Everything You Never Wanted to Know about a Home Study
I know I’ve been more silent on this particular subject area than I originally intended, but as all moms know, life sometimes gets in the way of good intentions. This website, my day job that pays the bills, and gathering all the information for our home study have kept me occupied! This post should help you all understand why. The requirements for becoming a licensed foster parent (or adoptive parent – it’s actually the same process) in Ohio are not that complicated in concept. You really only need to do two things – complete pre-service training and have an approved home study. Sounds simple and straightforward, right? Yeahh … about that …
We’ve already been through the mandatory pre-service training – this is the 36 hours of classes that I highlighted in my last post. Once this is completed, they give (or in our case, send) you a certificate. Don’t lose it – you will need it to prove course completion for your home study.
Step 1 – The Foster Care Application
The initial application is the tip of the paperwork iceberg, but this is how the whole process starts. Most people submit this at some point during their pre-service training. It’s your formal application to the state that you’re interested in being a foster parent and it kicks off the home study. You can expect the initial application to take you about an hour to fill out, perhaps slightly less time if you haven’t changed jobs or moved in the last 10 years (yeah … that’s not us).
Pro tip – to get a copy of this application, you have to show up for pre-service training. As far as I can tell, this application is nowhere to be found online, and I REALLY looked for it. Another pro tip – the county will ask you for quite a few other pieces of paperwork with your initial application. They’re not required by law, but they might as well be because your application won’t be accepted without them.
Pro tip #2 – bring two forms of ID on the day you plan to submit your application. It becomes a notarized, legal document. You’re also fingerprinted along with the submission.
You will also need to submit at least one person for emergency care and one person for respite care with your initial application. They shouldn’t be the same person or reside at the same address because what if their house burns down? Who will you turn to?! (seriously, that’s the reason). It doesn’t matter that you don’t actually have a clue what emergency care or respite care is yet …
Step 2 – The Home Study
A week or two after your application goes through for processing, you’ll get a call from a home study caseworker to set up an initial consultation. That will likely be immediately followed by an absolutely overwhelming pile of paperwork (because bureaucracy). Here’s a fun fact, though – there’s no difference between a home study for adoption and a home study for foster care. Anyone who has adopted a child has gone through this same process, and they’ve likely paid upwards of $1500 for it through a private agency. The process is the same through the county, and while it probably does take a little longer, the only out-of-pocket expense is the fire inspection. Fire inspection, you ask? Yep. You have to have an escape plan and everything. Posted. Oh, and you have to get rid of all your extension cords.
Here’s all the stuff you need to complete your home study, in order of difficulty and level of effort to gather, as well as in list format for ease of reference:
The easy stuff (really requires gathering information only – can be time consuming but not horribly nerve wracking):
- Copy of Driver’s Licenses for all persons on the application
- Photograph of every family member
- Marriage License (if you’re married)
- Divorce decree or death certificate (for anyone who was previously married)
- School reports for any children you already have in the house (if applicable)
- Proof of income for 2 months for all applicants (this is really fun if you just started your own business!)
- Proof of monthly expenses for 2 months (mortgages, utilities, etc)
- Pre-service training completion certificates (assuming you already did this and the 36 hours of training are not involved with making copies of the certificates!)
The more complicated stuff – these items rely on other people and often require appointments:
- Letters of recommendation from all of your application references (there are at least 4 in total, and if you are applying as a married couple, you need at least one from each side of the family)
- Medical paperwork for all members of the household (this requires a doctor’s visit for each member of your family. The forms must be signed by someone board-certified)
- Every member of your household over 18 must be fingerprinted (applicants did this when they submitted the application, but anyone else will need to make an appointment for this)
- Evacuation and Tornado plan for every floor of your house. You have to draw these yourself & they must be posted on each floor in a visible location to pass your fire inspection.
- Fire Inspection (you have to pay for this yourself and it’s scheduled through the town where you live – they’ll send the fire marshall to your house)
- Respite caregiver forms – these are people who (bless them) are willing to let the state come and inspect their home & fingerprint them so that they can watch your foster child if you are unable to for non-emergency situations. Since you can’t hire babysitters for foster children, these are the people who you will be completely reliant on for this service!
- Emergency caregiver forms – I honestly don’t understand the difference between emergency caregivers and respite caregivers except that the state doesn’t require emergency caregivers to get fingerprinted. So I guess these are less important? I should probably look into this …
Additional meetings and paperwork – there even more forms required by DCFS for the home study, and there’s the home study itself – interviews that assess the suitability of you, your spouse, your children, and your home for fostering:
- The interviews – the social worker must visit your home at least 3 times (probably more, but 3 is the minimum) to conduct interviews and assess the surroundings. By the time the last interview is conducted, the home must be ready for your foster child. This means you need to have the fire inspection completed, cribs assembled … etc etc.
- Home prep, furniture assembly, room prep – anything you need to do to prep for a child (or another child) must be done as a part of the home study.
- Foster/Adoptive Family Profile (all about your family & family traditions, what expectations for a child in your home are, etc)
- Child characteristics checklist – filling out this specific form was the worst part about this process for me. You literally check ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for every characteristic listed – and there are 8 pages of them covering two columns on each page. It’s unpleasant.
- Any supplemental information requested – for us, because we moved to Ohio 4 years ago, we also had to fill out paperwork to ‘clear’ us as foster parents in DC, and because we own another house in West Virginia, we had to do the same for WVA.
We’re probably 70% of the way through this process – more interviews to go, more home prep to go, and some additional paperwork to gather. Our last medical appointment and fire inspection are both this week, so we’re getting there. One foot in front of the other.
Until next time …
other related posts
Have you ever stopped to think about why adoption is so expensive? I have. This post breaks it down for you and explains our choice to grow our family through adopting from foster care.
Why foster care? Why this hard path? For us the answer is simple. If you want to help, you follow the need. It’s never the easy road …
Shedding a little light on what to expect with foster care pre-service training in Cuyahoga County.