October 26, 2015

Getting Ready for Foster Kids: Meeting Minimum Standards

Included in our training manual are 167 pages of Minimum Standards for Foster Homes that are licensed by the State of Texas.  There is a lot of information and luckily our agency helps give us the rundown of what all we need to do to get our house up to par with the standards.  So here are a few of the things we were required to do to our house to meet these standards.

In order to pass our fire inspection, we had to install some additional smoke detectors.  Our room and the kids' room already had working smoke detectors, but we installed 2 more in our office and in the hallway leading to the bedrooms.
We also have to have a fire extinguisher mounted to our wall in the kitchen.  We found the fire extinguisher at Home Depot, but had a hard time finding a mount for it--luckily I found one on Amazon and my mom ordered it with her Prime Account so we didn't have to pay for shipping (since the shipping on this particular mount costs more than the mount itself!)

 If you have any children under the age of 8 in your home, you are required to have all outlets covered.  So we went to work covering the outlets and I bought us a few power strip covers for the power strips we keep in our bedroom and office.
 We also have to keep all chemicals out of reach.  Luckily we have high cabinets above our washer and dryer where we can store most of our cleaning products.  I put the ones we use most often and the dish detergent on top of our fridge.

There are a lot of rules about medication storage for foster homes.  We had an hour of training on medication storage.  All medications (prescriptions, over the counter, vitamins) have to be locked up.  And some medications require that they be behind 2 locks, so we have to have a lock box inside our medicine cabinet.  You also have to keep medicines for external use in a separate container that is clearly marked.  You can't use a regular child lock--it has to be something with a lock and key--but luckily they allow the magnetic child proof locks since the magnet counts as the key.  So we turned the upper cabinet in our in-kitchen pantry into our medicine cabinet.  I installed the magnetic lock on there and it is ready to go.  We've got a few more magnetic locks we can put on other cabinets as we figure out which ones need to be off limits, but for now our medication is locked up so we can pass our inspections.

The other thing there are a lot of rules about?  The Pool.

 We are incredibly fortunate that our pool already had a fence around it when we moved in.  If not, we would have had to add one.  Our agency said whenever they have a prospective foster family who says they have a pool they always panic a little since there is so much added cost.  So we are grateful we didn't have to add that.  We did had to add a lock to our pool fence...

 ...and we have to have 2 life saving devices.  We have this ring that we got from one of my mom's friends who has been a foster parent and no longer needs it.  And we also bought a hook that we have hanging on our fence.  There are also a lot of rules about adult to child ratios when swimming with children in foster care, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out next summer!
 There is also a requirement that there be a lock that a child under 10 years of age cannot reach on the door leading from the house into the yard with the pool.  Believe it or not, this lock was the most difficult thing we had to add to our home.  We went through 3 locks before finding one that would work.

First we tried a flip lock that had to be installed onto the door jamb.  But then the door wouldn't close because the lock took up too much room on the jamb.  Then we tried a sliding lock--but the door and the jamb aren't as flush as they need to be, so that wouldn't work either.  We finally settled on a chain lock and it works perfectly :)

In addition to these changes, I also added furniture straps to our entertainment center to keep it from tipping over.  We also have our China Cabinet bolted to the wall.  

One of the first things I did was change out all of our interior doorknobs.  Stated in the fire inspection checklist is: No foster home may have any interior door used in a path of escape that can be locked.  All of our bedroom and bathroom doorknobs had the turn locks and we tried unlocking them from the outside but it wouldn't work for us, so I figured it was easier just to change out the doorknobs.  So we bought 6 new doorknobs with no locks and I changed them all out.  When he came out, the fire inspector told us that we didn't actually have to do that on any but the bathroom, but oh well--I'm glad that's taken care of!

A lot of these things are safety things that we would have done no matter how kids were coming into our home and family.  But I've had several friends laugh when I tell them what all we've done saying that they've never even thought about most of those things with their kids.  But being a licensed foster home means being held to a higher standard and we're definitely okay with the added safety measures!

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