October 25, 2015

Getting Ready for Foster Kids: The Process

We've been pretty busy over the past 4 months or so getting our house and ourselves ready for foster care.  I thought I'd share a little bit about our process so far.  It'll take a few days to share everything, but thought it might be good to hear what all we've had to do and how it's all gone so far.  

I mentioned in my first post that we are working with Presbyterian Children's Home and Services or PCHAS for our licensing.  The first big step for us was figuring out which agency to work with.  I've worked with a lot of agencies during my time at ECI, so I had a lot of preconceived notions going into this and didn't have one agency I was set on.  I first learned about PCHAS through a friend at church.  They have a church engagement program where they come and talk about foster care and adoption to help raise awareness and Woodcreek was in the process of setting something up with them about the time David and I started looking for an agency.  I did a lot of research on them and everything I read seemed really solid.  We met a few of the staff at an Expo David and I went to at the end of April and we really loved them.  So we decided to start the process with them.

On their website they lay out the process for Foster Care Licensing as below.

Steps in the Process:
  1. Fill out the online inquiry form and once received PCHAS (Presbyterian Children’s Homes & Services) staff will contact you for further information.
  2. The second step is to complete the application (pdf). Once you have completely filled out the application, please submit to PCHAS Home Development Staff.
  3. Once the application is reviewed, PCHAS will contact you to begin the process of additional paperwork and background checks/FBI fingerprinting. PCHAS will also schedule a home visit at this time.
  4. RSVP and attend ALL required trainings. Please see our training calendar.
  5. Complete and turn in ALL required documentation provided by PCHAS.
  6. Once all required documentation is completed and received by PCHAS, participate in the home study process.
  7. Once your file is complete and your home study approved, your home will be licensed to accept children.
We are through step #6 and are just waiting on approval!  We began the first steps in June when one of the staff--Ashley who has been wonderful-- came out and met us and did a first walk through of our home.  She talked a little more about the process with us and talked about some things we needed to do to our home to get ready.

After we finished the application, we both went out to Carrollton to have our fingerprints taken for the FBI background check.  And we started working to gather the paperwork on our checklist that Ashley had given us.  There was a lot of information to turn in so we started copying and scanning in things like our College Diplomas, Lily's Shot Records, Paycheck Stubs, Proof of Insurance, Our birth certificates and marriage certificate, and lots of other odds and ends that they needed for our file.

We started training the last week of July.  PCHAS has it set up where they do all of the training over 2 weeks.  32 hours of training in 2 weeks is very intense, but it's nice to get it done quickly and move through the process.  Training included classes about The Basics of Foster Care, CPR & First Aid, Child Development, Paperwork that has to be completed, Medication Storage, TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention, which was one of the most beneficial classes we did and has lots of practical applications), and Crisis Prevention.  We went through training with some fun couples, including some friends that go to church with us.  It's definitely been nice to go through the process with them and have them to ask questions to and talk through this crazy process.

We walked into our first night of training and received this binder full of all of our training materials along with DFPS minimum standards for foster families.  We also received a copy of The Connected Child which we were required to read as part of our training.  It is a very good book and we learned a lot from it, but it was a little crazy looking at all we had ahead of us that first night at the end of July!

 During our first night of training we talked about who all is involved in the lives of foster children.  There are a lot of people involved.  I snapped this picture to send to a few friends from work when we got to the section on ECI.  I am definitely grateful for my 8 years in ECI that has given me a lot of background as we head into this next stage.

Our training came with a lot of homework to complete.  So this is what our evenings looked like a lot those few weeks as we answered questions and read more information.

After training, we got to work reading our book and getting our house ready.  Since we finished training we've both had physicals and TB tests, our home has had fire and health inspections along with an inspection of our gas heater, and we've added a lot required safety items to our home--I'll blog more about some of those required things we've added tomorrow.  

Last Sunday we had our home study.  It consisted of 3 and a half hours of interviews--both as a couple and individually-- about everything under the sun.  Our home study writer will now type up a report and submit that to our agency by the beginning of November, then we'll hear from PCHAS about our license.  So now we're just in the final waiting stages.

In all honesty, this process has gone a lot more quickly than I expected.  I know so many people whose processes get held up at one point or another, and that could still happen to us, but so far things have gone pretty smoothly and we are almost done!

Today was all the boring details as we get started--stay tuned for more posts about all of the things we've added to our home--including some of the required (and some seem kind of crazy) elements as well as the fun kids' things we've got set up!

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