Surviving an Adoption Home Study

Helpful advice and what you need to know as you prepare for a home study.

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Believe it or not, you don’t have to be a Martha Stewart clone to pass an adoption home study. Although I must confess, the thought of a stranger coming into my house to see if it was “suitable for a child” terrorized me! Do I even own matching Tupperware? Are the corners of my fireplace equipped with safety guards? Is the water in the toilet bowl the right shade of aqua? I was a nervous wreck, to say the least.

But despite my worst fears, the social worker that came for our home study visit wasn’t at all interested in the mismatched pillowcases on the guest bed. (How could I have missed that?) My husband and I passed with flying colors. And you will too!

Simply stated, a home study is a process used to review the lives of prospective adoptive parents. Although home studies are required for both agency and non-agency adoptions, the approach to conducting a home study varies. Adoption agencies have the freedom to develop their own application packet, policies, and procedures within the regulations of the state. They usually provide their own caseworkers to conduct the home studies. (If you are using an adoption agency in another state, check to make sure it is licensed to do home studies in YOUR state.) The home study itself is a written report of the findings of a social worker that has met with you and your spouse (and all other children in your family) on several occasions, with at least one meeting taking place in your home.

To prepare for the home study process, you’ll likely need to provide the following:

1) Written autobiography (of both prospective parents)
Most agencies provide guidelines or a format to use, but the bottom line is you’ve got to write about YOU. Describe your past and current relationship with your parents, your siblings, your extended family, how you were raised, how you were disciplined, your education, how your extended family feels about your adoption interests, your future goals, your religious affiliation, your work and hobbies, your support network, your neighborhood or community, your exposure or involvement with children in the past and present, why you want to adopt a child, how you have resolved feelings about infertility, anticipated relationship with the child’s birth parents, and anything else you think speaks about you as a person and prospective parent. During a home study visit, you may be asked for more information about the items you have written about.

2) Documents
You will most likely need to provide original or notarized copies of the following documents: birth certificate for you, your spouse, and any children you already have; marriage license or certificate; divorce decree or death certificate from earlier marriages; statement of salary or earnings (copy of IRS Form 1040 and W-4 statement); financial statements detailing savings, investments, assets, retirement accounts, monthly expenses, debt obligations; and any criminal records.

3) References
You will need to provide letters from 3-5 people who know you and can attest to your capability to love and raise a child. Try to select people who have observed you with children, who have known you for several years, who understand and are in favor of your adoption plans.

4) Medical information
A current physical exam with tests for tuberculosis, AIDS, hepatitis or other illnesses may be required. Sometimes verification of infertility is also required.

The home study is typically completed before a child is identified and referred to the adoptive parents, however that is not always the case. Our daughter had been in our home for nearly 2 weeks before the social worker came to conduct our home study visit. As it turned out, he once lived in our neighborhood and was familiar with our house. We talked about the wonderful donut shop around the corner and our recent trip to Argentina. (All of this over a freshly brewed cup of coffee, which I’m sure worked in our favor!) He also walked through our house, made polite comments about the state of our teenager’s room, and checked the locks on the gate around our pool. He talked with my husband, my daughter, and me separately and then together about our family life and motivation to adopt. When I confessed to him how nervous I had been about the visit, he said “We want to find homes suitable and loving for children. Our job is to help you pass, not look for your faults!”

So remember those wise words, and above all, be yourself. There is a child out there anxious to come into your suitable and loving home.

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Rebecca Gold is an adoptive mom and the author of “Till There Was You – An Adoption Expectancy Journal” (1998, Pineapple Press). You can write to her with questions and comments at RebGold@aol.com or visit her website at http://members.aol.com/pynappress