Tuesday, April 7, 2015

foster answers: part 4

What was the qualification / licensing process like?
When we first decided to get licensed, we called the DCFS office to schedule a preliminary in-home interview.  A week or so later, a caseworker came to our house to see if we would be a good fit for the foster care system.  It was a very general interview, and she didn't inspect our house.  She mostly talked with us about why we wanted to do foster care, what demographic of child we were open to, etc.  This is kind of a "make sure they're not crazy" interview.  At the end, she invited us to attend training classes.  The schedule / location for the training classes is not posted anywhere publicly.   You have to be invited to attend.  (The schedule is different every month to accommodate for different family schedules.  They show you the schedule for a few months so you can attend the sessions that fit your schedule best.)  

There are eight 4-hour training classes.  They start over every month.  You have to start with either class 1 or 2, but after that you can go out of order if necessary.  (Example: If you had to skip class 4, just keep on, but then next month, you go on the night class 4 is being taught.)  You have a few months ((I can't remember exactly how many - between three and six) to complete your training once you start.  Our preliminary interview happened the day the March classes started.  Because we were busy that week and couldn't attend class 1 or 2, we started the training in April.

Our process took longer than most because we had an odd schedule this year.  So, as you do the training, you also are supposed to be doing paperwork (diagramming your house, writing about your family's personality, CPR training, getting background checks...).  Once everything's turned in, you can schedule your home study (typically scheduled about six weeks out).  Because I was teaching at the time, we chose to start our paperwork as we were finishing our classes (so we wouldn't be doing everything foster at once).  We did some, and then it was May - the last month of school and Fiesta Season - during which I chose to focus on finishing school.  When school ended, we worked like crazy getting things in since I would be out of town most of June.  Our goal was to get everything in so we could schedule the home study and have the six-week wait while I was gone.  Unfortunately, a couple pieces of paperwork got lost in the turn-in process.  Some of that required me to be present, so it wasn't resolved until July.   Once everything was in and processed, it was time for the home study.

We were assigned a home study person (I can't remember the official title), and sadly, we were assigned one with too much on her plate.  We tried and tried to contact her and schedule something, but were unsuccessful for 2-3 weeks.  At the end of that time, we were assigned a new person.  The day she was assigned to us, she called and scheduled our home study for the next week!  Finally!  The ball was rolling again!

Safety requirements for foster homes:
a smoke alarm on each floor; a fire extinguisher (minimum 2A10BC five point, rated multi-purpose, dry chemical); banisters on open staircases; railings around decks and porches higher than ground level; at least four feet clear around the furnace and water heater; 60 square foot bedrooms for single occupancy, with at least 40 square feet per child in a multiple occupancy bedroom; a separate bed for each child; bedroom storage place for each child; a working window in each bedroom; a first aid kit in the home and each car; locked storage for all medication, including multivitamins; locked storage for hazardous chemicals, including cleaning supplies and outdoor chemicals; locked storage for firearms; a telephone that always stays home; posted emergency phone numbers; enough seat belts for the number of people in the family; infant or toddler car seats; gates or doors on stairways; safety plugs on the outlets

Not having any of those things can fail you.  So.  We spent the week and a half before our home study making sure we had it all.  :)  A lot of people clean their houses like crazy, too, but we figured, if you'd fail us for what our house normally looks like, you might as well fail us now.  So we straightened, vacuumed, cleaned the bathrooms, and made sure the bedrooms were emptied of the junk being stored in them, but we didn't worry about things like cleaning baseboards or making sure our tile job in the front hallway was finished.  

As it turned out, the interview was a way bigger part of the home study.  Our lady scheduled four hours and took every minute.  She interviewed us together for about an hour - What's the strongest / weakest part of your marriage?  What kinds of things do you fight about?  What are your hobbies?  What kinds of food does your family like?  How do you resolve conflict?  Why do you want to do foster care?  Tell me about your parenting styles.  And then she interviewed us each individually for about an hour and a half each - Where did you grow up?  What was your relationship like with your mom while you were growing up?  What is it like now?  How often do you talk?  How often do you see each other?  (Repeat those four questions for every member in the family.)  Tell me everything you've done since graduating high school.  What are your strengths and weaknesses?  How do you act when you're angry?  etc., etc., etc.

Then for the last 15 minutes she walked around and looked at our house.  Haha :)

We were blessed to have a very efficient home study person.  Instead of listening, taking notes, going back to the office and typing the report, she asked permission to type it up as she listened.  So, instead of taking two weeks to get it done, it took no extra time outside of the interview.  She got it to her supervisor that afternoon to read and evaluate because she knew he was going out of town.  Usually it's about a month after the home study that you receive your license in the mail.  We got ours three days later.

So we were officially licensed!

How long was it between becoming licensed and getting your first placement?
About a month and a half.  But like I said, most of the time was because of our schedule.  I was out of town again for most of September.  (I know, it was a weird year.)  Because we knew that'd be happening, we asked them not to give us a placement until I got back.  Well, we said, "If you really need us and Joel needs to use his vacation days to be a stay-at-home dad until Alison gets back, we absolutely will do that.  But it'd be easier on everyone, probably, if you waited until Alison's back."  About a week before I got home, we got a call about a placement.  We said yes, and Joel got off work and everything... and then we got a call back and said we wouldn't be getting the kids after all.  It was those kids' caseworker's first time placing, and she mistakenly told us it was a sure thing before it was.  That was pretty heartbreaking.

I got home on September 30, and on October 9, we received our first placement.  After they left, we asked for a little time to get our hearts and home ready for new kids.  We gave DCFS a day that they could call again, and on that day, we got a phone call about our next (and current) placement.  Some people wait a long time (sometimes months), but we've never had to wait much longer than our availability.  I personally think it's largely due to the fact that we'll take kids who are a little older (not just infants) and also because we can take - and want - sibling groups (as opposed to just one child).

Yeesh!  That was huge!  And hopefully not too dry. :)

everything else I originally planned for today.  haha :) Do you have to own a home?  What are the requirements if you already have kids?  and some more.

Previous posts on this topic:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3


Who could ever learn to love a beast?
Beauty and the Beast


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