Foster Care Home Study Process
One MAJOR step in the Foster Care process is a home study. This home study will be completed in a series of interviews, personal and professional paperwork, and inspections of your physical home. Don't fear, I'm going to break it down for you. Grab a cup of Joe.
After you have had some formal training, classes, workshops and have a certificate that says you have accomplished those, you'll be ready for the next step.
The next step is the foster care home study. The process entails a lot of paperwork initially. You'll complete the paperwork for yourself and anyone else living in the home who will be in a parental role will also complete the paperwork. (i.e. An adult child won't necessarily need to complete the paperwork.)
Paperwork for the Foster Care Home Study
By "paperwork" I mean a survey of everything regarding your background, childhood feelings, upbringing, emotions, parenting style, past trauma, family support, friend support systems, work background, job security, religion, education, marriage stability, family stability, extended family members involvement, and more.
This survey makes you think. It is not an easy task. I also had to write a biography and type my husband's for him. It was daunting. I did not want to do it. Why was it even necessary? (read on...)
Financials were needed as well. You cannot be a foster parent without the proper financial stability You may even need to provide the worker with a budget for your household. If you do not get a subsidy for a month or two (for whatever reason), the worker needs to know that the child will not suffer. And, know that you do not get money upfront. It is always a month behind.
The next step would be to do a self-study of your home. The adoption agency will give you a list of items that are required to meet before a home study can be successful. These would include things like the following:
water temperature less than 120 degrees F
the railing is 12 inches or less apart
all stairs have a railing
a carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector are present
medications are in a locked box
cleaning supplies are out of reach of children
all windows have screens
all windows lock
You get the idea of the checklist items, and there are about 1,472 items that need to be done. Just kidding. However, It may feel like it, but just be aware that the social services department is wanting to keep the child physically safe. The rules and checklist are there to prevent accidents. There may be questions about having a trampoline. Ultimately, you may or may not be allowed to have a trampoline, depending on your state or agency, because of the increased risk involved physically when children play on those.
Another survey is one that will force you to think deeply about what type of foster child or children you are looking for. This will mean what age, what sex, how many, what background, what race, what culture, what abuses, special needs, and much more. Are you willing to take a pregnant teen? Are you willing to take a teen boy who has been sexually abused? Are you willing to take a girl who has no background data? Are you willing (or able) to take a child who is in a wheelchair? Are you willing to take a child who has ADHD or asthma? You will need to be honest and open with your spouse and the worker.
Consequently, know that just because you mark the box "no", doesn't mean that you won't get a call for the specific quality you did not want. For instance, if you can only take in girls due to bedroom situations, you may get a call for boys. In our home, we only wanted children younger than our youngest child, but our first call was for a 15-year old girl. You can change your mind; the list is just a way to get you to consider the possibilities.
You'll need to complete an ecomap related to your life. This gives the social worker a visual of your life, the people in your life, and the responsibilities (job, church, hobbies, volunteerism) that you currently have. Then you will assess how adding a child or children will change the ecomap.
Another aspect will be a background check. You will complete the paperwork, go to a fingerprinting station, and pay your $15-$25 fee. These results usually go to the agency you place as your contact and they get the result. This also allows them to investigate if there is any child abuse registries, and gives state clearance for you.
INVASIVE? Foster Care Home Study?
Yes it is.
The agency is trying to find a family that is suitable and willing to take a child. If you aren't willing to accomplish the items on their list and jump through their hoops, then you do not get their child. Ultimately the child is theirs.
The agency is making sure that you are prepared, emotionally, socially, financially, structurally and physically. You will also need physical clearance from a medical physician and perhaps psychological clearance; because, you are going to encounter children who have trauma and you, yourself, need to be VERY stable to do that. Medical forms must be taken to your physician to complete and he/she will disclose medications that you take, how healthy you are, and if this is something that you are physically able to do.
About the biographies...
The biographies we completed wanted to know about our childhood, upbringing, religious experiences, educational experiences, past trauma, and how we, as a couple, met. I included how my normal middle-class self met my husband, how we met and had our first two children. How there was a void.... why we chose foster care....
I may share that bio in another post. My husband's bio was a one-page typed biography. These were nothing fancy. The purpose is to see that you are "normal" if there is such a thing. The purpose is to see who you are, why you are interested in taking in new children into your home? Because, in reality, our society is selfish, so this helps them understand that we had a passion for the 'least of these' and we ultimately were interested in adopting a boy. We had two girls already and felt a boy would be a great addition. The biography allowed me to write (type) this all down.
Interviews will be a separate post. There will be three interviews that will be done with an agency's child services worker. They will come to your home, do the house inspection and sit with you and talk - a very informal feeling interview.
Basically the agency does not want any harm to come to the child while they are in your care at your home, and they want to make 100% sure that you are stable, structured, loving, and prepared.
Tune in next time for the grit on the interview. I'll share my personal feelings and why I cried in front of the worker.
Does the process seem daunting? What is the strangest part of the home study for you? Leave me a comment. What other questions can I address for you? Your kind comment below will prompt me to do another post.