Sorry for the blog hiatus as of late. We’ve been busy. Really busy.
For those of you who don’t know, after years of talking about it Brad and I have decided to become licensed foster parents. Not the pet kind, either. Fostering actual human children. It’s a pretty big step and one we do not take lightly.
We had settled on fostering kids aged two and under but, because of Harper’s age, our agency actually recommended we start with infants. I guess they really have a need for families who can take newborns because they require so much care. That works for us because I’m at home full time right now.
For some reason these are posted all over the interior of the Licensing Agency.
The process is a long and arduous one and meant to weed out those who aren’t fully committed to following through. Steps we have completed thus far follow:
1. Orientation. 75 or so people (most of whom I would not trust to care for a potted plant let alone a child) packed into a warehouse-like “conference room” with chipped, pale –yellow painted cinderblock walls and cement floors for 2+ hours while the facilitator go through a power-point presentation (read: monologue) covering fascinating topics such as What is Foster Care? and What is Abuse? Your only respite; the frequent sounds of people answering their cell phones because no one bothered to ask the audience to turn them off before starting and, apparently, it is completely beyond some people to think to do so themselves. Or you can start filling out a stack of paperwork that basically allows total strangers to run all sorts of background checks on you and delve into your personal finances. At the end you get to (read: are not allowed to leave until you do) pick your licensing agency (read: Mouth of God) which forevermore dictates and scrutinizes every minute detail of your previously private home life. Not that we would have it any other way Camelot Community Care of Hillsborough County (a licensed 501(c) 3 not-for-profit business) (whom we affectionately refer to as “Big Brother”).
I'm pretty sure this guy was sitting next to us at orientation.
2. Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting (aka MAPP) Classes. We did expedited private lessons because Brad’s schedule would not allow for the free ones provided by Camelot Community Care of Hillsborough County (a licensed 501(c) 3 not-for-profit business). In fairness, we probably had it easier than the people who do the regular 13 week course by doing it all in 3 sessions over one weekend. Still, they were excruciating. You flip-flop between hearing heart-wrenching stories about the ugliest abuse imaginable (our instructor had worked in therapeutic care with older children who had severe emotional and behavioral problems) to the most tedious details about how which agencies are responsible for what, to broad, over general reviews of Psych 10 (Hello Maslow! Hello id, ego and superego!). But a week after you finish you get a fancy piece of paper with your name on it, so there’s that.
3. First Consultation Visit. A social worker comes to your house to hand you another much more in depth stack of paperwork (ours is about an inch and a quarter thick). And all the paperwork you filled out in the first round?... it’s back! (of course, they want you to fill it all out again and send it different places this time). They also do a quick tour of your house to make sure you don’t have a meth lab currently in operation and that you are not an (obvious) sociopath. Plus they give you a radon kit so a state lab can test your house. We totally passed! Yay us! (I mean we passed the sociopath thing. We’re waiting to hear back about the radon. Fingers crossed!)
Just fill this out and return it to our office within the week.
Steps we still have to complete (Please note that these are the steps that I know of. It is very possible that additional steps exist that I have not yet been made aware) :
1. Fill Out Inch Thick Stack of Paperwork and Return to Camelot Community Care of Hillsborough County (a licensed 501(c) 3 not-for-profit business). This is not as easy as it sounds. Besides the little hiccup we are dealing with now (which I will discuss in depth in a future post) you are required to list specific references (i.e. two neighbors, your boss, etc.) who are then sent packets of their own to fill out. The trick is that the references we list must complete and return their own packets or else we don’t get licensed. No pressure, though.
2. Health Inspection. It doesn’t sound so bad but for the fact that an actual Health Inspector will come out and give our house the white glove treatment. I have been forewarned that ridiculous hoops we are required to jump through include keeping all medications and cleaning products under actual lock and key, installing fire alarms in every bedroom (although we already have one in our hallway and the alarms, once installed, will literally be in a 3½ foot radius of each other), making sure that no item of food has an expiration date that has passed (Hominy? Canned mackerel? I honestly don’t even remember buying this stuff.), having screens made to fit our antiquated and pre-standard sized windows so no baby can fall out (Who opens their windows in Florida?!?!?! Seriously, the weather is terrible here!), and my personal favorite, drawing a blueprint of our house with all fire escapes clearly marked and then laminating and posting a copy to the door of each bedroom so that any pre-ambulatory infant in our care will be able to find their way out of the house in the event of fire.
The health inspector gives these out for FREE! And liberally!
3. Make a Safety Plan. I’ll get into this in a future post, after I have calmed down. But in the meantime you can picture me shaking my fist at the heavens while exclaiming, “Arrrggghhhh!”.
4. Get Fingerprinted. Easy enough.
5. Health Exams. For Brad and me to confirm we are healthy enough to be caretakers.
6. Home Visit. This is the soundtrack for the Home Visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bW7Op86ox9g Or it might be this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFqHyCoypfM Either way this is the one that freaks everyone out because your social worker comes to your home, splits you and your significant other up and proceeds to interrogate you about every detail of your life Guantanamo Bay style.
We just have a couple of questions for you, Ms. Booker.
7. Second Home Consultation Visit. To confirm we’ve righted all the wrongs discovered in the first home consultation visit.
8. Officially Become Licensed Foster Parents! As exciting as this is, it’s tragic to know that we have been told to expect to receive a call the day we receive our licensing because there are so many kids in the system.
And it’s just as easy as that! Wish us luck!