Foster parents offer loving and secure environments for children who cannot live with their biological parents, whether because of abuse or neglect, death, abandonment or a host of other reasons. Each state has its own requirements for the training and certification of foster parents, and a home inspection is generally part of the foster-parent certification process. Potential foster homes must be inspected using a checklist to ensure that the environment is safe and appropriate for children.
Most foster home inspection checklists include general safety items. Inspectors make sure that the home is generally clean and sanitary, and that potentially hazardous items are inaccessible to children. This includes cleaning supplies and other toxic chemicals, firearms and alcohol. Inspectors ensure that all window blind cords are kept out of reach, and electrical sockets are blocked when necessary. Foster homes must have adequate lighting, ventilation and laundry facilities. Water must be from an approved supply, and sewage needs to be discharged into a private septic or public sewer system. If the potential foster home has a pool or hot tub, they must meet the required safety standards for the state, and a supervision plan should be in place.
Furniture and Equipment
Foster homes need to have adequate furnishings and equipment to care for foster children. This generally includes owning age-appropriate furniture such as cribs or high chairs, and toys or activities. Foster children need to have their own beds and enough floor space in their bedrooms for safety and comfort. Inspectors will make sure that the child's bedroom has unrestricted access to the common areas of the home and that there is a clear path to exit in case of a fire.
Foster home inspectors pay close attention to the fire safety of the potential foster home. The home must have working smoke detectors, and in some states, carbon monoxide detectors. The foster family generally needs a fire evacuation plan, and should conduct regular fire drills. The inspector will make sure that there are no visible fire hazards, and confirm that there are adequate exits and access for rescue in the event of a fire.
Foster family vehicles are also usually included in the inspection checklist. The vehicle must be in good working order and adequate for safely transporting the number of children in the foster family's care. All of the vehicles safety belts must work, and a plan for acquiring necessary car seats or booster seats must be in place.
State Specific Checklists
While the general foster home inspection checklists are similar between states, be sure to check with your local foster home licensing department to confirm the exact checklist for your area. In most cases, you will be given a copy of the checklist or the requirements before the inspection in order to correct any deficiencies.
- Washington State Department of Social and Human Services: Foster Home Inspection Checklist
- Children's Network of Southwest Florida: Foster Home Licensing Inspection
- Adoption.com: Getting Your Home and Family Ready for Your Foster Child
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: The Adoption Home Study Process