1. Freak out
Well, we all knew it was coming! Just get it out of the way. I’m all about keeping it
real, and friends, your home study checklist needs to start with your freak out. So, let’s take a
moment together, just you and me, let the heart palpitations and What If’s begin. Holy crap! What
are you doing?!? Let out a good scream. AAAAHHHHH! Are you sure you want to do this? Yes?
Ok. Step one is complete.
2. Calm down
Seriously, you are going to be fine. You got this! Take a deep breath, inhale and exhale. You will need to jump through a couple hoops, and then you will pass your home study no problem. Does your home pass all local zoning, building and safety codes? You are on the right track already! Are you a normal person? This is going to be fine. It is a lot less challenging than you think.
3. Cancel the maid service
You house doesn’t need to be spotless! The home must be kept clean, in good repair, and free from hazardous conditions. In most cases, they are only concerned about issues with cleanliness that may cause harm to the child. In Ontario it is worded as “general house cleaning standards consistent with community norms”. Is there a bit of dust in the corner? Is there a bit of cereal on the floor? Is there hair on the bathroom counter? That is not going to fail you. We are talking about stuff like, hazardous materials (medications, household chemicals, and tools) must be stored in a place that is inaccessible to children. See, I told you it would be fine!
4. Make sure your home is safe
I think this one is pretty obvious, but if you have any firearms in the home you must follow local laws regarding their ownership and for the purpose of a home study, must be locked in containers that are inaccessible to children; while ammunition must be kept in separate, locked containers.
5. Make sure your stuff works
The home must have appliances in good working order; adequate heat, lighting, ventilation and a working bathroom with hot and cold running water. You've got that right? Some agencies will test the temperature of the water to determine if it is running too hot. You can check this all out yourself before they arrive.
6. Make sure your place is big enough
How many children are you inviting to your home? The home must be large enough to provide adequate space for living, sleeping, eating, and play for all occupants. This is sometimes detailed in writing, but could also be at the discretion of the licensing worker. Do your homework and know what guidelines your agency is working from. Sharing beds is often an issue, so be prepared to have each child with access to their own, age appropriate bed with clean bedding (not new, but not so dirty it is unsafe for a child). Some agencies will have a minimum room size that must be provided to each child in care. Other agencies will specify a maximum number of children allowed per bedroom regardless of room size. Exceptions to these standards are
sometimes made for same gender siblings, but most will not allow opposite gender siblings to share a room, regardless of age. Also, most will not allow children (regardless of age) to share a bedroom with an adult, unless it is deemed medically necessary.
7. Stop Drop and Roll
Most agencies require that working smoke detectors be installed near sleeping areas. Others require that you simply follow local fire codes regarding the amount of working smoke detectors. You may also need to report your safety & evacuation plan should there be a home fire. Working portable fire extinguishers & carbon monoxide detectors are now required in some areas for foster care. Please check with your local agency regarding the regulations for these devices.
8. Be prepared for the interview questions
Part of the home study will involve a stranger asking you some personal questions. If you are like me and want to be prepared in advance, expect to be asked about your personal history, parenting practices, your occupation, and support system. If you have a partner or other children in the home they will ask about your relationships with each other (yup, they will probably ask about your sex life). They will want to talk with you about some more sensitive issues such as tobacco, alcohol and drug use (some foster care agencies do not allow smoking in the home or any car transporting a foster child). Your personal experience with sexual, emotional and / or physical abuse, any history of allegations of child abuse, any violence or crime in your family (esp any crimes involving a child committed by one of your family members). Be honest in your answers and don’t be tempted to hide something you think might look bad. I know individuals that have had tough answers to report to some of these questions and they have still been approved as they were able to share how they could still provide a safe home for a child.
9. Can you hear me now?
The child must have telephone access in case of emergencies. Many agencies will want a landline in the home, if younger children will not have a cell phone. Near the landline should be a list of phone numbers inc 911 for children to reference in an emergency.
10. Make a cuppa tea
You are going to be fine. If you are a normal person in a regular house you can breathe easy. Most agencies are excited to have found you and they want you to pass! They are on your team, not against you. Most of the time, if they find any issues, they will tell you what needs to be fixed and come back to check again later. So, partner with them and you will be just fine. Now to sit back and wait... and wait... and then make some more tea and wait a bit longer. But you will find your own family. They might live with you for a couple weeks or forever, but you will find them. Just wait.