Becoming a foster parent with Amara involves going through our home study process. In this episode, we’ll talk more in depth about what that actually means. We’ll start by exploring why a home study is even needed. Why does the state need so much information about me and my family to become foster parents? What is the point of this long process?
We’ll also talk about the various components of the home study, including the types of information gathered and the topics you can expect to encounter during a home study process. Finally, we’ll explain how Amara’s home study process works and the steps to complete it through our agency.
Learn more at www.amarafamily.org/become-a-foster-parent.
Hello, my name is Kari Hanson, and this is the Amara podcast.
We believe all people, regardless of circumstance deserve the opportunity to thrive. As a nonprofit, we partner with people and communities most impacted by our child welfare system to address trauma, build connections and ultimately ensure that all children, adults, and families feel safe and supported, with a commitment to equity every step of the way.
We work with individuals and couples who are willing and able to provide an inclusive and affirming home for children experiencing foster care. And we work with people inclusive of marital status, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and race.
Amara is committed to positive long-term outcomes for children and families. One way we work toward this mission is to license and support people to become foster parents. As a foster parent, you can make an impact in a family’s life. And Amara is here every step of the way, offering training, licensing and ongoing support.
Becoming a foster parent with Amara involves going through our home study process. And today we’re going to talk more in depth about what that actually means. We’ll start by exploring why a home study is even needed. Why does the state need so much information about me and my family to become foster parents? What is the point of this long process?
Next, we’ll talk about the various components of the home study, including the types of information gathered and the topics you can expect to encounter during a home study process. Finally, I’ll explain how Amara’s home study process works and the steps to complete it through our agency.
So let’s start at the beginning. What is a home study and why is it necessary? The home study process is long and detailed and can sometimes even feel invasive. Why is so much information needed to become a foster parent? Well, it’s important to keep the goal of the home study in mind. At Amara, we are tasked with putting together a document that describes your strengths as well as addresses challenges that you’ve overcome.
It might be helpful to remember that we’re not looking for perfect parents, rather, we’re looking for a good match between a child’s needs and your ability to meet those needs. And it’s important to keep in mind that the home study process is about the process, not just the final report. Two important parts of this process are education and preparation.
Let’s look at education first.
There are several training requirements during the home study process. The first is something called Caregiver Core Training, and this is a 24–hour training that’s required for all foster parents in Washington state. Another training that you’ll do with Amara is called Partnering for Permanency, and it’s a day long training that’s given by Amara and
covers different aspects of foster care, including transracial and transcultural caregiving, openness, reunification, and trauma. You’ll also need CPR, first aid and HIV awareness training. And we ask that you participate in three additional learning opportunities. This can include reading books, watching documentaries, listening to podcasts or attending additional trainings.
Sometimes during the home study process, the home study writer might identify some additional steps that are recommended or required to help you be best prepared to welcome children into your home.
So the other important part of the home study process along with that education is preparation. There are several aspects of the home study process that will help you prepare for caring for a child experiencing foster care. One of these is researching resources. So during the home study process, we ask you to research resources and professionals across a wide range of disciplines. For example, doctors and dentists.
When the child moves into a new foster home, they’re required to be seen by a doctor and a dentist pretty quickly after that move takes place. And so to help you be a little more prepared for a child coming to your home during the home study process, we’ll ask you to research a doctor and a dentist in your community that you’ll plan to take the children to when they come to your home, making that transition of a child moving into your home just a little bit less stressful.
Another important aspect of the preparation involved in the home study is thinking about a childcare plan. Many people considering becoming a foster parent are concerned with how they’ll find childcare. And this can be tricky for sure. But working through this challenge and coming up with a plan is, again, part of this home study process.
Another area of preparation is the physical preparation of your home and making sure that you have everything you need to welcome a child into your home.
And now that we have a little bit of a clearer understanding of why the home study is done, let’s talk a little more about what the actual process will entail.
The home study process at Amara involves trainings, interviews, and plenty of paperwork. When you decide to become a licensed foster parent through Amara, the first step is to attend an Amara Information Meeting or AIM. This meeting talks about Amara, our programs, and it gives you more information about foster care in general, and how to become a foster parent. After attending AIM, you will be emailed Amara’s application documents and you can fill them out any time after that, when you feel ready.
