Monday, August 29, 2011

Pool Requirements

There have been many items/issues to be considered as we go through this adoption process. This post is on the pool - just one of those small things that has really annoyed us, so I thought I would share!

When we were looking for a home in 2009, we specifically wanted a house that had a pool. It was important, since J's daughter comes out in the summer, and it is frankly brutal here at that time of year. We were very lucky and bought a house that had a lovely backyard (by AZ standards - it probably looks like a side yard for most people, but lots aren't big out here). The most enjoyable part of the yard is that it's green, and you can't see most of the brick fence.

(We have never used the chimney thing - but there's always hope!)

Because many homes have pools in AZ, there is an unfortunately high drowning rate for children here. Every year the fire departments and news stations put out a "No Drowning" campaign, but accidents still happen. So, AZ law requires that every household with a pool either needs to have 1) a fence around the pool or 2) high doorknobs to all external doors. Our house had high doorknobs, which was our preference. Don't knock the doorknobs - Sydni is 4'6, and only this summer was she able to get enough leverage to open the door after three or four tries. I occassionally need two, and I'm almost 5'6.

The pool area was designed to have mesh fencing - and did have it when we purchased it, but somehow the mesh fencing disappeared by the time we moved in. We considered buying one, but never really got around to it.

When we started the adoption process, we were loathe to learn that the judges in AZ have refused homes without pool fences so frequently that no agency will accept high doorknobs as a viable security option. This did not go over very well at all. It was something that took us about 6 months to really agree to, and most of our reasoning was that we could use mesh fencing, and take it down once the children were fully adopted.

(That is not a real turtle on the step. It's just a mosaic turtle, who needs a name)

We found the agency that we really liked, and then we hit another snag. The agency that we're partnered with only works with children who do not have major developmental delays, are relatively healthy, and speak English - all items that were important to us. We also had a great recommendation from a friend, and that is worth it's weight in platinum. The snag? There had been an issue with a foster family who had a mesh fence and had taken it down to mow the lawn - and a child drowned. So, they do not allow mesh fencing at all. No mesh fences. At. All.

Insert an additional 6 month deliberation on the pool vs. the adoption.

When we had really come to terms with it, and said, "OK, the yard is really split in half anway, we could put a fence right down the middle of the yard, and that would be fine." we decided to jump into the training with both feet. We had our initial (exhaustive) home visit which went incredibly well, except for one piece of information - she had concerns that we would be required to put a fence around the entire pool, including this section:

Between the wall of the house, and the lip of the pool is approximately 2 ft (it might be 3 ft, but it's too hot to go out and measure it). Putting a fence in the middle of that not only blocked the view of the yard out of the livingroom windows, but also made it impossible to walk to the other side of the yard - where our good fruit trees are, the AC units, dog poop... things we need access to. This lead to the statement from one person in this family, who will remain nameless:

"F that. I am NOT putting a fence around the whole pool. I refuse to! I won't do it!! End of discussion!!"

Keeping in mind that it means you're also not adopting a child or two, that's a pretty heavy statement.

So, this lead to a panicked review of safety and pool regulations in an attempt to find a loophole - and if anyone could find one, it would be me. I'm a master of reviewing legalese, I should count it as a second language. :) Luckily I DID find a loophole, and so from there it was just hoping and pleading that DES would agree that it was an acceptable safety solution. The loophole was to "permanently disable" the windows from the livingroom and our bedroom that are along that wall. Lucky for us, this couldn't have been requested if the children's bedroom windows were there, or if the gate to get out of the yard had been on that side, as it would have prevented egress routes in case of a fire. So, since we never open those windows anyway (did I mention it's 107 degrees out right now?) we decided to do our initial pool evaluation with DES, and hope that I could convince them that disabling the windows was perfectly legal, and met all safety requirements (please, please, please, please, please!)

Good news! The DES guy was very friendly, and he immediately suggested my proposed solution, so I didn't even have to weedle my way into the discussion. He approved the plan to fence the yard in half, and even showed me how I could disable the windows.

Phew! We might actually get to the training class without another pool catastrophe!

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