You've finally finished all the paperwork, and you are facing what to do for the home study. Maybe your agency has given you a checklist and you feel overwhelmed at everything that is required or prohibited. Or perhaps your agency has simply said, "Pay attention to what we say in all the trainings and do that." Ummm...."that" was a LOT of information spread out over 30 hours of trainings over several months. Say wha?
Either way, you're probably a little overwhelmed.
Here's my advice. Take a deep breath. You're ok. You've made it this far!
Now. Talk with another foster parent, within your agency if possible, but really anyone will do. Figure out what "temperature" your agency is about the home study. Are they going to be there for 2 hours per person in your family? Or maybe they'll be there for 2 hours total. Are they going to open cabinets and scour your refrigerator for expired items? Are they going to expect your children to be available for individual interviews? What are you expected to provide for them while they're there?
The more detailed they are, the more prepared you will be for the state inspection when it comes. And, y'all, it WILL come. My home study developer was not very detailed and I led her around showing her things I thought she should ask me about. I didn't feel prepared when the state came. (It was fun. (I mean, it was fine. By fun, I'm being a little sarcastic....but it really was fine.) I was prepared. However, I didn't know what they would ask for and what if I couldn't show it to them because I didn't have the mythical "it"?)
Some agencies want you to have a "disaster" bag with 3 days worth of food and water in a safe place in your house as well as one in the car. My agency never mentioned anything like that. My agency did want me to have a list of emergency phone numbers handy and the children in my home to know where they are (which I thought was ridiculous since J didn't know 911 and wouldn't have been able to give them my address even if she did know 911 and I wasn't going to teach her my address because her mom couldn't have it, but....whatever.)
So, preparing for a home study. Bottom line: talk to other foster parents within your agency and see what the agency expects. Talk to your agency is they're helpful and knowledgeable and the person you're talking to as worked there long enough to be able to answer your questions. I personally have found that foster parents are more helpful than agency personnel, but every agency is different.
A list of things that seem to be "across the board" with agencies:
a fire extinguisher on each level of the home
no food on the floor (even in the pantry)
evacuation map posted somewhere
medicine locked up
Child needs a bed
Child needs clothes or you need to have a place for their clothes to go when you do get the clothes
See? Not so hard.
My home study lasted 2ish hours. The last 15 minutes she walked around my home. The first, and major part, was the interview. Everything from my childhood to how many times I'd moved to why I hadn't chosen to do in vitro if I wanted to be a mom. (No, I'm not kidding.) We talked about the ages and ethnicities and genders of kiddos I was willing to take and behaviors I was or was not willing to have in my home. We talked about my rules for food. This is a major one. Food has to be available. If you're planning to lock the refrigerator, please do not get into foster care.
The home study seems to cause a lot of anxiety for a lot of people, and I think the reason I was nervous was because my agency didn't communicate their expectations well. I know other people are nervous because their agency's expectations are so high, they aren't sure they've met them.
Don't worry about how clean your house is or how neat and tidy it is. You may already have kids. Your house will look lived in. It doesn't have to look like you're trying to show it to new buyers. Promise!
You can do it!