Saturday, January 28, 2012

On Home Inspections

The social worker assigned to inspecting our house came by yesterday.  Her intent for the visit was to go through our household to determine if it was a safe environment in which the State of California can place foster children.  This is yet another step in our ongoing efforts to foster some children with the intent of adopting them.

The inspection was extraordinarily intrusive to our household, and we had a lot of preparatory work to go through to be ready.  For example, we had to take everything that says "keep out of reach of children" and put them into a locked drawer or cupboard.  This means we had to first install some locks on the drawers and cupboards around the house.  I spent hours with a drill in my hand installing some nifty (and pricey, but they're worth it) locks called Tot Locks.  Being the not-so-handy guy that I am, I was very pleased that I only punched through one hole in a cupboard during all of the installations that I did!  (The repair process is going to take some time ...)

As we wandered the house looking at labels, we discovered that all sorts of stuff have those terrible words on them.  I urge you to look at stuff in your own house, just for the education of it.  Turn stuff over in your kitchen, your bathroom, your laundry room, and you'll find that such seemingly innocuous stuff such as toothpaste, sunscreen, and chap stick all are labeled thus.  All told, we ended up putting locks under the kitchen sink, in a cupboard above the sink, in two cupboards above the laundry machines, in three drawers in the two bathrooms upstairs, and under one of the bathroom sinks.  And those spaces are crowded!

The most painful one?  Putting the sharp kitchen knives in the locked cupboard in the kitchen.  As my wife cooks or bakes every day, several times a day, this was most distasteful to us.

In addition, we had to make similar preparations in our garage, so we ended up buying a large garage cabinet to put paint, fertilizers, and weed and pest killers.  Just going through the garage and the house, we found that we have so much "dangerous" stuff hanging around that by all rights my entire family should be dead.

We also had our cars inspected by a mechanic (we ending up replacing some wipers and tires), installed baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs, adjusted the water temperature down (bummer), had somebody from the gas company come and inspect our appliances, and bought a lock for the outside freezer.

One interesting challenge was to clear the room we intend for the new children of all of our other stuff, including the closets.  This doesn't sound so hard, except that we've been using that room largely for storage for the last few years.  We had to move all that stuff to other places around the house.  My bedroom now has a craft table in it with all the related accoutrements, and my wife spent many hours going through the closets of the other kids to retire old stuff and to look for efficiencies in the utilization of their space.  All we could leave in the foster children's room was baby-related stuff.  It was quite a challenge!

So, now that we've passed our home inspection, we only need to complete one more regular training session and a CPR training session.  Once that's done in a few weeks, we will be certified to be foster parents!  It's all very exciting, but also somewhat emotional, too.  It's been a long road traveled, but we know the road stretches out far before us, too.

In any case, for your kicks and giggles and "for the record", I'm here posting the checklist that the social worker left with us.  Frankly, she was surprised that we passed on the first attempt, which, according to her, is quite rare.  Apparently most people still have some things that need to be tweaked before they are ready, but my wife and I went through this list very carefully and ensured we had everything ready.  It was a lot of work, but we're confident it will be worth it!

So, without further adieu, the list ...

