Adoption/Foster Parent Process

After starting this process I realized it would have been really helpful if I had someone to dumb down all the steps and forms for me beforehand. That way the overwhelming feeling we felt when we opened our packet could have been avoided or at least lessened. I have decided to detail the process and our experience for future potential adoptive or foster parents.
We are doing a U.S. Foster to adopt program. If you are doing an international adoption there are a few extra steps that I did not include

Adoption/Foster Parent Process

1. Apply to agency and pay 1st fee (around $400)
2. Home study completed and reviewed
       a. certification complete
       b. forms submitted
       c. 2 home visit from social worker
3. USCIS 1-600A submitted
4. Family approved by agency, accepted to program, 1-800A filed
5. Family compiles family album/picture pages
6. A child is referred, 2nd fee due (amount?)at child referral or 6 months into your process
7. Family accepts the referral
8. 3rd and final fee paid (amount?)
9. Agreement is signed and submitted to agency
10. Local agency is notified of child acceptance and proceedings begin in the child’s state
11. Post placement reports from agency/family due to state
12. Child becomes old enough to be eligible for adoption (age 5)
13. adoption finalizatied

1. Apply to Agency
Make sure you are happy with an agency before you apply. If possibly, attend a seminar and/or search their website to make sure you understand as much as possible about them. We did this in February 2013. They were running a special of $100 off the application fee at the time which made the cost go down to $300.

2. Home Study Completed and Reviewed

We are currently working on the “Home Study” portion.There are 3 parts to this. 1. Certification 2. Forms 3. Home visits with your social worker.
A. Certification
50 hours total
We made the mistake of starting off with the forms and scheduling the certifications later. We highly recommend that you learn from our mistake and start off by scheduling the classes right away! You don't need to actually attend them right away, just get them on your calendar and your spots reserved. There are limited dates and spots and you will likely have to rearrange your schedule quite a bit if you don't plan ahead. Then work on forms while you wait for the certification dates to come.
WACAP Weekend: 14 hours. Here is a link to our experience. Ours was a Friday 11-5 and saturday 9-5. This must be completed before your first home visit. So you might as well get it out of the way first! This particuar cirtification requirement may vary depending on which agency you work with. But I'd imagine it is atleast similar.  If you are working with WACAP here is a link to their certification schedule.
Orientation: 3 hours.  This is through the state DCF (department for Children and Families) The orientation must be complete before you can start the PRIDE training. There are about 6 orientations each month in different locations around the state. DCF Orientation Schedule
PRIDE Training: 27 hours. We learned SO much from this training. It felt so worthwhile to us. Here is a summary of what we learned. You can start this training as soon as you complete the orientation. But you will have to schedule it separately. Like the orientation, the PRIDE training is offered multiple times a month in various locations around the state. In the washington area they are 5-9:30pm on 6 different dates spread out over a 3 week period. DCF PRIDE Training Schedule. This is the same link as the Orientation schedule. You will just need to scroll down to the bottom of the list.
First Aid/CPR/BBP (Blood Bourne Pathogens). 6 hours. This can be done at any time during the process. It is not a prerequisite for any other steps. This site offers this certification for free to potential foster parents. There are many locations all over the state. You also have the option of either doing it in one session or two. We opted to do 2 evenings.

B. Forms

Below is an in depth summary of all the many many forms you'll fill out. Here is a link to our experice a few days into filling out forms.

Clearance Forms
12 pages

Once you have your certifications scheduled make these clearance forms your second priority. You will need to send them in so they can start the long process of background checking.
Background Authorization: 3 pages.
As long as you don’t have a criminal history, it very fast and easy to fill out. Most of the pages are either portions for the agency to fill out or long wordy questions to which you check “yes” or “no”. You will each need to fill out your own.

Release of Information: 2 pages.
This form requires that you give your agency the right to check your medical and background records for specific things. Some of the specific things they list are HIV/AIDS, alcohol abuse, substance abuse and juvenile detention.

Fingerprint Notice: 1 page
Sign and date stating you understand they will be conducting a "fingerprint based background check" We have not been asked to have our fingerprints taken but I imagine that request will come soon.

Criminal History: Addresses: 2 pages
You will each need to fill out your own. The first page asks for every address you’ve lived at for the past 5 years if you have lived in the same state for that long. They also want the dates you lived at each residence. If you have lived in your current state less than 5 years they want ALL of your previous addresses with dates.

