Monday, August 15, 2011

Initial Home Visit

Hi All,

Welcome to my new blog, Adventures in Adoption. Long post initially - I promist they won't all be this long. A couple of housekeeping notes:

- For those (few) of you who have this blog on your following role, it has been repurposed from tri/running race reports, to now be focused on our adoption process. Feel free to unfollow, you won't hurt my feelings.

- Since it's being repurposed, the blogs from 2009 and prior are old blogs that I still want to keep, but they have nothing to do with adoption. :)

- We had our initial home visit this past weekend, and so I'm going to start with fresh details, then play catch up, so this is not exactly in chronological order.

- We are going through the process of a Foster/Adopt Adoption, or DES Adoption - basically, kids that are eligible for adoption through Child Protective Services. We will not be fostering children who are not eligible for adoption. If you have any questions, feel free to ask - but I'll be covering those details in another post.

About two days before the home visit, I started thinking that I needed to write everything down. Part of it was so that I would remember the details of this process to tell to children later. The other part was that a lot of the blogs I was reading/searching/hunting for info on the initial home visit didn't really say much about the details. There were no how to steps, no prep for what to expect. It was mostly "CLEANED EVERYTHING!!", followed by "NO sweat, 10 minutes, why was I panicking?" This was not very helpful when I myself was panicking. And this leads to my thanking my twitter and IRL friends for being soothing, calm, and answering questions like "Do I make the bed? Or is that too obvious? Do I unvacuum the vacuum lines? What do you think about flowers on the kitchen table? HELP!! I'm ironing the shower curtain and I can't stop!"

(picture courtesy of

So, in addition to my emotions and feelings for this process, I also want to let you know what I did - and how it worked out.

So, without getting into too much detail - once we decided on a US adoption, I had reviewed several agencies, gone to a Valley wide multiple agency orientation, and we decided on the agency for us. I filled out the initial interest paper (1 pg, nothing detailed) and handed it in. Within a day, our licensing specialist Diana called (and we were thrilled to get her, as we have some friends who recently adopted, and they had her as their specialist and loved her). She gave me her name, email, phone, asked for my contact details, told me she lived just a few blocks away, and then set up an initial home visit time and date. During that visit, she just wanted to get to know us, fill out some initial paperwork, and take a glance around the house.

This sounded like an absolutely adequate amount of information until... two days before the visit. That was when I realized that I had no idea what kinds of questions she would ask to get to know us (Favorite color? Am I a picky eater? Do I have a criminal record?), what kind of paperwork we'd be filling out (I was thinking everything from household income, to military release paperwork - which luckily I had handy), and glancing around the house kicked my OCD self into action.

In preparation, I was told by a family who was involved in a foster program that too neat is just as much of a turn off as too dirty. This killed me. Aparently, some agencies feel that Better Homes and Garden neat means that the family is completely unprepared for the messy monsters that will be coming to live with you. J and I are pretty neat in general. It's not that we clean every surface three times a day , but there's only two of us, and neither one is a slob, so the house doesn't really get messy. In retrospect, I probably could have cleaned off the counter tops, and been fine. But, instead, I rescheduled the cleaning ladies to come the day before the visit, cleaned out closets, reoganized the office, wiped away the vaccuum lines in all carpeted areas and the couches, swept the front courtyard, organized the pantry (things were starting to go OCD awry when the labels all had to be facing front), and yes, I ironed the shower curtain in the guest bath. But from there, I was struggling with too neat - so then I did a poll on bed making (end concensus was smooth out the comforter, but don't put decorative pillows up, let the guest bed and Sydni's bed stay made, and nice) and that lasted until about 2 hours before the meeting, when I did in fact put decorative pillows on our bed. I just. couldn't. help. myself. I also did a poll on clothing options (I wore nice jeans, and a comfy, modest black top, J went with red sox t-shirt, and khaki shorts), how many dishes I should leave in the sink (breakfast dishes), and what would constitute "lived in" (for me, scattering books around the house). I did all this anticipating she would be in the house for 10 minutes, and not look at any of it.

I was wrong.

The initial home visit took almost two hours. We filled out and reviewed mounds of paperwork, and she reviewed every part of the house to check for "potential issues" and give suggestions on things that we would need to prepare for the final home visit, after our training. I was so glad I had cleaned out the closets, you have no idea.

The good news was that I felt like she appreciated our (sometimes painful) honesty, she clearly liked the house - making comments about how big the closet was, how much she liked my bookshelves in the office, that she liked the floor plan, that we had a nice layout, and overall that we were clearly safety concious, and there were not too many changes to make. Also, for those of you following along, the smoke alarms did not chirp once while she was there. Whew. I think we made a good and realistic first impression.

The questions that she asked us were mostly on parenting. What experiences did we have with children? Had we ever worked with special needs or at risk youth? What were our preferences regarding age, ethnicity, and gender? All questions we were well prepared to answer. The paperwork is amazing. It was given in three segments - initial home visit, before training, and home study.

During the home visit, we filled out the following:
- Adoptive Families Central Registry Records Clearance (CPS background check)
- Initial Visit Questions (above)
- Adoption Orientation Checklist
- Agency Policies
- Agency Fee for Home Studies Agreement
- Department of Economic Security Release of Information
- Release of Information/Training Attendance

We were given large packets (to be discussed in a future post) to be turned in before training. Those packets included:
- Personal Profile (one for me, one for J, one for Sydni to fill out - each about 12 pages)
- 5 References - family and friends
- Application (16 pages, everything from householding info, detailed financial records, 10 years physical addresses, 10 years employment history...exhaustive details)
- Training profile (10 pgs)
- 3 sets of fingerprinting cards, each

I can't even think about the paperwork to be filled out for the home study, but it includes marriage licenses, divorce decrees, child support tables, medical reviews, counseling, CPR documentation, military discharge paperwork, credit reports, etc. It's amazing how little paperwork needs to be signed to have your own children, and yet if you want to do a good thing and raise a child without a family, well then, let's make sure CPS has your tally of birthmarks, previous haircuts, and blood type on file.

So from here, we're on paperwork duty (for those keeping track at home, the queen of papercuts has already received one from this stack - feel free to put over/under bets for the entire process tally in the comments). Our training class starts on September 21st, and we are tentatively optimistic!

1 comment:

  1. Good luck with your journey! We adopted two unrelated orphans from Vladivostok, Russia, in 2005, and I remember well the tons of paperwork, the anxiety, and the constant uncertainty if I was "doing it right". Sounds like you're on the right track though and I wish you the best!