What did they ask at your homestudy? What did they look at in your home? Are cats okay? We have two. Are fish okay? We have quite a few. We live in a trailer house. Will this be a problem? Our yard isn't fenced. Will that be a problem? We aren't rich. Will that be a problem? We aren't perfect by any means. I guess what I want to know is -- how close do we have to try to be to perfect? :)
Here's something that's a version of what I wrote previously in answer to this question:
"Homestudy" is something of a misnomer. Very little of it involves studying your home. The homestudy has two basic purposes:
1. To determine whether you can provide a safe and nurturing family environment for a child. Note that you do NOT have to be rich or to have a fancy home to provide a safe and nurturing family environment! If you have a steady job, are not overwhelmed with debt, and rent or own even a small apartment, you can often be approved.
2. To prepare you for the challenges of parenting an adopted child.
Each state differs in its requirements for a homestudy. Homestudies for international adoption also differ from those for domestic adoption or foster care, because the USCIS and your country of choice will have some requirements, with regard to what is included. And, finally, each homestudy agency may have some unique requirements.
Still, here is how a homestudy generally works:
1. Intake. You will fill out a questionnaire and have an in-person or telephone interview with the homestudy agency or provider. The purpose of the intake is to determine whether it is reasonable to commence a homestudy, or whether it would be a waste of the social worker's time and your money, because you could not possibly be approved. As an example, you will be counseled not to even consider a homestudy if you or your spouse have ever had a conviction for child abuse, if you have a serious psychiatric illness, if you are on public assistance, and so on. You may also be counseled to wait for some period of time before having a homestudy -- for example, if you contemplate moving to another state soon, if you have just started your very first job, if you just got married or divorced, etc.
2. Document review. The social worker assigned to your case will need to verify your identity and your claims on intake by looking at documents, such as: your birth certificate, your marriage certificate, any divorce decrees, a letter from your employer verifying employment and salary, the results of a physical examination by your physician, a clearance from the local police, a canceled check showing a recent mortgage or lease payment, bank and investment company statements showing assets, and so on. The social worker will also ask that you sign a statement allowing him/her to obtain a child abuse clearance for you, from your state government.
3. References. While practices vary, you will generally be expected to provide the names of three people, not related to you, who can comment knowledgably on your character and suitability to parent a child. These people -- who can be friends, neighbors, work colleagues, clergy, people with whom you do volunteer work, etc. -- will receive a form that they must fill out and return to the agency. Some agencies also require a face-to-face interview with one non-relative.
4. Autobiography. Many, though not all, homestudy workers have each spouse, or the single adoptive parent, write an autobiography, which will serve to guide the subsequent mandatory counseling sessions. There is usually an outline for the prospective parents to follow, covering things like how their parents educated them, how their parents disciplined them, how strong their parents' marriage was and how they handled disagreements, and so on.
5. Pre-adoption classes. Some, but not all, agencies require that a person attend classes or complete an on-line course of study that will cover such topics as parenting transracially, dealing with the negative attitudes of relatives or friends, attitudes towards birthparents, recognizing the medical risks of adoption, and so on.
6. Counseling sessions. Most homestudies call for approximately three counseling sessions in the social worker's office. A common pattern for married couples is that the social worker meets once with the husband alone, once with the wife alone, and then once with both together. The purpose is to help prepare the person or couple for parenting an adopted child, although the sessions also help to determine that the spouses are "on the same page" about the adoption and about raising an adopted child. The social worker may ask questions based on the autobiography and other information, and the prospective parent may also have questions for the social worker. Expect questions about how your relatives will relate to an internationally adopted child, how you plan to teach the child to appreciate her cultural heritage, what you know about the medical risks in adoption, what experience you have had in dealing with racism and other prejudices, how you plan to discipline your child, and so on.
7. Home visit. The home visit, though usually the most feared part of the homestudy, is actually about the easiest part. Basically, the social worker comes to a prospective parent's home to see if it is safe and welcoming. The home does not need to be big or fancy or or even owned. In fact, it can be a very modest rental apartment. It can be furnished with "hand-me-downs" that don't match perfectly. And the social worker doesn't look to see if dust bunnies are under the beds or the closets are a bit untidy.
Very few people "fail" a homestudy because of the home visit, unless it reveals evidence of a dangerous lifestyle (for example, lots of unsecured firearms, tanks of venomous snakes, etc.)
Pets are fine, but the social worker will probably want to see evidence that they are properly licensed, if required, and properly immunized, if required. He/she may also want to observe that they are not vicious and that your home isn't full of their waste products. In addition, he/she will probably ask what you will do if your animals can't adjust to the new baby, or if the new baby turns out to have allergies to animal dander.
The homestudy is not a "pop quiz" and you are always welcome to ask the social worker, in advance, whether there are any things the state requires, such as a fire extinguisher in the kitchen or locks on the medicine cabinets. (Most states do NOT require that the child's room be set up in advance or that all childproofing be done.) Basically, if you would be comfortable having your mother-in-law or your employer over for dinner, your house is probably just fine.
The social worker may get a little worried if your house looks too perfect, with beautiful white carpeting and sofas in the living room, lots of valuable antiques, and so on. He/she may wonder if you REALLY know what children are like, and if you are prepared to make some major adjustments when you adopt.
Most social workers also have a sense of humor, and fully understand that things can go wrong. Many, many parents have had minor disasters, either while the social worker is in the house, or just as his/her car pulls into the driveway. You know the sorts of things. The dog vomits on the floor at the social worker's feet. The toddler already in residence decides to show how competent he is by taking off every stitch of his clothes and running around the room naked. The toilet in the powder room overflows. Or the cookies that were being baked to create a nice homelike atmosphere burn to a crisp, totally stinking up the house.
If you do have a minor disaster, don't worry. Try to relax and maintain your own sense of humor. The social worker knows that life is never predictable when you have children, and likes to see prospective parents who are flexible and easygoing enough to cope with whatever their kids-to-be dish out.
8. Homestudy report preparation. The social worker will write up a report in the format required by your state. For an international adoption, it will also go to the USCIS, the placement agency, and the foreign country. Some agencies allow families to review the homestudy report and correct errors of fact before it is submitted, while others do not.
Sharon, age 60
Mom to Rebecca
born 10/18/95
adopted 5/5/97
Xiamen (Fujian prov.), China
I had a lot of these same questions when we began our first adoption. The purpose of a homestudy is to assure all the parties involved that you are suitable parnets. It's not a contest to see who are the perfect parents. Our socail worker says she sees families in all walks of life from small apartments to large estates. To make you feel better we have 4 dogs 5 cats and a parrott. An occupational hazard: I am a Vet Tech.They were not a problem.