Physical Plant (General):
  1. Walls and ceilings (paint/wallpaper) are clean and in good order.
  2. Windows, screens, and curtains/blinds are in good condition and operate properly.
  3. Doors are in good condition and operate properly.
  4. Smoke detectors operate properly and fire extinguishers are properly charged.
  5. Furniture and fixtures are in good repair.
  6. Equipment and supplies are not stored in the ayrd or areas used by children.  Tools safely stored.
  7. Weapons are locked up and ammunition is locked separately from firearms.
  8. Toxins, pesticides, insecticides, paint, bleach, cleanser, nail polish remover, disinfectants, cleaning solutions and any other items which could pose a danger to children are inaccessible (locked).
  9. Knives, scissors, razors, and other sharp objects are inaccessible to children (sharp knives must be locked).
  10. Passageways, stairways, and doors are not blocked or obstructed.
  11. Handrails and deck rails are securely fastened.
  12. Rooms are clean, safe, sanitary, and free of odors.
  13. Room temperature is a minimum of 68 degrees and a maximum of 85 degrees (in extreme heat, maximum temperature is 30 degrees less than outside).
  14. Pools, ponds, spas, hot tubs, and other bodies of water are made inaccessible through fencing at least 5 feet high, with a self-closing and self-latching gate that opens away from the pool, or a cover labeled F1346-91 by the American Society for Testing Materials, that can support the weight of an adult.  Pool is properly maintained for sanitation.
  15. Above-ground pools that are five feet high shall be made inaccessible when not in use by removing or making the ladder inaccessible or erecting a barricade to prevent access to decking.  Above-ground pools under five feet high must be fenced.
  16. All in-ground and above-ground pools which cannot be emptied after each use have an operative pump and filtering system.
  17. Windows that face a pool are separated by a fence.
  18. Fireplaces, open face heaters, and wood burning stoves are inaccessible to children.  Use of a fireplace screen or similar barrier will meet this requirement.
  19. There is a working phone on premises.
  20. Building and grounds are free from hazards and rubbish (e.g., broken glass, exposed electrical wiring, protruding nails, dog droppings, etc.).
  21. Fence is in good condition.
  22. Home is free of flies and other insects.  Wood pile has been re-stacked and checked for spiders in the last six months.
  23. Glass doors have decals at children's eye level.
  24. Lead-free paint for refinishing toys and furniture was used.
  25. Freezers or other large chests are locked and inaccessible.
  26. Home and yard checked for poisonous plants and out of reach of small children.  Examples are dieffenbachia, foxglove, rhubarb, potato leaves, laurel, azaleas, rhododendrons, castor beans, lantana, and oleander.
  27. Furnace and water heater have been checked within the last year.
  28. Parent is able to shut off gas, electricity, and water in case of emergency.
  29. Emergency items maintained (flashlight with batteries, first aid kit and instructional handbook, fire extinguisher, etc.)
  30. Keep a safe home environment by securing water heater, tall bookcases, etc.
  31. Breakout windows, ladders for homes with more than one story, etc. have been inspected.  If the home has bars on windows or doors, do they release easily and quickly from the inside without use of a key or other tool?
Client Rooms:
  1. Sheets, pillowcases, mattress pads, blankets, bedspreads are clean and in good condition.
  2. Mattresses, box springs, and pillows are in good repair.
  3. There is adequate dresser and closet space for children's clothing and belongings.  Closets and drawers cannot be used to store any of the foster parents' belongings (considered a personal space intrusion).  Clothes in dresser and closets are clean.
  4. There is a well-lit space for studying (if applicable).
  5. There are no more than 2 children to a room.
  6. Children of the opposite sex, including those of the certified parents, do not share a room unless under age 5.
  7. Children, including those of the certified parents, do not share a room with an adult unless they are under 2.
  8. No room commonly used for other purposes shall be used as a bedroom.  Such rooms shall include but not be limited to halls, stairways, unfinished attics or basements, garages, storage areas and sheds, or similar detached buildings.
  9. No bedroom shall be used as a public or general passageway to another room (this includes the garage or back yard).
  10. Linen is changed at least one a week and more often if necessary.
  11. Bunk beds have a rail on the upper tier, have no more than 2 tiers and are not used by children under five or by children unable to climb into them unassisted.
  1. Hot water is 105-120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Sinks, tubs, toilets, and showers are clean and operable.
  3. Common towels and washcloths are not used.
  1. Equipment and supplies for personal hygiene are available for children in sufficient amounts.
  2. There is a sufficient supply of clean linens to permit changing weekly or more often as needed.
Food Services:
  1. Food storage and preparation areas (pantries, cupboards, freezers, stoves, microwaves, refrigerators, counters) are clean.
  2. There are no pesticides or toxins (ant spray, rodent poison) stores in any food storage or preparation room or with utensils.
  3. Cleaning supplies are kept in areas separate from food supplies.
  4. Contaminated or spoiled food is discarded.
  5. Food supplies are kept covered and inaccessible to pets.
  6. Frozen foods are properly wrapped. Recommend that food supplies be dated and rotated to use old items first.
  7. Kitchen and outdoor trash cans have tight fitting covers.
  8. Snacks and beverages are available in the home at all times (e.g. fruit, milk, juice, etc.).
  9. Dishes, glasses, and utensils are clean and in good condition.
  10. Modified diets are provided as needed.
  11. Powdered milk is not used as a beverage.
  12. There is an adequate supply of fresh, perishable, and non-perishable food in the home to prepare the next three meals and snacks.  A 7-day supply of non-perishables is required.
  13. Infants younger than 7 months of age are held during bottle feeding.
  14. Children in placement have their meals with family members and are served food of the same quality as that served to family members.
  1. All medications (including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, alcohol, aspirin, inhalers, etc.) are locked.
  2. All medications kept in the refrigerator are locked.
  3. Psychotropic medications are double-locked.
  4. Medications are stored in compliance with label instructions.
  5. There are no expired medications (including over-the-counter medicines).
  6. Each prescription medication bottle has been logged on the medication count record.
  7. Destroyed medications are logged on the medication count record.
  8. There is enough medications left in each bottle to order a refill before the current supply runs out.
  9. Medications are given according to label/physician instructions.
  10. Prescriptions and non-prescription (over-the-counter) PRN medication (that is to be taken on an "as need" basis) is only given after documented permission from child's doctor.
  11. Medication labels are not altered.
  12. Medications are not transferred from their bottles to other containers.
  13. There are no permanently discontinued medications or medications for former foster children in the home.
  14. There is documentation of contacting the doctor when children refuse medication.
  15. Current Psychotropic Medication Authorization is on file with expiration dates listed and reviewed every six months.
  1. Available activities include: activities requiring group interaction, physical and education activities, leisure time, and instruction in daily living skills.
  2. Toys, games, books, and recreational and education material appropriate to children's ages, and mental and physical development are available.
  3. Voluntary attendance at religious activities is available to children.
Personal Rights:
  1. Children are accorded dignity in their relationships with the foster family.
  2. Children are free from corporal or unusual punishment, infliction of pain, humiliation, intimidation, ridicule, coercion, threat, mental abuse or other action of a punitive nature including but not limited to: interference with daily living functions, such as eating, sleeping, and toileting; or withholding of shelter, clothing, medication, or aids to physical functioning.
  3. Exits from rooms and building (home) are not locked in a way that prevent children from leaving.
  4. Children are not placed in restraining devices.
  5. Children are allowed visitors unless prohibited by court order or the child's authorized representative.
  6. Children are allowed access to phones to make and receive confidential calls unless prohibited by court order or the child's authorized representative.
  7. Children can send and receive unopened mail unless prohibited by court order or the child's authorized representative.
  1. Changes in family composition reported immediately, with a social worker having completed an immediate assessment and written a home study update within two weeks.
  2. Vehicles used to transport children are maintained in safe operating condition and have the State's required auto insurance.
  3. Children are secured in car seats designed for their age, weight, and in accordance with current law.
  4. Individuals without appropriate fingerprint and child abuse index clearance (friends, family, neighbors) are not used as babysitters.  Foster or birth child cannot be used as a babysitter.
  5. The home is equipped with first aid supplies (sterile first aid dressing, bandages, adhesive tape, scissors, tweezers, thermometer, antiseptic solution) and a current first aid manual.  Commonly used items (such as band-aids) have been replenished.
  6. Medications and poisons that are commonly found in a first aid kit (such as aspirin, hydrogen peroxide, etc.) are kept in a locked medication are, not in the first aid kit.
  7. Dogs have had their rabies shots, and a record of current rabies shots is kept.
  8. A list of emergency numbers (emergency/disaster plan which includes indication of meeting place) and a floor plan (indicating emergency exits) are posted by the telephone. Family's goal should be to evacuate their home within 90 seconds.
  9. Fire/disaster drill completed every six months.
  10. Foster parent Certificate of Approval (certification) available and posted.
  11. Training hours for annual re-certification have been completed.
Providing Care for a Child 0-36 Months:
  1. All electrical outlets are protected by outlet covers.
  2. Foster parent reports that poisonous plants are kept out of reach of small children.
  3. A safety gate or door at the top and bottom of stairs prevents a child's access to stairs.
  4. The crib has no knobs or sharp edges.
  5. The crib is placed away from windows, pictures, and shelves.
  6. Infant sleeps in a crib that has a firm mattress (waterbed mattress not permitted).
  7. Quilts, blankets, comforters, sheepskin, or other similar soft material are not being placed in crib or under infant.
  8. Soft stuffed toys, pillows, bean bags, sheepskin, or thick blankets are not placed in the crib with the infant.
  9. The mattress on the crib is kept low enough so the child cannot climb out of the bed.
  10. The slats on the crib are less than 2 3/8 inches apart (a soda can, held vertically, is unable to fit through the opening).
  11. Cords to drapes and blinds are out of reach of children.
  12. There are no more than two infants under the age of 2 (both foster and birth) in the foster home without obtaining additional household help, or an exception from Licensing.
  13. A rear-facing infant car seat is used for children 0-19 pounds, and is placed in the back seat if tehre are front passenger seat air bags.
  14. A front-facing car seat is used for children 20-40 pounds, and is placed in the back seat if there are front passenger seat air bags.
  15. Foster parent has been notified that the baby is to be placed on his/her back or side only, to sleep (SIDS prevention).
  16. Foster parent reports that they do not smoke around an infant.
Personal Property:
  1. Children's cash records are current.
  2. Children's cash records balance with cash being safeguarded.
  3. Personal property list is updated with additions and deletions.

