It’s easy to understand why the thought of completing a home study strikes fear in the hearts of hopeful parents considering adoption. Freaking out of a home study may happen. The idea of providing an overview of your life – everything from criminal background checks to finances to physicals to personal relationships, as well as sharing your personal views on parenting, family, and life – can seem like a potential roadblock preventing you from moving forward on your adoption journey.
Like it or not, home studies are a necessary and legally required part of the adoption process, and although cumbersome, not quite as scary as you may think.
To avoid freaking out over your home study, consider the following.
Nobody is forcing you to adopt.
So take a deep breath and remember the process has been put in place to protect everyone involved. While you may feel like you’re under the microscope (and an even bigger one when it comes to international adoption), rather than feeling intimidated, look at this as your opportunity to learn more about the process, ask questions, and become better prepared for your adoption. Be honest with your social worker and consider them a resource rather than an adversary.
Put the bakeware down and step away from the cleaning supplies.
Although I’m sure your social worker would appreciate the smell of fresh-baked cookies and the look and feel of a freshly cleaned carpet, they are not going to show up at your front door wearing a white glove ready to run their finger along with your countertops.
A home study is not meant to make you ill at ease or to dig into your dirty laundry in the literal sense; rather, it’s an exploration of what sort of home you can offer to a child; a gathering of the necessary information to connect you to a waiting child; and the sharing of knowledge to ensure you understand and are prepared for adoption and everything that comes along with becoming a parent to an adopted child.
Your home study will consist of a home visit, an interview, and a series of forms that you will need to complete, including an autobiographical statement, health evaluation, financial statements, background checks, references, and copies of important legal documents such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, etc. This information is compiled into a written report that your social worker will provide to your state’s department of family services. In the case of international adoption, they will submit your paperwork to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Get ready, get set, get organized.
Say it with me: a checklist. Ask your adoption facilitator and/or social worker for an up-to-date list of the exact forms you will need to complete and create a checklist for yourself as you work through the process. Paperwork can vary depending on what type of adoption – foster to adopt, private, or international. Rather than going online and grabbing documents that may not pertain to you or maybe outdated, try and complete the correct forms correctly the first time around. Oh, and buy a sturdy binder and prepare to fill it.
Photocopies are your friend. It’s smart to have several copies of everything you complete. Consider also scanning your documents for easy access (in case that binder gets buried under a stack of paperwork).
Get used to the terms certify, notarize, and (with international adoption) apostille. The act of filling out home study paperwork will involve a bit of running around. Make sure to make time for this during the period it takes to complete your paperwork.
You’ll want to use registered mail, a courier delivery service such as UPS or FedEx, or some other trackable system to ensure your documents make it to their destination. There is nothing worse than working hard to complete paperwork only for it to become lost in the mail.
Know the cost.
The cost of your home study will depend on the kind of adoption you choose (foster to adopt, domestic, or international); what state you live in; and/or other agency or legal considerations. Home studies typically cost between $900 and $3,000. Consult with your adoption facilitator early on exactly what will be involved with your adoption process, including the possibility of home study updates. Know, too, that there are ways to help you to finance your adoption. Keep track of the fees you pay throughout the process and make sure to speak up if something doesn’t make sense. Typically, for families adopting through foster care, these fees are ultimately reimbursed. Click here to learn more about affording adoption, including advice on the cost of adoption as well as information on loans, fundraising, tax credits, grants, and employee contributions.
Hurry up and wait.
The adoption home study process can take up to 90 days to complete. To prevent additional wait time, adoptive families should gather all the necessary documents and begin the background check process as soon as possible. Once you’ve completed your home study it’s common to feel a sense of anxiety while you wait to hear that you’ve been approved for adoption. Know that the goal of social workers is not to hinder your desire to adopt, but to support you in it.
By taking a deep breath and taking these simple steps to be prepared for your home study, you’ll realize there is very little to freak out over, and instead, you can focus on what’s really important – moving one step closer to finalizing your adoption! Are you ready to move forward with your home study? For everything you need to know, including shared experiences from other adoptive families. Click here to find a home study professional in your area, as well as links to home study requirements by the state as well as information on international adoption.
Are you ready to pursue adoption? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to connect with compassionate, nonjudgmental adoption specialists who can help you get started on the journey of a lifetime.