Resource Family Approval (RFA)
The Resource Family Approval (“RFA”) program is a statewide foster caregiver approval process for all caregivers (related and non-related). The RFA program has a single approval standard that replaces the previous multiple processes for licensing foster family homes, approving relatives and non-relative extended family members (“NREFMs”) as foster care providers, and approving families for legal guardianship or adoption. Tribally approved homes are not required to adhere to the RFA standards. The RFA program was implemented statewide in January 2017.
RFA creates a framework for all families, including relative and NREFM caregivers, called "resource families" to receive the same information, training and opportunities for support. A resource family completes one approval process, and once approved, may choose to provide care on a short- or long-term basis. Once caregivers are approved resource families, they will not have to undergo any additional approval or licensure if they choose to adopt or be appointed a guardian for a child in foster care. Approval of a resource family, however, does not guarantee placement of a child with that resource family. The child’s social worker will continue to make placement decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child.
The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has authority to temporarily administer the RFA Program through “Written Directives.” The CDSS has issued Written Directives and forms for implementing the RFA Program to ensure consistent standards among all counties and approving agencies. The latest version of the Written Directives can be found on the CDSS RFA Program Website (scroll down to "Written Directives"). CDSS has been updating the Written Directives every few months, so be sure you review the most current version.
Welfare and Institutions Code section 16519.5
Please take note: All Existing Foster Families and Relative Caregivers Must Be Relicensed
State law requires that all currently licensed foster family homes, approved relative caregivers, or NREFMs convert to the RFA program. On September 29, 2018, the Governor approved Senate Bill 1083 extending the foster care license conversion deadline to December 31, 2020.
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If the caregiver does not obtain resource family approval by December 31, 2019, all licenses and prior approvals shall forfeit on that date. Additionally, legal guardians of children still under the jurisdiction of the juvenile dependency court will need to convert to resource family status. Legal guardians of children whose court dependency status has been dismissed do not need to convert. Families who have an approved adoption home study prior to January 1, 2018 will be deemed to be an approved resource family. All licensed foster family homes that do not have a child in placement at any time between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017, shall forfeit their license by operation of law on January 1, 2018. If the family wishes to again provide foster care, the will need to apply to be a resource family. Welfare and Institutions Code section 16519.5(p)
For more information regarding conversion of licenses to RFA, please review the California Department of Social Services All County Letter 17-16E (May 22, 2018).
How You Can Request Placement of a Dependent Child
Requesting Placement Prior to Resource Family Approval
The Resource Family Approval Application Process
There are a number of requirements you must meet to become a resource family. The RFA assessment is supposed to be completed within ninety (90) days. However, the majority of county agencies are currently taking much longer to assess RFA applicants. In some counties, such as Los Angeles, RFA applicants are reporting having to wait approximately nine months for a decision from the county. If you are having issues with your application, contact:
- The Resource Family Approval Program Unit at their CCR Branch Line (916) 651-1101; or
- The California Department of Social Services via email at RFA@dss.ca.gov
Also, a number of counties (including, but not limited to, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Francisco) now have an online version of the RFA application. Please check your county's RFA webpage to see if there is an online application available.
RFA Checklist for Applicants
This checklist is here so you can familiarize yourself with all of the components necessary to complete RFA. Items are not listed in any particular order. We hope this checklist will help you keep track of all the information that you will need to provide to your RFA social worker.
- RFA Application Form (RFA 01A)
- RFA Application Form – Confidential (RFA 01C). Note: use this form if there is a specific child identified prior to approval from whom you are seeking placement.
- Resource Family Criminal Records Statement (RFA 01B) and, if applicable, an Out-of-State Child Abuse Neglect Report Request (Form LIC 198B)
- Proof of identity (e.g. driver’s license, California State ID, etc.) Note: immigration status is not a reason for the county to deny placement of a child with a relative. Other forms of ID will be accepted.
- Consent for DCFS to obtain DMV reports for you and for any other adults residing or regularly in your home that may frequently transport children in your care
- Consent to release all requested evaluative reports and records (includes physical and mental health ones)
- Health Questionnaire (RFA 07), or a health screening by a licensed health professional not older than one year before the RFA application date
- DCFS-approved caregiver orientation (likely to be conducted in your home)
- CPR/First Aid training
- 12 hours of DCFS-approved caregiver training (does not include orientation or CPR/First Aid training). Note: some counties may have additional requirements
- Verification of your employment (if employed)
- Verification of current income and disclosure of expenses
- Documents verifying ownership or rental of your home
- Documentation of any prior history and/or present status you may have as an approved relative caregiver
- Names and contact information for two (2) people who can attest to your character and your ability to safely care for the youth. If this info is not available, applicant must document reasons.
- Allow a home health and safety assessment (to determine whether there are home conditions that affect the health, safety and well-being of a child)
- Participate in a family evaluation (includes comprehensive inquiry into applicant's personal history, family history and family dynamics)
The RFA Assessment Components
The County’s Written Assessment and Decision
Once the RFA application is reviewed and assessed, the county must complete a written report of the comprehensive assessment of the resource family that includes a determination that the family possesses the following characteristics:
An understanding of the safety, permanency, and well-being needs of children and nonminor dependents (“NMDs”) who have been victims of child abuse and neglect, a capacity and willingness to meet those needs, and the willingness to make use of support resources offered by the agency, have a support structure in place, or both.
- An understanding of children and NMD’s needs and development, effective parenting skills, and a capacity to act as a reasonable and prudent parent in day-to-day decision making.
- An understanding of the resource family role and the capacity to work cooperatively with the approving agency and other services providers in implementing the case plan.
- The financial ability within the household to ensure the stability and financial security of the family.
- The ability and willingness to maintain the least restrictive and most family like environment.
Once You are Resource Family Approved
Once you are an approved resource family, please visit our Dependency Court Process and For Resource Families webpages for information and resources. Even though you have been RFA approved, that does not guarantee placement of a child in your home.
If You are Denied Resource Family Approval
If you are denied resource family approval or you are decertified (i.e. delicensed), you are entitled to be served a Notice of Action that states the reasons why you were denied or decertified and any statutory authority for the decision. The Notice of Action will also detail your rights to file a written appeal contesting the action (in the form of a state hearing). RFA Written Directives Version 5 (effective 2/6/18) Section 12-05 (at page 98)
If you are planning to apply for a state hearing, pay attention to the timeframe to appeal. In certain instances, you only have 25 calendar days to request a state hearing. Please visit our State Hearing page for more information.
For detailed information and instructions to staff on the components and requirements of the approval protocol scroll down to "Written Directives" on the Resource Family Approval Program webpage on the California Department of Social Services website.