Resource Family Approval

The Resource Family Approval (“RFA”) program is a new state-wide foster caregiver approval process for all caregivers (related and non-related).

The RFA program has a single approval standard that replaces the existing 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. Beginning in January 2017, the RFA program was implemented statewide.

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.

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


Existing Foster Families and Relative Caregivers Must Be Re-Licensed

State law requires that all currently licensed foster family homes, approved relative caregivers, or NREFMs must convert to the RFA program no later than December 31, 2019. 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)


Placement Prior to Resource Family Approval

Emergency Placement with Relative or Nonrelative Extended Family Member (NREFM)

In an emergency situation, a child or a non-minor dependent can be placed with a relative or NREFM prior to the completion of a permanency assessment if the following requirements are met:

  • A successfully completed home environment assessment
  • A criminal records check and Child Abuse Central Index clearance initiating the RFA process within 5 business days (including live scan completed within 10 days of placement) and all remaining components of the RFA process completed within 90 days of placement
  • If there is a compelling reason, see below for more information.

The County shall complete a Comprehensive Assessment of an applicant and prepare a Written Report within 90 calendar days of the date a child or nonminor dependent was temporarily placed with the relative or NREFM, unless "good cause" exists.

Placement Based on Compelling Reason

A County may temporarily place a child with "an applicant" prior to Resource Family Approval based on a compelling reason.  NOTE: Advokids reads the use of the word "applicant" in the Written Directives as caregivers, even those who are not NREFM or relatives. 

A compelling reason may include, but is not limited to:

  • The unique needs of a child or non minor dependent.
  • The best interest of a child or non minor dependent to maintain his or her family or family-like connections with an applicant.

The County still must complete a background check and a health and safety assessment of the home and grounds. Further, the County must conduct a Permanency Assessment of an applicant and prepare a Written Report within 90 calendar days of the date a child was temporarily placed with the applicant, unless "good cause" exists.

Benefits Do Not Begin Until After RFA Approval

Please note that when a placement is made prior to approval for an emergency or compelling reason the applicant family is not eligible to receive AFDC/FC benefits until all components of the approval protocol have been successfully completed.
Welfare and Institutions Code section 16519.5(e)


The RFA Assessment Components

Home Environment - Applicant must meet standards as to building and grounds, storage requirements, and capacity determination.
Welfare and Institutions Code section 16519.5(d)

Background Checks - Comprehensive criminal records and child abuse checks.
Welfare and Institutions Code section 16519.5(d)(2)(A)

Psychosocial Assessment - Family dynamics and characteristics including mental, physical, and emotional health assessed through a minimum of three face-to-face interviews with each applicant and one joint interview of all applicants. There is also to be at least one separate face-to-face interview of all other persons, including children and non-minor dependents, residing in the home.
Welfare and Institutions Code section 16519.5(d)(3)

Training - Applicant must complete a minimum of 12 hours of pre-approval training and a minimum of 8 hours of post-approval training annually.
Welfare and Institutions Code sections 16519.5 (d)(3), (g), and (h)


The County’s Written Assessment

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)


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

For basic information regarding Resource Family Approval, please review:

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

Alliance for Children's Rights Resource Family Approval Toolkit

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