What do I need in my home for a home study?

A family holding parts of a house in silhouette to the sun

In a home study, your home will be checked for safety and space, here are some of the basics: 

Virginia Foster care and The Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS) have many stipulations. These include Foster parents' expectations, their home safety, and the young people they can serve. When a child is placed in your home, if this is short-term or becoming an adoptive family, all these policies must be in place beforehand. Your local Child Placing Agency (CPA)will always guide and help you in these areas. 

Foster care aims to provide a safe, stable, nurturing environment until the child can return home to birth parents or until a permanent family is found. Local child placing agencies are responsible for placing children in foster care and supervising those placements while the child is in the foster care system and under the local Department of Social Services guardianship. If a child is waiting to be adopted, aging out of foster care, or stepping down from a group home, the policies are the same for all parents and agencies.

A home study expert must ensure thorough assessments of the personal characteristics and home environments so that foster parents and other substitute caregivers can provide safe, nurturing homes in the best interests of the children in foster care so a child can, in time, return to their birth family or find their future adoptive parents.

The placing agency approves a licensed foster family home to provide care for children, which meets basic standards of safety set by law and regulation to protect a child's welfare. Laws and policies for licensing or approving foster families and their homes are consistent across Virginia but not state by state. These standards reduce predictable risks to foster youth's health, safety, and well-being in foster care.

Overall, the home must be large enough to provide adequate space for living, eating, studying, and playing for all occupants, including the foster care children. Overall, the home must have a working telephone, appliances in good working order, adequate heat, lighting, ventilation, and a functional bathroom with hot and cold running water. The home must have a sufficient number of bedrooms for all family members that are large enough to provide each child with adequate space for their safety, privacy, and comfort. 

What follows are items that may be specific requirements for the foster home: 

  • The home shall be accessible to the community resources needed by foster children. 
  • Working telephone or cell phone in the house that a child has access to at all times 
  • Appropriate housekeeping standards 
  • Accessible basin (sink) and toilet facilities 
  • Adequate heating and cooling systems to ensure the inside temperature remains between  65 and 80 degrees F
  • The proper method of ventilation in the room where the foster child will sleep 
  • Availability and use of sleeping space 
  • Separate beds for each foster child 
  • Beds equipped with clean, safe, and comfortable sleeping furnishings 
  • Closet and drawer space for clothing and personal possessions 
  • Screens on all doors and windows are used for ventilation 
  • A written plan for evacuation of the home in the event of an emergency 
  • Accessible first aid kit with rubber gloves 
  • All medications are stored correctly in a locked cabinet 
  • All cleaning supplies and other hazardous materials are stored in a locked cabinet away from  food 
  • Smoke detectors on each floor and near the sleeping areas 
  • Working ABC fire extinguisher in the kitchen 
  • The availability of play or recreation areas appropriate for the ages of children to be  placed 
  • A written plan of evacuation is posted within the home 
  • Emergency and poison control numbers posted 
  • Proper documentation and vaccinations for any pets in the home 
  • All ammunition shall be secured and locked separately from firearms. Some additional requirements of the foster family include: 
  • Must be at least 21 years old 
  • A physical and negative TB screen attesting to the health of each family member 
  • A clear Child Abuse and Neglect Information System (CANIS) check will be required for all adult members of the household. 
  • A psychological assessment indicating the mental capabilities to foster a therapeutic child  (Optional) 
  • Income must be sufficient to ensure the child's Foster parent's maintenance must present three recent payroll checks and a W-2 as verification
  • All adult household members will also require a criminal history and FBI background check. 
  • Autobiography
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