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Home Study – An overview

Home Study

As promised, I am including some helpful information we picked up during our foster-adoption journey.  I think the question we get asked the most was how was passed our Home Study.  I’m not going to lie, I don’t know the ‘magic combination’ or formula of how we passed the home study. What I do know it is a stumbling block for many couples and I also know that each agency has their own rules, guidance and requirements. What I will attempt to do in this blog is tell you what we did to get ready for our home study and hopefully some of these steps will resonate with you, if you are going down a similar path.

We had to go through the Charles County Department of Social Services in the state of Maryland in order to complete our home study.  We had a thick packet of information, appointment requests and forms that we had to complete.  Here is a list of things we needed below:

–Copies of drivers license
–Copies of birth certificates
–Copy of marriage license
–Forms – Questionnaire I & 2; Attitudes on Sexual Issues, Biographies
–Forms – Childhood and Family Life Experience Form
–Medical forms with TB results
–Verification of income; month of paystubs, Federal income tax cover sheet with AGI
–Pets – rabies (if applicable)
–Addresses for References (3)
–Certified copy of driving record
–Criminal clearances

A lot, right? Going through this packet and filling it out was quite a chore – in fact, we almost quit, TWICE!  In particular, the questionnaires and forms were very lengthy.  They asked very invasive questions on our family history, our sexual history, our educational background, income – you name it, they asked it.

A word of advice – during this process it is important to remember that you have to be completely transparent with the agency and your assigned case worker.  Even if you have gone through some less than great experiences, it is important to tell the truth. I believe our case worker was actually looking for those vulnerable moments, not to trip us up in the process, but to make sure we had overcome anything and could move on in a healthy space.

Thankfully for my husband and I, we had relatively normal childhoods and upbringings. As I mentioned above, this was surprising to our assigned case worker.  We had to discuss our questionnaires in person, in the form of interviews, as a part of the home study.  Our case worker asked us over and over again about our education, experiences, and what brought us to this place.  She also asked about trauma, abuse and was intrigued at our vanilla stories. She later explained, “typically potential resource parents have previously gone through foster care and are attracted to this process.  They’re interested in becoming foster parents after having negative experiences growing up. They want to make a difference in the lives of children who are like them. It is rare that you don’t see some sort of traumatic experience, as most of the foster parents have been through something in their childhood.” That made sense to me, as she explained it. I helped to fill in the gap for her by explaining, “Well, you’re looking at a foster child success story – one generation later.  My father was that foster child you spoke of.  But he overcame his history and was placed in a supportive resource home. He then married my mother and raised a great family, so you’re seeing the fruits of a foster placement, gone correctly.” Her eyes brightened and she seemed appreciative and I further shared my father’s story and how it impacted me to become a foster mother.

As if the interviews weren’t enough, we also had to undergo an examination of our home. This included a sanitary inspection and a fire marshal inspection of our home.  We had to set up appointments with each of these departments to inspect the home to their levels of safety.  The last part of the home study included a long checklist of items, based on the ages of the children you are willing to have in your home.  For us, we included infants as possible placements, so we had to basically baby-proof our home, with no actual “promise” of baby placement.  This means we had to buy a crib, safety plugs, safety gates, etc.

I’ll admit it, it was kinda creepy sleeping in a house without a baby but fully ‘furnished’ for one to walk into it.  We waited until the very last minute get some of these items.  Overall, we started the process in September 2013 and our Home Study, Interviews, Questionnaires and other forms were approved by the end of March 2014. The process was most intense throughout the month of January 2014. We got our first placement June 20, 2014.

Oh, one major important detail I forgot to share – if you are going through the local government/state, a home study is FREE! That is one major difference between going through a private agency vs. the state government.

Lastly, here  is a link to the Home Study Process in the State of Maryland.

I hope that this gives you some insight into the often intimidating Home Study process. If you plan on going through this soon and would like some additional help and resources, please feel free to hit the contact button and reach out to me.  I’ll be glad to walk you through the process and share some of our forms with you.

Hopefully, within the next year, I plan on publishing a book with a detailed account of everything we went through in order to get certified in order to help others navigate this foster-adoption journey!

 

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Who Are We?

I’m just going to jump right in and catch you up on who I am and who my family is, cool? Good 🙂

My name is Erika and I started this blog at the request of my friends because a lot of them were interested in hearing more about my journey to motherhood. I also like to write and do a fair amount of micro-blogging on social media. And by micro-blogging, I mean posting looooong status updates on Facebook and oversharing on SnapChat and Instagram.

That said, I had an interest in starting a blog that captured our family history and story, as well as an open forum to just chat about “mommy moments.” Because most “mommy moments” are universal and we’re all here just to help each other out anyway, AmIRight?

Okay so a little about me – I am a thirty something, married woman, Christian and mother of two.  I have a son, Evan, who is 5 years old at the time of writing this blog and a daughter, Taryn, who is 4 years old. Momma was busy, right?

