When people start their adoption journey, one of the most common fears I see is the anticipation leading up to the home study. I was no exception to this fear. The idea of having someone possess the ability to dash my hopes and dreams of becoming a parent again was terrifying. What if they didn’t like my furniture? What if my personality rubbed them wrong? What if they saw the dust I forgot to wipe off the ceiling fan? What if I had too many pets? A million what ifs. So what is a home study?
The first thing the social worker who was assigned to us told us was “I am not here to fail you.” What I learned in our home study process was that a home study is not a test. Every state, count, and agency has its own set of guidelines that go in to a home study, but overall, they are all pretty much the same. They are designed to educate, evaluate, and match you with the child that will be a success. So, if they aren’t looking for a pass or fail, what aspects are they looking for?
1. Is your home a safe environment?
Many home studies will require a fire inspection of your home as well as a detailed fire escape plan. In addition to the fire inspection, the social worker may ask how you will keep the child safe from stairs, cleaning supplies, or back yard pool or pond. Showing that you have thought these things through for the safety of your future child helps the social worker see how seriously you take parenting. They can make suggestions based on your inspection to help you in areas that may not have been perfect.
2. Does your home have adequate space for a child?
Many states have laws on how many children can sleep in the same room together. This takes the siblings’ genders into account. If you plan to adopt, knowing these rules will help you know if it is the right time for you to add to your family. Your home’s room count will be documented on the home study.
3. Are you financially stable?
You don’t have to be wealthy or have an 850 credit score in order to adopt. But you do need to have positive cash flow. You need to be able to show that you are capable of paying your bills and have money to spare. This shows that you are responsible and can handle the cost of adding another person to the family. They may ask how you intend to fund your adoption and even inform you of grants and loans and inform you about the federal adoption tax credit.
4. Are you mentally and physically healthy enough to raise a child?
You don’t have to be in perfect health. But for any ongoing illnesses or problems you are being treated for, you will likely need to supply a doctor note stating what you are being treated for and if it affects your ability to parent. Some people may have a disability that limits their activity in some situations, but they are still able to parent. The social worker may just need that to be clarified.
5. Do you have support in your family, friends, community, work, church etc.?
Whom do you lean on when you need help? The home study may ask questions about your support network. Who can help you in times of crisis? Does your network support your decision to adopt? This is a “getting to know you” portion of the home study.
6. Did you complete your adoption training?
Your home study cannot move forward if you do not complete your required training. This training often covers a wide spectrum of adoption, but it is useful knowledge. The training is meant to open your eyes to things you may not have encountered outside of adoption or foster care. It will help teach you about adoption, types of adoption, child behavior, and other things. I always tell people that they should go above and beyond in their training. It shouldn’t stop after the home study. There is always more to learn to help us be the best parents possible. And when we become parents through adoption, we are faced with additional effects to take into account.
7. Do you have obstacles that will prevent you from parenting without abuse?
Often during the home study, there will be a portion of the paperwork that will deal with your own personal childhood. It could ask questions about what type of punishments you received as a child and did you feel they were effective. The home study could also include questions about your present day conflict resolution strategies. I found this part of the home study to actually be quite therapeutic. There is no reason to lie about how you handle a spat with your spouse. This is a time to evaluate you. The social worker will want to see your real personality.
8. Do you have a firm understanding of what adoption and parenting will be like?
The home study may ask questions pertaining to how you decided on adoption. They will want to know how you will handle adoption talks. What are your fears about adoption? Do you have an understanding of what open adoption is? These are not meant to be set in stone, but rather to get the wheels turning in your brain to start the process of thinking about the future.
As you can see, the home study isn’t designed to fail you, but rather to prevent failing the child they place with you. Their ultimate goal is to find families that will love and cherish these children–families that can provide the life the child’s first mother envisions. They want you to have the tools that will make you succeed in parenting your child. So while the home study may seem scary, it is just a tool to help you prepare your home, heart, and life for the adoption of a child.
Are you still feeling a little uneasy about your upcoming home study? You can do a quick search online and find that there are samples like this one that will hopefully help you prepare for what to expect further.
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.