Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Infamous Home Visit!

Of all the myriad of nerve-wracking and invasive home study requirements, the home visit has to be one of the more stress-inducing.  I know for me, in all the years that we've talked about, prayed about, and researched adoption, that's been the One Big Thing that I've worried about.  So I thought I'd write up a description of how ours went while it's still fresh in my mind- maybe it will help ease the stress of someone else that's gearing up for their own!

After all of the paperwork (tax information, background checks, medical information, identifying certificates for everyone in the family, autobiography questionnaires the size of novellas, etc., etc.) is handed in and the  home study is paid for, your file is handed over to your case worker who then calls to schedule your interviews and house check.  Your case worker is the person who will review all of your information and will write your actual home study.

As it turned out, our case worker said she'd come right to our house to do our interviews and we'd get them all done in one day.  Which is a lot to conquer but we were glad to be able to get it over with all at once!  We'd be doing a joint interview with both Ramsey and I, individual interviews for each of us, and an interview with the kids (Reuben was the only one that she was required to interview since he's the only one 10 or up, but she included the other kids so they wouldn't feel left out- they got to draw pictures and chime in.).  And, of course, she'd be looking at our house.

We had one week from the time I spoke with our case worker to the day that we scheduled our interview for.  Which gave us a week to get the house in shape.  When we bought our house, it was a fixer-upper.  We've done a whole lot of fixing-upping but it's still got a ways to go, so we were a little nervous about that.  At this point, the work that remains is cosmetic, and our case worker told me on the phone that would be fine, but still, as you prepare for your house to be looked at, all those little things jump out at you.  No trim around the living room windows... or a kitchen window...  a bedroom floor needs to be refinished...  Is it reasonable to try to paint the kitchen this week??  (No.  No, it is not.  The kitchen remained unpainted.)  So Ramsey spent the week doing home improvement projects that seemed to us to be highest priority, and I spent the week cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.  I am, well, a bit of an underacheiver in the housekeeping department, so there was plenty of cleaning to be done.  (A bonus of the house check- my home is now thoroughly spring cleaned.)

I knew from plenty of others who have gone through the home study process that the case worker wasn't going to be giving our home the white glove test.  But still.  You want to put your best foot forward.

Anyway, the day before our visit was scheduled, three of the kids and Ramsey came down with a stomach bug.  Perfect.  I called our caseworker in the evening to tell her that I hoped it was just a 24-hour bug, what did she want to do?  We ended up postponing our appointment from 10 a.m. to the afternoon and would check in that morning to see how everyone was.  Come morning, everyone was on the road to recovery.  We went ahead with the afternoon appointment. 

Our case worker arrived at 2:30; four hours later she was on her way out the door- joint interview, kids' interview, Ramsey's interview, my interview, and the house check complete, about as painlessly as they possibly could be.

The interview questions didn't feel terrible, most of them seemed to simply expand on things we'd already been asked about in our autobiographies.  The things we said about ourselves that we would consider to be negatives (we argue, I'm a yeller) just didn't seem to shock our caseworker and on we went to the next question.  Kids say the darndest things, you know, so we'd been a little apprehensive to think about what the kids might come up with to say but the kids' interview wasn't horrible (we eavesdropped from the kitchen), and in fact it was pretty fun to hear the things they said- no probing to find out just how terrible a set of parents we were, but more asking about what our family is like and how the kids felt about the adoption, and about how they felt about getting a new brother or sister.  No worries there, I doubt there have ever been a more enthusiastic set of siblings!

And then the tour of the house.  She saw it all within a minute and a half.  She didn't look at the attic, basement, or unfinished side porch, just the actual living space.  She cared the most about seeing the room that our new little person will be occupying, and asked in the interview about the bedroom dimensions and the bedroom windows' dimensions, as well as the square footage of the house.  She wanted to see that there were smoke detectors on both floors, and asked if we owned a fire extinguisher (yes, two, one on each floor.)  Otherwise, it was just a quick tour.  At one point, as we walked through the house, she was passing by the bathroom, so I opened the door to show it to her.  She glanced in, said, "yup, it's a bathroom," then kept on walking.  (So glad I gave the toilet an extra scrubbing!)  So, I don't think I needed to focus so much on the cleaning for her benefit, but it would have been a distraction to me if I hadn't so I'm glad the house was nice and sparkly for her visit.

All in all, I'd say that not only did we survive the home visit/interviews, but I even think it all went quite well.  And really, so much of fear is dealing with the unknown, and now we know- so it'll be so much easier next time around!  ; )

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