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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

International Home study/Dossier vs US Foster Home study/Licensing

I just got an email saying our foster licence was submitted!
You know those moments in life that take you back to reality?
That just happened.
This is for realsies now.

6 home studies later... Yep, you read that correctly. We've now completed 6 of them! 4 for international adoption (IA) and 2 to get certified for foster care. Well the first foster licence didn't get finished in the 11th hour because we ended up going to China for Mimi, but almost. And because that makes me some sort of expert or something (not!) about completing home studies and the pile of paperwork that goes with it, I thought I'd give you a little run down on the similarities and differences in the 2 processes. Disclaimer... I know nothing but our own experiences. Please seek professional guidance, from both a social worker. And a mental health care provider because there is likely to be tears before it's over on either path.

I'll start with the educational requirements and how it was different between the two programs.  In IA, let me be honest, there were some classes that we had to take. We chose to complete them online and fee was about $400. Keeping it real, we didn't learn much that we didn't know already. I know some folks have better experiences than we did for these classes, but it was more of a get this done and tick the box off kind of thing for us because the mountain of things to do was huge. But for foster licensing, there is this big ol' class called the MAPP class, that we had to take. 3 hours per week for both of us for 10 weeks. It was free, and not a single class could be missed. And there was lots of homework too and in-class participation! Honestly I learned far more in that MAPP class about myself, my heart for parenting children from hard places and what that means in reality, than in all the classes we took for IA. I'm pretty sure the MAPP class is require most states in the US for foster certification. And personally, I think some version, just as long and intense, should be required for all IA parents too. Foster parents are taught from the get go that these kiddos are broken from their loss, that we may or may not be able to fix the brokenness and yet it's still our responsibility to do all they can to try. Foster education revolves around what is best for the child, not  parents. Where as the international program comes from a place that these are regular ol' children, the same as any other, an ya, it's gonna be hard, but with work these obstacles are overcome-able. I observed a different mind set from the get go on these two programs.

Well, the cost difference is humongous! The licencing process for foster care was not completely free. But it wasn't much and hardly worth mentioning especially when comparing it to the $30K+ cost for international adoption. For our foster licensing we had to pay to get all the adults in our home CPR re-certified. We needed to reconfigure some bedrooms, (foster care is pretty picky about who sleeps where and gender mixing) and that meant buying another bed, but that was something we would've done eventually. And there was a lot of safely stuff we needed to buy for our home, a new fire extinguisher, those annoying little outlet covers, a ring buoy for our pool, our play/swing set in the backyard needed to be resurfaced... Some of this safety stuff was stuff we needed to do anyway. Some wasn't.

Most of the work and documents for international adoption was done at the national level. Even documents that were produced locally at the state level, had to be notarized and authenticated all the way up to the national foreign consulate, and each step charges a fee of course. Compared to the foster care docs, none of which got notarized, or even signed by us. Or at least I never saw anything like that happen.

Strangely, the fingerprinting and security checks for our family were very different in the two processes. You'd think that this part would be the same, but no. In IA, I think all security and background checks were done at a national level except for a  brief clearance letter from our local police station that said we didn't have any big stuff in our recent past. For IA you also have to get finger printed... a lot! Papa and I joked that the folks probably know us personally down at the national fingerprinting place. For foster licensing, they did do a more extensive background check at the state level, or at least examined it more closely than during the IA process. Papa had to explain a couple of traffic violations that were never brought up in the IA process. And remembering the details of a traffic violation from 2006 wasn't easy!

I'll also mention the "urgency level" of the two processes. In IA, you know that in the end you are going to add to your family. And about mid-way through the process, you see the photo of a child that is going to be yours forever, expect that your new son or daughter is far away and can't come home yet. And you think of this child, from the moment you see him as your own, even though the process is far from complete. He is  in your heart from the first moment you see a picture of him and maybe even before. This deep and almost instantaneous love that occurs creates a sense of urgency on the parents part, and they do anything they can to get that child home as fast as they can. It creates a sense of urgency. But when your foster parents on the other hand you have no idea how any of this is going to play out and that changes you're whole viewpoint on how fast you proceed and how important every little step is. You're pretty sure you're heart is gonna be broken at least a few times, and you hope you can stand it when it does happen. You have no idea if you're going to parent this child a few days, a few months, a few years or forever. And you only have the Lord to trust with how it will all play out and when it's time to say goodbye. And that keeps your heart guarded. I hope I can let my guard down when he gets here. Even if I know I'm gonna get my heart broken, she deserves that. Every child deserves to be loved that way even if it's temporary.

Maybe it's because of these different mind sets, that the preparation for the two programs is different. IA is very self-driven. Where as foster licensing and the possible adoption later is kinda like a just sit back and just do the what you're told process. In IA, we were given a BIG list of requirements and a directions, and of course a person at the end of a phone call if need be. But in the end it was us doing the leg work and keeping ourselves going. For our foster licensing, our case worker is doing most of the work. Bless her heart, she is the one that has initiated and largely carried out the majority of the work to not only complete the home study but also gather and submit all the documents to get licensed after then home study is done. She gets all the other documentation gathered up, let's me know if there's something I missed, and gets it all turned in to the state on our behalf.

But I'll finish this wit the biggest difference that's on my mind right now. Timing! The waiting in international adoption is grueling, tear jerking and can be heart breaking especially if you are waiting for a special needs child! It was months after all the docs left our hand till we saw a photo of a child that would be ours, months to get all the docs to the right place and then stamped by the right people. And months more after that till we had our child home. On the other hand, once the foster care paperwork is turned in to the official place, like ours was this morning, licensing usually happens from 24 hours to a week later. And because there is such a shortage of foster families in our state, placement of a child also happens quite quickly. Sometimes in days. A foster friend warned me that she got a call later that afternoon so not to be surprised.

I feel like I'm at the top of the roller coaster looking down.
It's gonna be a wild ride!


  1. I don't know how you have managed to do so many without loosing your mind. I was at the agency today telling them that completing our dossier is causing me to have panic attacks or am I suffering PTSD from the previous one. I don't know, but I have gone to the doctors office now 4 times for my husbands letter and the doctor can't seem to finish it correctly. Ugh!

    1. I don't know, Kelleyn! And all 6 have had those pesky dr forms. On the most recent one the doc filled out the wrong family member on opposite/back side of the form. do over. Or the paid notary that accidentally brought the out dated stamp. Do over.

  2. Wishing you all the best and the precious babies that are in your care through fostering, find continued peace in love in their lives.

  3. Wow! Completing any licensing paperwork is awesome. I can't imagine that many homestudies! Haha. We are in TN so things are different, but with our foster licensing, we turned in our paperwork on a monday, had 4 placement calls by Wednesday (some we turned down because they were not situations we were comfortable with and some we said yes to and the kids ended up going to family members) and we had a newborn that we picked up from the hospital by that Friday. Just a side note, we requested in our homestudy only school age kids so when they say anything can happen in foster care, just know that ANYTHING can happen! And that when God moves mountains you can sometimes say yes to a situation that seems completely overwhelming and out of your comfort zone and it all works out ok. I think loving the kids from hard places is one of the best kinds of love because it's a love you have to fight for and earn.

    You are right though, it is a wild ride but so, so worth it.


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