Following the approval of a state Assembly bill in 2015, California’s child welfare system began to embrace a host of new policies and terms in the foster care arena. Among the many changes brought about by AB 403, the Resource Family Approval program has stood out as a point of confusion for many. While talk of resource families and RFA requirements sounds daunting at first, the concept behind the new legislation is not so complex.

Foster parents and foster families still exist in California, but they go by a new name: "resource families."

Put simply, a resource family is any individual, couple or family that has been approved to take children into their care. Whether someone is looking to adopt, foster or temporarily open their home to a child, they will first need to become a resource family by way of the RFA process.

In order to receive a resource family designation, each applicant must pass a home inspection, background check, and family evaluation. Resource families also receive mandatory training that prepares them to create safe and nurturing home environments.

Prior to AB 403, different types of caregivers received different levels of training and support. The RFA program provides a statewide standard of approval for all caregivers—short-term or long-term, relatives or non-relatives—to ensure that each is equally equipped to meet the needs of a child who has been displaced. Under the new system, people fostering children can become adoptive parents without undergoing an additional home study.

The push for a uniform approval process comes on the heels of a statewide effort to establish stability in the lives of foster youth. Lawmakers agreed that children deserve to grow up in a family setting, and the new legislation calls for less reliance on group home care and more effort toward placing youth with resource families. This will not only put foster youth on a more promising path to permanency, but get them adequate support to realize their full potential. In situations where children are not ready to live with a family, group care facilities may still be appropriate options for short-term treatment.

With an increase of children coming into foster care, the need for carefully trained families is at a high. Whereas old family approval processes could take several months, the RFA program aims to complete assessments within 90 days. Currently, one of the greatest challenges with the RFA program is assisting families through the approval process within the 90-day window, but as agencies adapt to new procedures, the vetting and training process is becoming more streamlined.

Lilliput Families has been at the forefront of the RFA program since its early conception. In 2016, Lilliput was one of five private agencies—known as “early implementers”—selected by the state to test the program prior to widespread implementation. Lilliput has also been a leading resource for relatives going through the RFA process. If you would like more information about becoming a resource family, reach out to one of Lilliput’s experts, Angie Nevin, at anevin@lilliput.org.