The home study will also involve a lot of paperwork and document gathering. After you filled out the application and completed CCT, and those documents have been accepted, then you will get a nice long list of paperwork that’s required for the home study.
You’ll need a recent physical exam and a statement from a doctor confirming that you are essentially healthy and have a normal life expectancy and are physically and mentally able to handle the care of a child. If you have a medical condition that’s under control, for example, maybe, high blood pressure or maybe diabetes, um, it’s unlikely to impact your ability to become a foster parent. A serious health problem that could affect your life expectancy may prevent approval and it’s something that you’ll want to discuss with your home study writer.
If you or your family have sought counseling or treatment for a mental health condition in the past, you might be asked about that as well. We view seeking help as a sign of strength and the fact that you obtained help should not in and of itself, stop you from becoming a foster parent. However, each situation is unique. So please let us know early in the process if you have any questions or concerns. You can also expect to be asked about many other aspects of your life past and present, including your family background, education and employment, your relationships in the past and the present, your parenting plans and philosophy, your religious belief system, the support system that you have in place, how prepared you are to offer transracial or transcultural caregiving, and you’ll be asked about other issues involved with foster care, such as your skills and knowledge around navigating the child’s relationship and connection with their family and how you feel about openness, and your ability to provide an affirming home to youth of any sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
There will also be a background check, including fingerprints, and the home study will conclude with a summary of all this information and the home study writer’s recommendations. And these recommendations often include the age range and number of children that the home study writer recommends that you be licensed for.
So how does this home study document with all this information get created? At Amara, after your application is accepted and your Caregiver Core Training certificates are turned in, you’ll be assigned to the home study team. You’ll be able to access and start working on a lot of paperwork-based assignments and complete any additional trainings.
Once you’re assigned to this team, you’ll get a chance to meet with the team supervisor who will provide you with the list of paperwork and answer any questions you might have. And while there will be someone at Amara for you to contact if you have questions during this phase, how long it takes you to complete the paperwork is really up to you. Some people might fly through the paperwork in a few weeks while others might take several months to complete it all.
Once all the paperwork is completed, you will be matched with an Amara foster care specialist home study writer. When it’s time to assign you to a home study writer, you’ll need to be ready and able to be pretty responsive and flexible with your schedule so you can get the interviews done.
So if you complete your paperwork but are about to leave on a vacation or remodel your home or start a new job, we might wait to assign you to a home study writer until your schedule and availability are a little more predictable. After you’re assigned a home study writer, they’ll interview you, and if you have a partner you’ll be interviewed together and separately. They’ll also interview any children living in your home, any children living outside of your home and any other household members. Your home study writer will also conduct a physical walkthrough of your home, which is one of the very last steps of the home study process.
You’ll get all the information that you need well ahead of time and have lots of time to prepare. The point of the walkthrough is to make sure that your home meets the safety standards put in place by the Department of Children, Youth, and Families, and that you have all that you need to welcome a child into your home.
We’ll view all areas of your house, including where the children will sleep, the basement, the backyard, and we’ll be looking for how you plan to accommodate a new child or children into your house. A safe, comfortable child-friendly environment is what we’re looking for.
At the walkthrough, you’ll meet your placement support foster care specialist. Once your home study is accepted by the State, your main Amara contact will become your placement support foster care specialist, and they will be there to support your family while you wait for a child to be placed in your home, while you’re actively parenting that child experiencing foster care, and as that child transitions out, either back home to reunify with their family, or if adoption becomes their permanent plan, your foster care specialist will help you walk down that path as well.
Once the home study document is finished, you’ll get a chance to read through it and make sure it’s an accurate representation of your family. After your approval, the home study document will be sent to the licensing department at the Department of Children, Youth, and Families. Once it has their approval, you will receive a copy of your foster parent license, and you’ll be ready to welcome children experiencing foster care into your home.
At Amara, we do something called a dual license, which means at the end of the home study, you are an approved foster parent and an approved adoptive home. Dual licensure allows for a foster parent to naturally and easily change their role to an adoptive parent without having to go through an entirely new home study and training process.
I hope that this has been helpful. Thank you so much for listening to the Amara podcast. You can find more information about Amara, the home study process, and all our other programs on our website. www.amarafamily.org