Children are generally placed in foster care because their parent or guardian is not providing a safe, stable or suitable environment for them. For many children who have been removed from their home due to abuse or neglect, foster care is only meant to be a temporary situation. The goal is for them to return home, when the circumstances that led to foster placement have been resolved. For others, returning home is not a possibility; those children may end up becoming legally free to be adopted. The goal is to provide a safe, loving and nurturing home where they can grow and thrive for all of these children. That is where the foster parent comes in.
As part of the foster care process, your home will be inspected both before a child is placed in your care and periodically during their stay with you. These home inspections are meant to ensure that your home is a safe, welcoming place for a child and that this will continue once a child has been placed with you. In addition many of the inspections will focus on the safety issues inside your home and out. This includes a heavy focus on fire safety issues. While you are in the process of becoming a foster parent, your local fire department may be asked to verify that the home is in compliance with any applicable fire codes and regulations. A home fire safety inspection is normally part of this process. Fire department approval is generally contingent on the presence of smoke detectors, house numbers and a properly maintained sprinkler system, if present. The intent of these recommendations is to provide the homeowner with guidance to minimize loss of life and property, and also serves as guide for the applicable approving agency as to whether the applicant can provide a safe environment for a child.
Usually the foster parent licensing agency, whether state run or private, will request a home inspection be done by any outside agency as part of the licensing requirements for the foster parents. Personnel from the inspection agency will contact the applicant(s) and arrange a mutually agreeable time to do the inspection. This could be a day, evening or weekend appointment.
When your home is inspected, you and your agency specialist will review and discuss your personal history, family relationships, reasons for wanting to foster or adopt and the support you have available to you.
Together you will determine:
• Whether your home is a safe place for a child
• The gender, ages(this can be anywhere from infant to teen) and number of children you can care for
• Available support groups and services in your neighborhood
• The characteristics of the children you are most able to parent
After this is done your agency specialist will write the family and home evaluation report or the “home study”. The completed report will include all the information that has been gathered about you and your family.
The actual inspection process is done before the licensing and continues on a periodic basis after children have been placed with you. Some of the things that will be looked at are:
• Is the home clean, sanitary, and free of hazards?
• Are there adequate handrails and ramps, if required?
• Is there emergency lighting?
• Does the home have appropriate furnishings based on the age and activities of children under your care?
• Are bathroom and kitchen floors washable?
• Are the electrical outlets tamper-proof?
• Is the entire home free of pests?
• Is a supervision plan in place when the home has a pool or adjacent bodies of water?
• Are pets and animals safe and free of disease?
• Are all alcoholic beverages inaccessible?
• Are all living spaces and any cars with children smoke-free?