We did it! We passed our home inspection by the state today in order to become a licensed foster home. With our homestudy complete, fingerprints approved, references in, police clearances done and physicals signed off by our doctors, this was pretty much the last step in becoming foster parents. I will have to admit that it was also the most stressful. After all, we already knew we didn’t have police records nor questionable fingerprints, and other than having to stand on the scale, the medical exams by our doctor were painless. We’ve lived through three other homestudies, so that was pretty much old hat.
To have your home inspected, however, was a bit more unsettling. They aren’t looking for a “white glove” test. It even says that in the 16 page pdf that the state gives you to let you know what they are looking for. I had to chuckle because in the same breath they say they don’t want to see (or smell, I would imagine) any urine or feces or rotting food. UGH! From white glove to rotting food or feces are definitely two very disparate ends of a rather large spectrum. Since we don’t have any of the listed offenses, I figured we were pretty safe.
So why is it stressful, you ask? Because they have the right to look in every cabinet of your house to make sure you pass certain safety standards. Looking in cabinets–if you are a woman–means you better clean out that pantry, organize your tupperware, wipe down the inside of your refrigerator, and organize the mess of cleaners under the kitchen sink…not only organize it, but make sure it is locked. All medications have to be locked, and anything considered toxic such as bleach, also has to be locked. That means no bottle of Tylenol in your medicine cabinet in the bathroom unless there is a lock on that cabinet. I already keep most of our meds in one cabinet in the kitchen, but had to hunt down any stragglers in bathrooms and move them.
Jeff attached the coolest locks on the market for child safety. They’re called Tot-Locs, and they are magnetic. They aren’t visible from the outside of the cabinet, and the “key” is a powerful magnet that you run on the outside of the cabinet that causes the lock inside to open. We keep the key on the fridge where it conveniently sticks to the top of the door; safely out of reach of small hands.
The state tests the temperature of your hot water and it cannot be over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. They also test the temperature of your refrigerators, which must be 45 degrees or less. One of ours yesterday was 47 degrees which was good to know, because for food safety, refrigerators should always keep your food no warmer than 45 degrees. We turned the knob which brought it down to a safer 42 degrees. There’s another odd description in the rules when it comes to your freezer. It says that food in freezers cannot be soft or mushy. Gee, I thought that the concept of “frozen” would pretty much eliminate that, but I guess they have to be very specific.
Every bedroom must have a smoke alarm, as well as the main living area of your home. We already had two smoke alarms, but they weren’t in the bedrooms so we had to buy 4 more. Since Ben is totally deaf with his implant off at night, this meant finally purchasing the 100 dollar smoke alarm with a strobe light for his bedroom that we had put off purchasing. I feel much better having that in his bedroom, but since it requires more power than a regular smoke alarm, it had to be wired into the electricity of the house. That sucker can wake the dead when it flashes, so it ought to be able to wake two sleeping boys.
The kitchen must have a fire extinguisher, and it cannot be rated below 2A, 10 BC. The first one we bought was only a 1A 10 BC, so there went 40 dollars down the drain as we had to buy yet another one to satisfy the higher requirement. There can be nothing flammable within 3 feet of your hot water heater, so we had to rip out a few shelves in our storeroom that were made of wood since they came too close to the water heater.
From non-slip surfaces in showers and tubs to an evacuation plan posted in the event of fire, to carbon monoxide detectors, the list seemed endless. Thankfully there are no guns or ammo in our home so we didn’t have to satisfy all the extra requirements related to those items, and all incendiary devices were already under lock and key thanks to Ben’s pyro behaviors.
I feel like we now have the safest home on the block. Not only can we put out a fire –with a 2A 10 BC fire extinguisher nonetheless–there isn’t a single medicine or toxic substance that isn’t locked up. My bleach was already above the washer in a cabinet that was out of reach of small children, but now it is securely locked as well. When Jeff was a small boy, he tasted gun barrel cleaner, as well as furniture polish. Something tells me their home wouldn’t have passed a foster home licensing inspection.
The inspector was a former foster parent himself and he shared a funny story about kids’ thought processes. Any bodies of water more than 4 feet deep require a hook and a safety flotation ring. Since he had a swimming pool, he had to have both safety devices. His kids were always taking the ring and playing with it in the pool even though he told them not to, so out of frustration he finally wrote “FOR EMERGENCY PURPOSES ONLY” on the ring in big letters with a marker.
He arrived home one afternoon after work to see one of his newest foster teens sitting on the flotation ring in the pool. Exasperated, he said, “Can’t you read?” The kid smugly looked back at him and said, “I’m not sitting on that side.” 🙂