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Let’s Talk Home Studies

(This post is released in conjunction with my YouTube video on the same subject, to make resources easier to find. Watch the video for my full commentary.)

When it comes to foster care, I frequently get asked about home studies. “I’m really nervous about my home study.” “What do I need to do to get ready for our home study?” “I’m not a great housekeeper – will I fail a home study?”

First off, let’s be clear about what the purpose of a home study IS and IS NOT.

A Home Study is Not:

This is not a test of your cleaning, organizing, or homemaking skills. Your pantry doesn’t need to look like a Pinterest post in order to become a foster parent.

Your home study is not an evaluation of your decorating taste, style, or ability (or lack thereof).

It is not a white-glove military inspection. No one is coming to measure the angle of the creases on your sheets.

In fact, a home study is not really primarily about your home at all. Yes, there are pieces of it that apply to your physical home that you will need to work on and comply with. But they are not actually the primary focus of a foster care home study.

A Home Study IS:

Your home study is primarily about YOU and your family, rather than your home. The goal is to make sure that you and your family can provide a safe and supportive home for a child in need – both physically and emotionally. Your home study writer will also be exploring what kind of child you will be best suited to parent, and how they might affect your family dynamic. This process will also help to identify what further support, resources, or training may be beneficial to help you succeed as a foster parent.

And yes, they also want to make sure that your house meets certain requirements. Those requirements of foster care are there so that your house isn’t just not dangerous, but actively anticipates and stays a step ahead of potential safety risks.

The Heart of it All

The home study process can feel very invasive, vulnerable, and judgmental on our end. Just remember that children come into foster care because someONE or someTHING has fundamentally failed them along the line, and the purpose of a home study is to avoid putting an already-traumatized child into an unstable environment. No one is evaluating your success or failure at life – they are simply looking for red flags that could affect the care a child receives.

And for all those physical things you need to comply with, I’ve put together a list of the things we used (or similar things) as foster parents. (Disclaimer: This list is not definitive, and my inclusion does not guarantee it will meet your state or agency’s requirements. Please check all final decisions with your family’s caseworker.)

(This list is not sponsored – all recommendations and opinions are my own. The links provided are affiliate links and my family will receive a small commission for orders you make from them.)

Smoke Detector:

Carbon Monoxide Detectors:

Fire Extinguisher:

Small Tool Box (for medications):

Luggage Locks (to go on the tool boxes):

Magnetic Cabinet Locks:

Convertible Car Seat:

Basic Crib:

Frames (make all those required documents part of your decor):

Adoption, Foster Care

The Road Here

“I think it’s time to start moving on something adoption or orphan care related.”

Adoption had been on our radar for a while. We knew there was a huge need, and we felt we’d been equipped to do something toward meeting that need. But as we prayed about it and explored options, it was never right. The time wasn’t right; our space wasn’t right; the venue wasn’t right. The directive seemed to just be “wait.”

But one October night as we were getting ready for bed, Jon said “I think it’s time. I think God is telling me it’s time to move on this.” “Ok, so now what?” “I don’t know. That’s not clear to me.” So we agreed to pray about it before we went to sleep. We woke up the next morning to an email in both our inboxes from our church advertising an adoption and foster care informational conference coming up that November. That seemed like a pretty clear direction. So we signed up.

At the conference, we talked to everyone: every agency, every ministry, every organization. We asked questions about the ins-and-outs of different options, and about where the greatest needs were. We attended breakout sessions on “Adoption 101” and “Foster Care 101” and just took in as much information as we could. At the end of the day, we got back in the car together, looked at each other, and asked “Well, what are you thinking?”

“You know,” I told Jon, “I’ve always been focused on adoption – adoption for the sake of adoption – adoption as the end goal. But after hearing everything today, I feel like we could foster. We could just foster for the sake of fostering and helping out whole families, without necessarily adopting.” “That’s exactly what I was thinking, actually,” Jon answered. It was decided. We started our training classes the first week of January, doing our home study concurrently. We finished classes the first of March, and finished our end of the home study about a week later.

Then we waited. We waited while the final home study was written and submitted, then while our family caseworker input all the information into the state’s system. There were about three weeks when we heard nothing. Finally, I got an email from our case worker saying “everything’s been input, so I’m sending your file off to Nashville for final approval. I usually hear back on these in about a week or so, sometimes a little longer.” I called Jon to let him know.

Less than an hour later – I think it was 57 minutes – I got another email from our case worker. “Well, you guys must have some serious power behind you, because your approval just came back already. I’ve never seen this happen before!” Serious power, indeed. “So, just be aware that I’m sending your information over to placement and you might start getting calls soon.”

My phone rang ten minutes later.

There was a little girl, about one-and-a-half, that needed a pre-adoptive placement. Oh, and there would be a newborn baby sister coming in a couple months, too. Would we be willing to take both of them, potentially forever? We had overnight to decide, before a meeting at the DCS office to discuss moving homes for this little girl. As we talked about it that night, we just couldn’t deny God’s very obvious hand in all the timing. We said yes. The toddler moved in three days later; the baby came home less than two months afterward.

That was nearly two years ago. Today, those little girls are three-and-a-half and one-and-a-half and they are forever ours – adopted after over a year in our family. We’ve had other foster placements in the meantime – some long, some short, one more forever. Foster care is not an easy road to walk. But all along the way, God has been faithful to show us when and how to walk it – one step at a time.