The Second page is a release of information/Waiving rights to confidentiality. This is a simple signature stating that you are okay with Department of Social Health Services (DSHS) and Child Protective Services (CPS) using the information you provide.

Family Home Study Application: 4 pages
These were all just your typical easy basic information questions
Basic information: Name, address, phone number
Placement Preference : age, gender, number of children you are interested in fostering/adopting. This is also where you would name a specific child to foster or adopt.
Schools: List the elementary, middle and high school your child would attend.
Persons Living in Household: List names and ages of everyone living in your home
Character References: List the names, addresses and phone number for 4 references.
Addresses: Asks for your addresses again. This form is sent to a different location than the criminal history form.
Those Living in the Home: yes and no boxes for a column of questions for each individual living in the home. They include things like drivers licenses, convicted of a crime, involved in drugs. Emergency Contacts: requires an in state and out of state emergency contact. You are asked to include the name, address, phone number and email address for each contact.

Copies of your driver’s licenses
Your pets’ immunization records
Your kids’ immunization records
Copies of your auto and health insurance cards
First Aid/ CPR/ Blood Bourne Pathogen (BBP) certifications (need to cover Adult/Child/infant)
TB test verifications for anyone 18 yrs. or older in the household 

Documents to Return to your Agency
44 pages

Reference Letters: 4 were required by our agency.
These are not required before your first home visit, but they have hard questions. We suggest you choose your references and get the questions to them right away. That way they will have as much time as possible to put lots of thought into their answers.

Our agency specified that we needed at least one reference must be a family member and at least one much NOT be a family member. We recommend having one letter from someone that knows the husband well, one from someone that knows the wife well, one that knows you as a couple well and the 4th can be whatever you see fit. We would also recommend that at least one letter be from a woman and one from a man.

The letter provided for us to have our references fill out had 7 questions. An example is “How do you feel this couple will meet the demands of parenthood? How will the addition of an adopted child affect their relationship and family life? What will be the greatest change they will need to make?

Medical Cover Letter: 4 pages.
We suggest you work on this form second simply because it requires an appointment and the help of a third party.

You will each have to fill one out. For this form you’ll need to make a 40min appointment with your physician for you and your spouse together. You’ll bring the 4 page form and they will go through it question by question. The purpose of this form is to declare that you are medically fit to be a parent. It includes things like any recent surgeries, medications and any chronic pain. Your Physician will also need to write a letter with a professional letter head.

Autobiographical statement 9 pages (22 when filled out)
As soon as your reference letters are sent out to your people of choice and your appointment with your physician is scheduled, make this form your priority. This questionnaire needs to be filled out and submitted before your home visit so do it first!

You will each fill out your own. The purpose of this form is for you social worker to get a sense of who you are and how you were raised. We were on this one for a LONG time. The questions are challenging. Not that they are complicated to understand, more that it’s hard to come up with a specific instance for everything.

There are several different categories of questions. I’ll give one example from each category

Primary Caregivers: 20 questions
How were you disciplined? How did the way you were disciplined impact you in the past? How do you feel the way you were disciplined impacts your role as a parent now (if applicable) or the way you plant to parent?
Brothers and Sisters: 2 questions
List all siblings and ages then complete the following
I am very close to_____Why? I am somewhat close to______Why?
I am distant from_____ Why? I am in conflict with ______Why?
Yourself:19 questions example
What do you view as the most difficult time in your life? How did you cope with this situation? What did you learn about yourself from this situation?
Previous Relationships: 5 questions
Describe any serious romantic relationship(s) and the reason for its/their termination.
Current Relationship: 7 questions example
What has been the hardest time in your relationship thus far? How did you cope with this situation? What did you learn about yourself and your partner at this time?
Others in Home: 5 questions example
Describe a typical weekday and weekend in your home.
Physical Health: 3 questions example
Are you currently using any medication? If yes, what type? What are the reasons for the medication?
Mental Health: 8 questions example
Have you ever sought counseling or considered seeking therapy? If yes, describe when these events occurred, the circumstances, the duration of the counseling, and your feelings about this experience.
Other: 7 questions example
Do you keep firearms or weapons in your home or on the premises? If so, what safety precautions have you taken?
Motivation to Adopt: 6 questions example
Please describe how you came to the decision to adopt (include information regarding infertility or any other medical condition, if applicable).
Parenting Preparation:5 questions example
Please discuss your parenting and/or other childcare experiences.
Supplemental Questionnaire for U.S. adoptions: 5 pages (32 questions) example
Are you willing to meet face to face with birth parents?” and “Are you willing to participate in counseling, therapy and/or give behavioral medications as prescribed?
Family Health Insurance: 1 page. A simple signature stating you understand that all child placements are required to have health insurance at all time.
Financial Statement: 3 pages. Asks you to list all your income, assets, debts, and monthly bills. You will also have to attach your most recent pay stub.
Guardianship: 1 page. You must choose a family member or friend who will take guardianship of the child you are placed with, in the event that something happens to you and your spouse.
Release of Information: 1 page. Signature allowing various government agencies to view your medical and background records. It is very similar to the one I mentioned in a previous post, this one is just sent to a different location.
Social Worker Family Ed. Verification: 1 page. You will have to take a few certification classes through your agency (WACAP Weekend see in certification secton above).  Once we have proof we have completed those our social worker will sign this form and submit it to the agency. 

