Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Evolution of Home Visits

It dawned on me this morning after a home visit from Bug's caseworker that my "level of preparedness" (aka. housecleaning prep-work) for CPS-related home visits has definitely changed over the past five years.  I realized this fact as I went to get my purse and head out the door for work and noticed what was in the pile of clean laundry that had yet to be put away on my dining room table in full view of the living room where we had our visit...

That's right.  A big old pile of Mimi's "unmentionables!"  If someone had told me five years ago that I would leave my undies on an eating surface directly in front of a caseworker, I would have told them they were crazy!  As I grabbed my purse and left the house today, I simply thought, "Well...  At least they were clean!"  This pile of lingerie blatantly greeting a CPS caseworker had me reminiscing about past home visits and reflecting on how I have evolved as a foster parent over the past five years.

I remember my very first potential placement call.  I was at a restaurant eating lunch with my mom, and I panicked at the thought of someone "official" coming into my home to bring me a child.  I believe I had some dishes in the sink, some dirty clothes in the hamper, and quite possibly some dirt on the ceiling fan.  (OH, THE SHAME!!!)  My mother ended up heading over to my house to clean like a madwoman while I went back to work, only to receive the phone call that they had placed the baby with someone else.  The cycle continued for several months.  Every time the phone rang, I would rush home to scrub, mop, put away laundry, do dishes, take out trash, vacuum, rearrange the refrigerator, etc.  Never having had an actual placement, I had no idea what to expect.  I wasn't taking any chances.  I call this the "Immaculate as a Museum" phase.

Then Booger Bear and Angel arrived.  Being my first long-term placements, I was still learning the ropes.  After several months, however, I realized that no one ever left the living room when they came to my home.  Not once!  I began to cut corners a bit and only concentrated on perfecting the appearance of the main living area before visits.  Vacuum and dust the living room, make sure the dining room table was immaculate, and do the dishes just in case they happened to peer over the bar...  This is the "Formal Living" phase.

The next year Booger and Angel moved to their permanent homes, and more short term kiddos came and went.  Then Monkey arrived, and the monthly craziness of home visits began again.  I had been fostering for two years by that point, and was quite frankly getting tired of constantly having to hide all of Monkey's toys and scrub the dining room walls for bits of thrown food every time someone came to the house (which was at least once a week).  That's when my housecleaning routine before visits went from "Formal Living" to the "People Actually Live Here" phase.  I would come home about thirty minutes before the visit to straighten up the living room a bit and make sure Monkey's high chair tray didn't have the remnants of breakfast still on the tray.  Dishes in the sink, a pile of laundry waiting to be washed, and toys in the toy box in the corner of the living room were all perfectly acceptable.

Then I got a little foster care break between placements when Monkey was no longer officially in care and before I got Bug.  I had nine glorious months without having to really worry about anyone other than Nice Lady coming over.  Monkey was in full-blown active toddler mode, and I wasn't accepting any placement calls at the time, so I had no concerns at all about CPS-proofing my home.  I had a toddler who never stopped moving and playing and who had the uncanny ability to turn my house into a natural disaster zone in a split second.  I went from "People Actually Live Here" to the "I Have a Toddler - You're Lucky I Found the Couch" phase.  When I knew that Nice Lady was on her way, I would make a path through the toys from the front door to the couch.

Enter Bug nine months later, and I became the single, full-time working mom of a toddler and an infant.  That is when I hit the "It Is What It Is" phase.  I knew I was no longer a newbie foster parent the first time I told a caseworker "we should be home around 6:00pm.  If we're not there when you get there, just hop over the rail and wait on the patio if you want.  You'll have to ignore the mess.  The house has been taken over by the little people from which there is no escape."  She did beat me home, and I distinctly remember kicking a path through the toys, baby swing, pack-n-play, and other baby gear and throwing the burp cloths from the couch to the floor so she could sit down.

Today - nearly five years after beginning my foster care journey, I am fully into the "The Kids Are Alive and Happy, Aren't They? - Don't Judge Me" phase.  As long as there are no blatantly obvious health or safety violations, we're good to go!  I usually have a pillow mountain and a ball pit in the middle of my living room floor.  The dishes and laundry are in a constant state of "almost" done as my mom and I tend to tag team the chores.  If a caseworker comes for a visit when Monkey is here, they spend the entire time being entertained by a 2-year-old bilingual attention hog as he pulls out every toy and book in the house to give them a rundown on what's what, usually all the while also fighting off a teething Bug who digs through their purses and chews on their hair.  By the time they leave, they're too flustered to remember that my "unmentionables" are in a pile on the dining room table!  :-)

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Foster Mom - R said...

Love, Love, Love this! We had therapists in our home every Tuesday for 2 years. It got to the point where they were helping themselves to whatever was on the stove and tea from my cabinet. The kids have moved out and I met them for lunch two weeks ago!

Diane said...

I totally relate. After almost 20 years fostering, all I look for is to make sure there is no medicine out and that the pool gate is properly locked, just in case! It is what it is.

Anonymous said...

When I said yes to my first placement call I was all in a panic because I was drinking a glass of wine and I couldn't remember the rules about alcohol since we so rarely have it in the house. I dumped it down the drain, put the glass in the dishwasher and stashed the bottle in an upper cabinet. And then of course went into scramble mode to get the house ready. I really wish I had had time to clean the house before the toddler arrived but I did not. And of course, the worker never stepped out of the living room anyway.

We're currently in the middle of a 3 month break and I have been very intentionally leaving medicines in my medicine cabinet (since of locked in the closet) and leaving the box of knives out on the counter instead of in the upper cabinet that our case worker insisted on. Ahh… freedom! I hope I can remember to fix it all before our next placement or home visit.

shon polack said...

Awesome Blog! Your cleaning activities are good. Cleaning is easy solution of home improvement. I love your post and your story is really awesome.
Commercial Cleaning Sydney

Meg said...

I totally feel you! We've had someone in our home everyday this week - 2 different case workers for 2 different placements and the supervisor for our annual assessment. Even over the course of this week I've started to care less and less about what the house looks like. Yesterday I went home 30 minutes before the visit and literally kicked baby socks under the rug in the hall, shut the other doors, and lit a candle in the kitchen...and called myself ready.

Nicole said...

I love it!!! In the last 4 years, I've been in all these stages. My favorite is "you're lucky you found the couch." LOL!

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