What to Expect When You’re Expecting: Foster Care Edition


By: Courtney Edge-Mattos, LSWA

You’ve submitted your application, your background checks have been run, and now a person is coming to your home to begin the assessment process!

This is a huge step in the right direction, but a bit anxiety provoking.  What will this social worker be looking for?  What if there is a problem?  How should you act?

Let’s take a walk through a home inspection visit, Foster Friends.

*Before we get going, please note that different states have different procedures and requirements, so this only pertains to Massachusetts.  Secondly, regulations are subject to change.  Thirdly, we are JRI and sometimes different agencies follow a slightly different path.  If you’re not applying in Massachusetts and aren’t working with JRI, there could be some differences!

Home Inspection: What Is It?

Your first social worker visit will likely be for a Home Inspection (AKA Physical Standards Visit, AKA Housing Standards Visit).  This means the Homefinder (AKA Social Worker, AKA Family Resource Worker) will schedule an appointment to meet you at your residence.  It will likely be between the hours of 9AM-5PM on a weekday.  The Homefinder will be there to meet you, answer questions, and be sure that your physical home meets the eligibility requirements to be a foster home.  The visit usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour. 

The goal of the visit is not to see that you live in a mansion or could be featured in a home decor magazine.  The goal is to ensure your home meets specific safety criteria required to be a foster home, to get to meet you and put a face to the name, and to take the time to answer questions you have about foster care, adoption, or the process as a whole.

What Are They Looking For?  

The Home Inspection is built upon some really specific criteria, as well as some that is a little more abstract. Some of the specific criteria includes:


The more subjectively-based things we look for include cleanliness, what constitutes something being in safe condition, and possible hazards.  If you have a pool, a large body of water, a workshop with tools, or other dangers, we will talk about how you will maintain safety.  If you have guns or other weapons, we will also have specific safety criteria and storage criteria you must meet.

What If Something Doesn’t Pass?

The #1 thing that we find is that people’s smoke detectors do not work.  If that is the case, we discuss the fix needed (new batteries, new smoke detector) and ask that it be corrected by the next visit to your home (we will be back!).  We will try to problem solve with you.  Sometimes, a little creative thinking goes a long way!

Most of the time, we can find a solution.  There are times when something can’t work, or the solution is expensive/significant (like moving).  We can explain to you what would need to change and you can make a decision about what is right for you.

How Do I Prepare for a Home Inspection?

Remember, we’re not looking for an HGTV-worthy home.  We are looking for a clean, safe, respectful home.  You’re going to feel your best if you feel your home is neat and tidy.  That will give you confidence.  Aside from straightening up, think about the following:

  • Check smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector batteries and replace if needed
  • Double check to see all burners on your stove work
  • Check the water temperature.  Is it 120 or below?  Great!
  • Are there any blocked exits in the home?  If so, clear them out.
  • Do you have chemicals, medications, or other possible hazards lying around?  Put them in a safe place where a child will not have access to them.

Take some deep breaths.  We want you to be successful!

Meeting Your Homefinder


Homefinders love meeting new foster parents.  It’s literally what we do!  We want to let you know we are here to help, we want you to succeed, and you can ask us anything.  When we stop by for the Home Inspection, feel free to puzzle through any questions about foster care you have.  Nothing is off the table!  Some folks jot down a list of questions they’d like to ask.  If you know you have a tendency to get shy/overwhelmed/distracted, a list might be your best bet.  Aside from that, be yourself.  We want to get to know you.

If you are ready to take a step toward being a foster parent, fill out our Inquiry Form.  A Homefinder will be in touch shortly!


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Rachel has been a part of the JRI team since January, 2000. For over 20 years, Rachel has been working in the field of human services assisting families with accessing and navigating services. Rachel received her Bachelors degree in psychology and Masters Degree in Public Administration from Bridgewater State University. She was promoted in July 2005 to Family Networks Program Director where she closely worked with the Department of Children Families for 10 years ensuring that children and families received the highest quality of individualized services ranging from community based through residential care. Rachel is very dedicated to helping the individuals she works with and is committed to improving the lives of children and families. Rachel’s passion for creative service programming inspires her in her role as JRI Service Navigator.