On Boy-Yow and Unanimous

So, my oldest son, being 12, is learning all sorts of interesting turns of phrases.  One he slaughtered tonight was when he attempted a sarcastic use of the term "boy-yow".

Me: "Boy-yow ... what's that mean?"

Him: "Er ... never mind."

Me (after contemplating what he said and how he said it): "You mean boo-yah?"

Him (red-faced): "Uh, yeah."

Love it.  Then, later when he was embarrassed that I was actually posting this to my blog, I reminded him that there's no names posted here, so it was extraordinarily unlikely that his friends from school would see it, he said, "Oh, so it's unanimous."

I just looked at him, then asked, "You mean anonymous?"

Too funny!  It's one of life's greatest joys to be able to embarrass your pre-teen ...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Feel Good Moment

So the social worker came by yesterday from L.A. County to have interviews with my family as we continue our preparations to foster a few children with the hopes of adopting them.  The purpose of the interviews is to enable the social worker to write up a biography of my family so that she can add it to the record and make it available to judges who will place children in our home.

The best moment of the interview was when she looked at me and said, "I would describe your build as 'athletic'."  AWESOME!  Never in my life has anybody said such a thing to me, and I was wonderfully flattered.

I mentioned this to my wife with my kids in earshot, and my daughter, bless her heart, suggested that the social worker was just flirting with me.

Hmm ...

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