Friday, March 29, 2013

SFFC- Application and Homestudy Process

As promised, I am going to write a bit about the process of applying to become a Safe Family at SFFC. If you missed it, here is the link to the first post I wrote about our decision to become a host family.

Summary: it is very easy.  In fact, it almost feels too easy.  We are so used to living in culture of litigation and mistrust, that a process that relies on trust and common sense feels strange.  Nice, but strange.

The application process for Safe Families starts with an online application that requests information about your family.  There are questions about your home, number and size of bedrooms, safety of the home (do you have firearms, unprotected pools or ponds, etc), and information about your family.  There are a few "essay" questions that pertain to your family background, and they are especially interested in how you were disciplined growing up, and how you discipline your children, if you have any.  Because the backgrounds of the children in the program are so varied, they feel very strongly that corporal punishment could be very damaging for these kids (duh).

Safe Families is a church-affiliated program, so they ask that you get a recommendation from your pastor, as well as recommendations from two friends who can speak a bit about you.

The next step is to watch the training videos- which are each between 2 and 20 minutes long, and there are about 12 of them.  They cover the who, what, when, where and why of SFFC- including talks on biblical hospitality, working with the SFFC families, home safety, child development, what to expect when a child enters your home, and the logistics of the program.  We really liked the segments by David Anderson, the founder of the program...we felt that he said everything in a way that was smart and respectful to us and to the parents in the program.  He discussed many of the reasons that someone might end up in the program, and some of the issues that might arise.  He let common sense dictate his advice and he didn't patronize.  There were also a few segments from a pastor/psychologist who spoke about some of the faith issues involved in choosing to host a child and working with families in crisis.  We didn't learn much that we didn't already know, but it was a good refresher and did introduce us to some of the specifics of the program.  Not painful at all!

The final step was the homestudy visit.  I promised there was a bit of a story behind this one, so I will set the scene.  On Wednesday night we had a closing for our home refinance.  Murphy's Law held out and hours after writing a check for that, our water heater decided to give up the ghost.  We had to turn the water off to the house in order to stop the flood.  We spent much of the night up dealing with a screaming baby who could not be consoled.  Thankfully Hubby had already planned to work from home on Thursday for our homestudy, so he and I tag-teamed in the shower-less morning...he went to obtain a permit for a new water heater and arrange that, and I took the kiddos to the walk-in-sick clinic.  Little Bee ended up needing a nebulizer breathing treatment and meds for an ear infection.  I did the preschool-pharmacy-preschool-McDonald's run while Hubby did the Village Hall-ATM-Village Hall-Home Depot dance.  Good times.  Fast forward to an hour before J was to arrive to do our homestudy...the door to our utility closet has been removed.  There is a water heater sitting in our hallway.  The plumber is welding pipes...which has filled the house with smoke.  The smoke alarm is is Bee, who is having another breathing treatment.  The Village inspector arrives to check out our new water heater and tracks mud everywhere.  The McDonald's bags are still on the table, above the sticky floor from where Lego tried to pour himself a glass of apple cider from a heavy gallon jug and dropped it.  Nothing says "quality home for children" like our house in this moment!

Mercifully, J was running a few minutes late and we were able to pull things together by the time she arrived.

The actual homestudy meeting consisted mostly of chatting.  She explained the program, discussed some issues that pertain to our specific county, asked us questions about ourselves, our kids and why we wanted to be a host family.  She took a quick look around the house (there was no deep inspection, measuring or formal assessment...which is good since my house was sporting the "lived in" look).  She answered questions we had.  Our biggest concern was whether or not we could fit another child in our house.  We were not sure what the space and bedroom requirement were for the program.  She assured us that our house would be fine.  If we were being licensed through the state, there would be very specific requirement for where a child could sleep, who could share rooms, etc.  Safe Families, as a voluntary program, is more relaxed about this...again, letting common sense guide policy (can you tell we appreciate this mindset?!).  Where we put a host child will depend on the age and gender.  Right now our girls share a room and our son has his own room.  We are looking to swap their rooms around soon so that the sharers get the more spacious room (again, stay tuned for more on the "making room effort").  We figure we can pull out the Pack n Play or put up bunkbeds or our extra toddler bed as needed.  I suppose that being packed like sardines into a safe and loving home is still a better situation than most of the children are coming from.  But if anyone wants to build an extra room onto our house, give us a call!!

We ended our session by being fingerprinted (which she kindly did right there, rather than us having to go have it done at the police station).  Now we wait 6-8 weeks for the fingerprints and background checks to be processes. Then we should have the green light to host our first child.  When SFFC gets a child, they post it on the message board, including details about the child's age, gender, reason for placement, estimated length of stay and any special needs or issues.  When we see a child that we feel we could host, we let them know.  We get to choose our placements, and are never forced to take a child that we do not wish to host.  It is a bit heartbreaking reading the posts (we are on the mailing list, but still awaiting our final okay to host).  I predict some hard conversations about which children we can realistically host, and some difficulty in having to say no.  But we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

As of now...a bit more waiting and a bit of space-making!
We just need a bit of this...

And a bit of this.

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