Resource Family Approval

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.

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

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.

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.

California Department of Social Services All County Letter No. 16-10 (2016)

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 to assist you in advocating on behalf of a foster child placed 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.

Additional Resources

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.

Also see Welfare and Institutions Code Section 16519.5

Department of Social Services All County Letter No. 16-10

Department of Social Services All County Letter No. 16-58

State of California Department of Social Services RFA Program Webpage

5643 Paradise Drive, Suite 12B, Corte Madera, CA 94925  •  415.924.0587


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