In July, we had a post-PRIDE meeting which was the final hurdle before the home study could begin.
It is hard to imagine how strange it is that to this point in the process, we had not talked one-on-one to anyone. We had done 30+ hours of training and completed all the paper work but hadn’t had a private conversation about who we are or what we offer. But that is the way it is.
In this phase, we had a fire inspection (you need one 5 pound ABC fire extinguisher on each floor, smoke alarms on each floor, outlet covers throughout house, flash lights on each floor, a house diagram with fire escape plan, and they check the hot water heater and breaker box). After a trip to Home Depot to buy the two fire extinguishers – the three 3 pounders we had did not count for anything – we passed inspection.
Then we talked with the home study worker to set up our first meeting. She was off on vacation for a couple of weeks so it was again hurry up to wait. My favorite question from this exchange was whether I am currently a stay-at home mother. I explained that if a stay-at-home mom can have no children then yes, I am a stay-at-home mom! In reality, I more often describe myself as a “professional volunteer.” Seriously? Read the file. Urgh. (But she was in vacation mode.)
Anyway, we finally come to the long awaited home study…we started with a meeting at the house with our home study worker in early August. The first meeting was lots of form signing: preventing spread of infections policy, medication policy, AIDS policy, discipline policy, firearms policy, confidentiality policy, and the grievance procedure. And we received more homework: an information sheet about our support system, our family income and expense budget (monthly and annualized), the attitudes towards sexual issues questionnaire (one for each of us), and our LifeBook profile page (think executive summary for this whole packet of information). We were also given the “environmental health checklist” to prepare for the walk-about of our home to ensure we are kid friendly. (I’ll write more about this tomorrow – it is good for a laugh, but we’ll be ready for anything in a few more weeks.) And we answered the same five questions we have answered ten times before in this process…but it’s progress and we’re glad to be making it.
So what is a LifeBook? These are like scrapbooks that give the world a snapshot of Chris and I. Think of it like the glossy brochure you get at a car dealership trying to sell you on that Toyota Prius. Except its about us. Now you may be asking yourself “really, you have to market yourself to be a foster parent?” No, but yes. We are applying for a type of foster care called legal risk, where the children have a (slightly) higher chance of being adoptable in the long run.* Because there is a higher chance of a permanent placement from the get-go, Child Protective Services scrutinizes legal risk foster homes a bit more than traditional foster homes. So, effectively, we have to market ourselves to CPS. Now thanks to things like (well, I don’t know like what but Amy does), we can make our LifeBook on line and have it come in the mail like a real book. So I have been gathering up pictures and prose to create our LifeBook.
The other kind of LifeBook is the kind we will keep for every child that comes in to our home (or will continue the one that they come with). By keeping up a baby book/ scrapbook of sorts for each foster child, they have a sense of continuity, belonging, and history that they might not otherwise have in moving from one household to another while transitioning toward permanency somewhere. So, like most new parents, we’ll be needing a new digital camera.
*70 percent of children in foster care are ultimately placed with a parent or family member. Legal risk might give you a 50-50 chance, at best.