Yay! You have decided to become a foster or foster to adopt family and that feels so exciting! But then the reality of the home study sets in and you may be feeling a little overwhelmed and nervous!
My family has actually gone through the home study process twice (thanks to moving states and having to get relicensed as foster parents! You can check out our story in this post here.)
The crazy thing is, that the second time around was just as overwhelming and nerve-wracking as the first! I don’t know if it is just the fear of having someone come in your life and home potentially judge you. Or if it is the sheer amount of tasks and information that you have to digest and put in place…
Whatever it is, getting ready for a foster care home study is a headache! Here are some tips that I have learned along the way that may be helpful as you go through the process.
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Tips for Making it Through Your Foster Care Home Study
Get clear with your family on what you want and are open to (and what you don’t want)
You have probably already been talking and dreaming about what things will look like once you add foster children to your family. It’s important before undertaking the home study to really think through what you and your family are open to. For example, do you only want a certain gender, age, etc.
Make sure to have this conversation with everyone in the family. It is important if you have bio-kids that they have input on everything as well.
It’s okay to not be open to every type of foster child out there
Hopefully, this goes without saying, but it is OKAY to not be open to a particular age, gender, behavioral or medical need.
When we first started fostering, I really thought that I was okay with having higher behavioral needs kids in our home given my counseling background and specialty in the parent/child relationship. The reality though, was that I needed to consider my biological children as well.
Taking high needs kids (while working full-time) left me very little time and energy to give to my boys and my husband. If we hadn’t gotten much tighter on our boundaries and our ability to say no to taking really tough placements, we would have burned out and not been able to continue.
The same concept goes for thinking about birth order, or whether or not you have the time and freedom to work with babies or teens, or medically fragile children etc. Now that I work from home, I really can only work with school-aged kids so that I don’t have to try to find a daycare or juggle caring for kids during my work hours.
I think it is important to remind yourself that setting these kinds of boundaries does not make you a bad person. Foster care is tough. You HAVE to take care of yourself and your bio-family in order to be able to continue to provide love and care in the midst of chaos and a broken system.
Be prepared to get personal in your interview
Part of your home study will be an in-depth interview. I’m not going to lie here – the questions can get really personal and sort of uncomfortable to be talking about with a near stranger.
Our home study interviews had questions about our childhoods, our beliefs, our marriage, our parenting style, and our community connections/support. We were also asked about any past abuse history, as well as our current discipline strategies.
In the end, don’t stress too much about the interview. The social workers who perform these interviews have likely heard it all. They also realize that the questions are personal and invasive.
If you are unclear, don’t be afraid to ask
There are a lot of expectations, trainings, tasks, and preparations that you will have to undertake during the home study process. It can get pretty overwhelming.
If you are unclear, don’t be afraid to ask! One thing that came up for us during our last home study was that we had to have an inspection by the fire department. (Not something we had to do in our previous state.)
I received a sheet of inspection points prior to scheduling the fire inspection. One of the fire department’s requirements was no extension cords could be used. I got really worried about how we were going to use our computers and such without power strips – a computer set up (or a tv set up with a game console) just doesn’t work with the standard wall outlet!
After worrying about this for a couple of weeks and putting off the inspection because of the worry, I finally called the fire department to ask about it. It turns out that power strips were totally fine! They just didn’t want to see us using extension cords that didn’t have the surge protection like power strips have.
I wish I had just asked right from the start – it would have saved me a lot of stress!
Start practicing setting boundaries now
Here’s the thing, becoming a foster parent means that you are going to have to be in close contact with the State and all of its disfunction. You will have multiple social workers, CASA providers, mental health professionals, etc. that you need to work with.
It can be easy to let that all take over your life. It is so important to set firm boundaries around your time and your family. If a social worker wants to meet with you in the middle of your kiddos soccer practice time, don’t be afraid to let them know that you are busy at that time!
The same goes for the whole process of the home study. Go at the pace that works for you. Meet with social workers at times that don’t completely disrupt your life and/or your family.
Only buy the essentials
There will be a lot of things that you need to acquire to pass your home inspection such as:
- Safety products like (Outlet covers, Child Proof Door Chimes or Knobs, Sliding glass door child locks, window locks, cabinet locks, etc.)
- Medicine Cabinet (in our last house we were able to turn a closet into our medicine closet and replace the doorknob with a locking one.) In our new house, I didn’t have that so I found a great locker style cabinet at IKEA that is in our pantry.
- Beds and/or Cribs
- Fire Extinguishers
- Fire Ladders (if you have a 2 story house)
It can be tempting to go out and buy clothes, cute décor, and other fun items. If your budget allows, this can be okay, but make sure that you have covered the basic requirements first as they do add up!
Also, keep in mind that you may not really know all that you will need until you actually have a placement. It’s okay (and probably better) to hold off buying the non-essentials prior to getting that first placement.
Here are some of my favorite child safety products that we purchased to pass our home study:
Plan on taking time out of your busy schedule for trainings
You will most likely need to attend quite a few hours of training with the State or with your Foster Agency as part of the process of getting licensed. We were able to find an agency that does a lot of online training which was a life-saver this time around since my husband has been traveling a lot for work.
In addition to the foster care trainings, you will also probably need to take a CPR class. You will need to get professionally fingerprinted (this has required an appointment in both states we have done this in.) You will also need to find time to go to the doctors for a TB test and then return 2-3 days later to have the test read. All of these requirements take time!
Make a checklist of all your to-dos to keep you organized
Finally, if your agency doesn’t provide you with a list of to-dos, create one. Staying organized feels like half the battle of making it through this process.
You will need to keep track of paperwork. (Always make copies of everything you send in!!!) You will also need to keep track of requirements, appointments, and trainings.
Final Thoughts on Making it Through Your Foster Care Home Study
As my husband and I went through the home study for the second time this past year, we had an interesting conversation. We were both bemoaning the time and frustration of getting through all of the requirements and appointments when it hit me.
The home study process is really a weeding out and a training process. If you can make it through – then you will be able to handle the endless requirements, appointments, and bureaucracy that comes with being a foster parent.
None of us signed up to be foster parents because we love paperwork and disruptions to our schedules and ridiculous regulations. We do this because we are called to love and care for those in need. Keep that in mind and you will make it through your home study too!
By the way, I have a Foster Care Coping Skills bundle that is a great resource to have in place prior to starting your work with foster kids. One of the best things you will be able to do for these kids is to teach them how to handle their emotions and behaviors in healthy ways. This bundle is a great resource to help you with that endeavor. You can learn more about it here.
Sending you love and light