Model Family Foster Home Licensing Standards


Background: The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, Public Law (P.L.) 115- 123 was signed into law on February 9, 2018. P.L. 115-123 includes the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) in Division E, Title VII. Section 50731 of the FFPSA directs HHS to identify “identify reputable model licensing standards with respect to the licensing of foster family homes” (as defined in section 472(c)(1) of the Social Security Act (the Act)).


The American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Generations United and the National Association for Regulatory Administration have developed Model Family Foster Home Licensing Standards that, for the first time, help ensure children in foster care are safe while also establishing a reasonable, common-sense pathway to enable more relatives and non-related caregivers to become licensed foster parents.


These standards, which are the only comprehensive national guidelines, fill a previous void by giving the federal government a set of clear and practical requirements to reference and guide states in their efforts to license homes. Under federal law, states have extraordinary flexibility to create family foster home licensing standards, and the law requires only that states develop guidelines “reasonably in accord” with national organizations’ recommendations.


Model Family Foster Home Licensing Standards help ensure that children in foster care:


  • live in safe and appropriate homes under child welfare and court oversight,
  • receive monthly financial assistance and supportive services to help meet their needs, and
  • can access the permanency option of assisted guardianship in the states and tribes that
  • participate in the federal Guardianship Assistance Program (GAP).


The Model Family Foster Home Licensing Standards, which encompass all the necessary components to license a family foster home, are flexible enough to respond to individual circumstances, but most importantly they help ensure that children in out-of-home care have safe and appropriate homes. These standards should not be considered “minimum” criteria, but instead should be adopted as all the criteria necessary to license a safe home.


The standards are accompanied by an interpretative guide and crosswalk tool. The guide summarizes the purpose of each standard, and provides instructions necessary for compliance determinations. The crosswalk tool is designed to assist states compare and align their current standards with the model standards.


While we acknowledge that not all states will be able to implement this model in its entirety without any modifications, we challenge all states to use it to assess their own standards and ultimately to align their standards with this model. For the development and implementation of tribal foster care standards, please refer to the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) materials at


In creating these model licensing standards, our hope is that all children, regardless of the state in which they live, will be in homes that have met the same reasonable and achievable safety standards.


Download the Standards:


The following are the comments provided by NARA, Generations United and the ABA Center on Children and the Law: Considerations for Federal Register Comments on proposed Model National Family Foster Home Licensing Standards  as called for in the Family First Prevention Services Act


The Children’s Bureau used the National Association for Regulatory Administration (NARA) Model Family Foster Home Licensing Standards (NARA Model) as the “main source” for its National Model, and then accorded it “considerable deference” in deciding whether to modify the proposed National Model. You'll recall that Generations United and the ABA Center on Children and the Law, with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, were multiyear partners in researching all 50 states' licensing standards and then working with NARA to develop that Model.


The National Model Foster Home Licensing Standards were issued by the Administration for Children and Families Childrens Bureau via Information Memorandum on February 4, 2019. It  can be located here;


While the National Model does not incorporate all of the NARA standards, nothing in the National Model contradicts the NARA Model. Consequently, as part of the process required by Family First, states and tribes can also consult the NARA Model and its tools. There are certain NARA definitions, principles, and standards that provide important additional guidance.  


A FAQ on the National Model, the NARA Model on which it "relied heavily", and the Family First reporting requirements is attached and available at  


crosswalk for states to use to compare their standards with both Models is also available. You can access it here, or at




If you have questions or need assistance with comparing your state's standards with the Model Standards, please contact Jim Murphy, Executive Director and CEO, NARA at [email protected]  or Ana Beltran, JD at Generations United at [email protected].