Six years ago when we started our adoption journey, we had no idea what to expect. Fortunately, our case manager guided us step-by-step through what seemed to be quite an arduous, painstaking process, but our case manager made it smooth and successful. We’ve completed the process through renewals five times since then, and here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Stay organized from the start.
The home study itself can seem daunting. We know of couples that took over a year to complete all of the requirements because of how much can be required. And we know of families that stopped altogether because they got lost in the paperwork. And the paperwork really never ends. We filled out clearances and had our fingerprints done only to have things expire by the time we reached a certain point. So then they needed to be completed again. We were not prepared for that when we started, so it was discouraging and expensive and frustrating. Knowing that was all part of the process made the second, and third, and fourth, and fifth times we completed our home study much easier to swallow and plow through.
Staying organized on top of paperwork, deadlines, and clearances are key to this. I kept all of our papers in a labeled accordion file and made copies of everything we submitted. I put those copies into a three-ring binder, separated into categories, so that I could find everything quickly and easily without panicking or having to remember where I put it or where in the pile (because there will be a pile) I placed it. I also created folders on my computer and in my email for easy access, particularly since some paperwork may be required to submit more than once.
2. It’s okay to sweat the small stuff, but don’t sweat the big stuff when getting your house ready.
I was so anxious before our first home study visit that I repainted my entire downstairs. My house, FYI, is a rancher, so basically I repainted my entire home. Including my front door. On both sides.
I also weeded all of our back gardens. I bought new throw pillows for our (brand new) couch. I changed my guest room comforter set. All of this, however, was SO unnecessary. And SO exhausting.
I laugh about those preparations now, but when we were first starting, no one told us that our current couch pillows would suffice. I didn’t need to “borrow” from my mom a painting to hang in our living room (it’s still there), and a new shower curtain was not needed.
However, there is a list that each case manager will give you that explains the home requirements to adopt in your state, and that list IS important, and those items need to take priority. And they ALL need to be done.
For us, that meant buying a First Aid kit, placing locks on all of our lower cabinets, and having our water temperature tested among other tasks and purchases. I made a checklist, and we worked through it one line at a time. When one thing was completed or purchased, I checked it off and moved on to the next one. That list became part of our home routine and daily operations, which made it quite easy to check off when the time came to renew our study.
3. Remember this most important fact: IT’S ALL FOR AND ABOUT THE CHILD YOU WILL WELCOME INTO YOUR HOME.
I didn’t understand at first why our water temperature needed to be tested. I mean, it’s hot. I take a shower in it. I wash my dishes with it. Why test it? I questioned that until our case manager explained that a child in our state was badly scalded by tap water that was almost boiling, so all water thermostats are now inspected.
Please test every faucet in my house.
I didn’t understand why I needed a First Aid kit in a particular location in my house. I mean, I have bandages, ointment, tweezers. Got a papercut? I’ve got you covered! Splinter? No problem. So why on earth do I need a First Aid kit—yet another added expense on an already expensive journey?
The answer is this: who cares? If the state wants me to have a First Aid kit so that a child can be part of my family, then a First Aid kit I’ll get. I had to get over myself, my thoughts on the process, and my own common sense answers to get to the heart of what this was really all about—making a family.
4. You will probably cry more than once during this process. And that really is okay.
I’m not much of a crier (well, at least I wasn’t until I became a mom, and now I probably can supply water to a small country in tears). But part of the home study includes answering tough questions about yourself, about your history, about your reasons for wanting to adopt. They get to the core of who you are. You realize the big picture of what is happening in your life, in your family’s lives, and the life of the child you pray to welcome into your home. And the tears come. Let them. We’ve now known our case manager for almost seven years, and without fail, she, my husband, and I all cry every time she visits.
And it’s all pretty emotional. So let the tears out. You’ll feel much better.
While the home study and home inspection can seem intimidating, with organization, preparation, and patience, it actually can be a positive experience. Well, most of the time. Those clearance forms are a pain; I’m not gonna lie! But it couldn’t have been too bad; we did it five times. You can do it too!