicable) will need to attend pre-service training about the needs of children in foster care.
  • A resource worker will discuss the stipends available to assist you in caring for a foster child.

What about adoption?

  • If efforts to reunify children with their birth families are unsuccessful, foster parents may be asked to consider adopting their foster children. However, it is important that all foster parents realize that the first goal for almost all children is reunification with their birth family. Foster parents must be able to support those efforts.
  • LSSI has other adoption programs, including infant, inter-country and special needs adoption (children who have been abused and/or neglected and present emotional, medical, educational or behavioral challenges).
  • Many children in need of permanency through adoption are older or are brothers and sisters who need to be placed together.
  • LSSI believes in openness in adoption. This allows birth parents and adoptive parents to share information about each other and have the option of establishing some level of personal relationship.
  • Adoption support and preservation services are offered to families following the legal completion of all adoptions.
  • For information on LSSI’s adoption programs, call 888/671-0300 or visit
Foster Kids Are Our Kids

Foster Kids Are Our Kids! Lutheran Social Services of Illinois is pleased to be part of a social marketing campaign designed to engage the community in the lives of children in foster care. The "Foster Kids Are Our Kids" campaign is a collaboration of foster care agencies throughout Illinois, Voices for Illinois Children, and WGN-TV. The campaign includes television commercials, radio spots, print media and many other efforts to encourage community involvement in the lives of kids in foster care. Help make foster care better! There are many ways to be involved. To learn more, check out the Foster Kids Are Our Kids website or call 1-888-322-LSSI to get involved at LSSI.


PDF Download  Foster Care Law Implementation Plan for 2013 PDF