Friday, May 09, 2014

Foster Parent Friday - The "Dreaded" Homestudy

Q: What is a homestudy?  And what happens at a homestudy?  And what should I be prepared for?  And what questions are they going to ask?  And where are they going to look?  And...

A: Come on y'all - you've all been there right?  At least if you've gone through the licensing process for adoption and/or foster care, if you're in the process now, or if you've considered becoming licensed you've most definitely wondered about this nebulous and seemingly doom-ridden homestudy.  All the fear is absolutely justified when you consider that your homestudy is a major piece of the licensing process and usually one of the last steps before you get licensed (and start opening your home to kids).  I'll also say it's absolutely worth the fear that it produces in that typically the mystery and angst associated with a pending homestudy probably makes you prepare enough to "pass".

When we were going through the licensing process the homestudy gave me the heebie jeebies.  In truth I'm one of those recovering Type A & perfectionist personalities that needs to get everything right and ace every test.  When we went through classes we'd get a piece of paperwork to complete and I'd make copies and write and re-write it over again so I'd have nice, neat handwriting to go with my well-thought-out and complete answers.  I'd also usually do it the same evening when we came home from training so it was done well in advance of the due date.  I was baffled by the others in our class who failed to turn in paperwork on time and were repeatedly warned they had to do so before getting dropped from the licensing process.  My brain just couldn't fathom that level of (fill in the blank...irresponsibility, casual approach, etc.) when such a serious thing was on the line.

Throughout the licensing process I tried to find as much information as I could about the homestudy and the only thing I could ever find was that it wasn't a big deal.  I kept reading that it wasn't a "pass/fail" evaluation as much as it was an understanding of our home to be able to identify the best-fit when foster children needed a family.  I repeatedly found people who said they'd ask personal questions and maybe it would feel intrusive but it was harmless.  I found people who said to be tidy but not to worry about cleaning out every crevice.

People kept trying to tell me all would be well but I just couldn't believe them.  This big scary thing was in the way of my family's future so how could I not take it seriously and worry about it?  I cleaned and I worried as a bad housecleaner I wouldn't be good enough.  I thought about everything in my past, in my family's past, in my marriage, that may need to be discussed and how would I phrase it to be honest and yet not get myself disqualified.  My grandmother passed away the week of my homestudy and I fretted about how to respond about how that death in my family would disqualify our home from moving forward in the licensing process.  It was awful.  I did all that I could do and then hoped it would be enough.

I'm not going to be able to provide you with much more detail than that, at least not here because it's not really the point of this post (but email mie if you do have questions because I'd be happy to give the answers I have!).  What I wanted to point out today is how things have changed since those days so long ago.

We had our second adoptive homestudy on Wednesday.  You need to have an updated homestudy completed before you can adopt.  The updated study looks at how your family started out (likely provided in the original homestudy) and then expands on that to discuss how your family is with your future adoptive children to determine how the adoption will impact the family dynamic.  We've been here once before and the main thing to keep in mind is that this means we're getting closer to adoption!  WOOHOO!!!

What I found so fascinating in doing this second adoptive homestudy was how different it was than when we went through the process as foster parents.  For real - this time around we scheduled our homestudy on the most convenient day for us, which happened to be the same day our baby had surgery so we'd slept for 4 hours the night before and spent the morning at the hospital before the caseworker came over.  We hadn't cleaned at all in most of the house.  The only cleaning we did was in the kitchen to get rid of dirty dishes and really only that because we had the time.  A few minutes before she was supposed to arrive I dumped out 3 baskets full of unmatched socks and played the matching game with my husband while we waited for her to arrive.  I didn't have on any makeup and I wasn't wearing anything remotely nice.  When she finally arrived I doubt I had any shoes on and my baby had blood coming out of his ears (from his surgery).  We chatted in the kitchen for a while.  At some point I got a snack out and started eating while talking to her.  We even had a neighbor kid ring the doorbell to come play and I let him in to the backyard.  During our homestudy.  Toward the end my husband went outside to repair the backyard fence.  I had to discipline one of my difficult children and didn't bat an eye.  Although I cared about the result of the homestudy I had ZERO concern about the process itself.  I didn't feel the need to impress anyone and I didn't prep for it.

So, if you're nervous about your first homestudy good.  You should be as it will make you take this process seriously and this is a serious process.  Just try to remind yourself that once you get over this hurdle someday, if you're blessed to go through it again, you probably will look back yourself and think hmm...what was I so worried about back then?

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