Parenting Resource Plan: 15 pages. (30+ filled out)

This form is mostly for your own person benefit. Answer the questions to the best of your ability. Certification classes and your social worker will be able to help you if you need guidance. “Adoptive parents must often explore territory unfamiliar to even experienced parents in order to meet the needs of their children. Special services at a child’s school, health care resources and connections to groups or individuals of other races and cultures are often needed for a child to thrive in a new family. The Parenting Resource Plan will help you identify such services and resources in your community.”-W.A.C.A.P.
You only have to fill out certain portions of questions depending on what age ranges you are open to fostering/adopting. I will give one example question from each grouping.
All adoptive parents must complete following questions: 12 questions
Please describe at least five ways that early abuse, neglect and institutionalization can affect the personality and development of a young child.
 a) Even young children may show some signs of abuse, neglect or institutionalization when they come home. Describe at least two specific ways you will parent your child to develop trust and attachment—methods that you are not using with your current children. What if after six to 12 months your child appears still unattached?
b) How will you deal with a child who may tantrum for an hour or more, perhaps several times a times a day?
c) How will you deal with a child who rejects you?
d) How will you deal with a child who never wants you to be out of sight?
Families adopting a child of a different race or culture than their own: 9 questions
If your community has few representative of your child’s race or culture, what ongoing issues might result from this? For a child in elementary school? For a child in high school?
Families adopting children with special needs: 11 questions 
Please describe how you will meet the time demands of your child’s possible medical care, including how you will get time off from work. How much support is available from your spouse, extended family members and friends? Please be as specific as possible, identifying by name those available to you for support.
Families adopting children ages 3 and older: 19 questions 
What might be some of the long-standing concerns associated with early abuse and neglect for your child as a teen and young adult? How will you help your child if they have difficulties becoming a self-sufficient adult?
Closing Statement: 1 essay question
You are asked to state which physical and emotional needs you are/aren’t okay with fostering/adopting along with an explanation.
C. Home Visits from Social Worker
2 visits required

Here is a like to our experience with home visits.
Shopping List: Items to have in your home before the inspection
·Blinds without strings
·Working flashlight
·Tamper-proof electrical outlets plugs
·Gun safe
·Separate locked storage box for ammunition
·Grab bar or non skid bathtub mat /decals
·Fireplace or woodstove barrier
·Age-Appropriate beds for the ages you are hoping to adopt (don’t buy crib bumpers!)
·Separate bedrooms for children of opposite genders six years and older
·First aid kit
·A plan for obtaining car seats for the age range you’re open to
·A plan for obtaining potty chairs, toilet training and diaper changing equipment
·Fire ladder in every bedroom on the upper floors
·2A10BC-rated 5lb or larger ABC fire extinguisher
·Batteries to be sure your smoke alarms are working
·Three locked boxes for medication storage (one for internal human medication, one for external human medications and one for animal medications)
·Locks/inaccessible fence for hot tub and/or pool
·Very visible address numbers located in a very visible place

Foster Home Inspection Check List: 4 pages
The list is too long and in depth for to paraphrase. I found a link to an example online.

Other: ORGANIZE YOUR STUFF. Store liquor, cleaning products, flammable and toxic substances in inaccessible storage (either high up or in a locked area. Post the poison control number near your phone

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