The Home Study Process: an overview
An important part of the process of becoming a foster parent is the home study. A home study allows the licensing agency to assess the fitness of prospective foster parents, their household, and their home to provide care to foster children. This can seem like a daunting process, but it is a great way for the foster care agency to get to know you and for you to ask questions and get to know the agency. The home study and initial training allow you and the agency to make sure that foster parenting is right for you and your family. Children in foster care are some of the most vulnerable members of our society and it is essential that all foster parents are thoroughly vetted and trained to ensure these children are welcomed into safe and loving homes.
The home study process varies somewhat from state to state, but many of the basic things (like interviews, home examination, and background checks) are the same. In Virginia, the home study involves three interviews, a tour of the home, background checks, references, a physical exam, and proof of sufficient income.
The most in-depth part of the home study is the series of interviews. You will be asked about your motivation for becoming a foster parent as well as your family background and childhood experiences, relationships with family members, and your parenting philosophy. For example, you may be asked about how your parents disciplined you as a child and your views on discipline as a parent.
Other questions cover topics such as past marriages and significant relationships, education, and any childcare or parenting experience. If you are married, you will be asked questions about your relationship with each other. You will need to provide information about your employment history and show that you have the income necessary to provide for your family without foster care payments.
All members of the family, including children, must be present for one of the interviews, to get an understanding on the attitudes and strengths of every household member. At Intercept, we believe this is very important because we believe in matching children with entire families, not just parents.
One of the interviews will take place in your home and this one will also include a staff member actually touring your entire home and examining it to ensure it is safe and has adequate space for foster children. For example, the home must have adequate smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher. Bedrooms for foster children must have a window, a door, and a closet and not be used as a passageway. Children of the same gender can share a room as long as every child has a bed and no children under 7 are on the top bed of a bunk bed. You must also have proper safeguards for firearms and other potential hazards.
Prospective foster parents and all adult members of the household need to pass a criminal background check and a check of the state central child abuse registry. All household members must have a physical exam to ensure they are free of communicable diseases and have a TB test or screening. The physical also ensures prospective foster parents are healthy enough to care for children.
Are you interested in foster care? Virginia residents can contact us to set up an orientation and take your first step toward becoming a foster parent!