When my husband and I started the process of becoming an open foster home in the state of Oklahoma, we knew that a home study was involved. However, we had no idea what to expect or plan for during the process. I’m the kind of person that like to be 100% prepared for anything and everything so, naturally, I turned to Google to try and find any pieces of advice I could find. After spending hours trying to find a blog or website that had useful information, I was really at a loss because there wasn’t much of anything to refer to. The home study was, in my opinion, the most intimidating step of the certification process, so I was really struggling with the concept of not having any idea what to prepare for.
If you’re considering becoming a certified foster home, whether through an agency or directly through DHS, here are 4 tips to help you survive the foster care and adoption home study!
1. Have a clean and tidy home but don’t stress yourself out about every last pieces of dust.
I will admit that I am not a naturally “clean” person. I enjoy cleaning when I’m in the mood for it (usually after watching two hours of ‘power hour cleaning’ on YouTube) but most of the time I absolutely despise it. Our house is what I like to call ‘organized chaos after the tornado of life blows through’. Once we had a date on our calendar, I immediately got into cleaning and organizing mode and started the deepest clean our less than one year old house had ever experienced. I was piling things up to donate, filling up trash bags of things to get rid of, and scrubbing all of the imaginary dirt I could find. In the end, our worker complemented me on my design choices and spent about 30 seconds judging the cleanliness of our home. I highly recommend making sure your home is tidy and clean and that the majority of things are put away, but don’t stress yourself out trying to make your home look like it belongs on the cover of Architectural Digest.
2. You don’t have to have a nursery or bedroom completely done.
I wish someone had told me that when you’re trying to become a foster parent, you don’t have to have a perfect nursery or bedroom complete by the time your home study comes around. When the day finally came for our worker to come for her first visit, we had a perfectly designed nursery, a closet full of clothes that could fit a variety of sizes, and just about every baby item imaginable. The purpose of the home study is not to show off your amazing decorating skills, but instead, show that you have a bedroom that is in decent condition that could house potential placements safely. Don’t stress yourself out if the pieces of a crib or twin bed are in the room but not put together because there will be plenty of time for that later!
3. Prepare yourself for some pretty personal questions asked by a complete stranger.
The other half of the home study process is that your worker will ask you and your partner questions about your personal life, both together and separately, and there’s nothing that isn’t fair game. This is one of those things that I wasn’t completely prepared for and wish I had been. It is SO much harder to answer personal questions when you’re completely caught off guard by them! If you’re not comfortable talking to a stranger about personal things, it’s time to get comfortable because there’s no avoiding it. Caseworkers need to make sure that you are mentally, emotionally, and physically capable of taking care of children who need a strong support system and they’re going to have to ask the deep questions to find out.
4. Don’t stress.
If you’ve made it to the home study process, you’re most likely a good fit to be a foster parent. It’s so easy to stress about things and wonder if a caseworker will think you’re competent enough to be a foster parent. When your worker starts asking you questions, just be honest in your answers. Don’t hold anything back from him or her because if you do, chances are they will still find out about it. The worker who comes to your home may seem like he or she is trying to nitpick your life to find all the red flag, but I assure you that they are on your side and want nothing more than for you to succeed.
To become a foster parent, you don’t need to be perfect (I’m living proof of that). You don’t even need to be anywhere close to perfect.
You DO need to be capable of providing a safe and loving home for kids who need that love more than anything and anyone in this world.
You DO need to be able to handle the mental and emotional struggles of being a foster parent because there will be a lot of them.
The home study process, while intimidating, is there to protect both you and your family as a foster home and also the kiddos that could potentially be placed in your home. Don’t let your fear of personal questions or thinking that you don’t have the time to prepare for a home study stop you from becoming a foster or adoptive parent.