Well…kinda.  My two children came by way of the ‘heart’ rather than through biology.

adoption

That’s right, I adopted both of my children, as the name of the blog suggests.

My husband and I started out idealistically as all couples do when they first get married. We had grand plans of how our lives would be and what would just ‘happen’ as a result of the plans we had made. Ready to laugh?

First, we said we would get married and then both go to graduate school to pursue our Masters’ degrees.  After that, we would then try to have a child and VIOLA! We would get pregnant.  Then after we’d had…about 1.5 children, we would then adopt one (singular) child.  Oh and of course, he would be a boy who was 5 years of age – so we wouldn’t have to pay for infant daycare and he’d be ready to immediately start kindergarten. He would blend seamlessly into our family and everything would be perfect.

Sounded like a good plan right? I thought so.

We started down the path to fulfill our dreams by both getting our advanced degrees. I received my Master’s of Business Administration from The George Washington University and my husband received his Master’s in CyberSecurity at University of Maryland University College. We had also purchased our first home, a modest town home in a good suburban neighborhood in Maryland on the outskirts of Washington, DC Metro area. We both had great jobs, so it was time for our plan to continue to unfold! Except…it didn’t. In fact, I love that quote that says, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

I got off birth control and begin “trying” to have my kids.  Little did I know, my children’s birth mother wasn’t trying, but SHE was conceiving my children in those very moments.  Hindsight is always 20/20 and looking back at my children’s birth dates, my eldest had been conceived exactly during the time period my husband and I wanted to “try” to have our first child back in 2011.  I knew God was telling me it was time, I guess I just had the ‘method’ a little confused.  Shortly after my son was born, 14 months later, my daughter entered the scene.  My family was already here but I had no idea.

After noticing our plan wasn’t coming quite together as we’d envisioned, my husband and I decided, perhaps we would pursue the adoption first? It was a novel idea, but one we both weren’t opposed to and we begin taking classes through Charles County Maryland to be dual certified for foster care and adoption.  Looking back, we had no interest in foster care. We were only interested in adoption. We went through our application and said we only wanted an African-American boy, 5 years of age that was up for adoption. This was a well thought out preference….after all, I read a study that said older black boys have the hardest time getting adopted.  And being a black family, this is the least we could do! Almost 50-something years ago, my father was that older black boy who had the slim odds of adoption.  So as you can see, we were firm in this and had made up our minds. Our plans were solid.

I remember the resource worker looking intently at me and my husband as she reviewed our application.  “Children sometimes come in pairs…even triples…you know that right?” she inquired.

She continued, “What if the child is 4? Or 3? Would you really be opposed to adopting them?” And then she went on to explain that foster care was the area where the biggest need was.  “Children typically don’t come into the system purely for adoption – in fact, the hope is that the child is reunified with the birth parents. Adoption is typically the last option for these children,” she added.

Talk about stunned. This wasn’t what we wanted! I wanted one child – just has I had told them clearly on the application. I was turned off.  I mean, I didn’t have to do this! And what if I bonded with the child, only for them to be snatched back by their birth parents! How could I ever deal with it?! My fears were ringing loudly in my head as I half-listened to the resource worker.

But for some reason, I didn’t voice my fears. Nor did walk out of the 9-week foster/adoption certification class that night.  Instead, my husband and I both prayed about it. I asked him earnestly, “Do you think you could ever open your heart to foster care?” He paused and really thought about it. “I think I could,” he said finally. And I fearfully nodded in agreement. Although I was scared – maybe terrified even…this felt right.

We told the resource worker to expand our application criteria to include more ages and more ethnicities.  Our only criteria is that we still wanted the child to be a minority, just so we could ensure that we were getting a kid that may not be wanted by the majority of pre-adoptive parents and we could feel like we were helping those statistics improve in a positive way.

Once we opened our heart, we did get a call…about a 5-year-old, black boy named Malachi! Finally, something in our plan was working out just as we’d hoped. We readied our home for Malachi and found out shortly that his paternal grandmother had stepped in to take care of him.  We were saddened, but not for long.

A couple of days later, we got a call for a 1-year old girl and a 2-year-old boy. They were biological brother and sister.  This was to be a three-week emergency placement while an investigation into their current foster home and daycare occurred.  “Don’t get too attached” the social worker warned.  “They’re going to be placed back with their current foster home, as we suspect the investigation will be favorable and ultimately, their birth parents are great, so they’ll be reunified with them.”

Okay, we thought. We had most of the stuff for the kids, as required by the home study.  We just needed to buy another car seat and a crib.  Three weeks will give us good practice and then we’ll be ready for our ‘forever family’ later, we surmised.  We had no idea….those WERE our children.

More on this incredible story to come in later posts….but that gives you our baseline. It was a long journey from that day in June of 2014 until our adoption was finalized in May 2, 2016. I can’t wait to tell you more about it and all of the fun stuff that continues to happen since that fateful day!

 

**My children pictured above on June 20, 2014 – the day they first came to live with us during foster care**