You’ve chosen which type of adoption you’re going to pursue: foster adopt, international, or private domestic. With that important step taken care of, you can move on to the home study.

All adoptions require a home study. The home study is probably the most feared part of the adoption process. Forums and Facebook groups are filled with questions that boil down to “Will I pass?” While that’s a subject for another post, the short answer is usually yes.

The specifics of the home study vary based on the type of adoption you’re pursuing and on the state in which you live.

All three types of adoption do have similar overall home study requirements:
- An application – you will provide basic information about yourself and why you want to adopt.
- A medical component – you must visit your doctor for a physical. You may be required to have a tuberculosis (TB) test.
- A questionnaire – here, you will provide detailed information about your life, including your past, present, and future. You will be asked why you want to parent and what kind of parent you believe you will be.
- References – you will ask friends, family, clergy from your church, or other specific individuals to recommend you as parents.
- Income and employment verification – you will provide your tax forms from the previous year (or years) to prove that you can afford to take care of a child.
- The home visit – a social worker will visit your home to make sure that it is safe and comfortable for the child or children you hope to adopt.

If you are adopting through foster care, most states require that you go through your county agency or through a private agency that contracts with your state or county to place foster children for adoption. You can have your home study done by either of these agencies. You will be required to take a certain number of hours of specific training. Your home must pass a reasonable safety check. You must have a separate bedroom for the child, and children over a certain age may not share a bedroom with a child of the opposite sex. It is likely that you must become CPR and First Aid certified. You will have to pass a health screening. You must also pass a criminal background check, which means you will be fingerprinted.

Internationally, each country looks for specific criteria and requires different elements. You will use an agency to complete your home study. All of your documents will be translated and apostilled. An apostille is a form of authentication issued to documents for use in countries that participate in the Hague Convention of 1961. (For more information about the Hague Convention, see http://adoption.com/wiki/Intercountry_Adoption:_Where_Do_I_Start%3F:_The_Hague_Convention.) There may or may not be training required. You will have to pass a physical. Some countries have strict requirements about the mental and physical health of prospective adoptive parents.

If you are adopting through private domestic adoption, the home study will mostly require several pounds of paperwork. If you have any kind of chronic health issue, you may be asked to furnish a doctor’s note stating that your medical condition does not prevent you from fulfilling the day-to-day duties of parenthood. You must also pass a criminal background and child abuse check, which means you will be fingerprinted. You may be asked to appoint guardians for your hypothetical children. Usually, formal training is not required, but you may be required to complete a certain amount of hours of education on your own.

During the home study, be yourself. Don’t try to be the person you think the social worker wants you to be. Answer all questions truthfully. If you are honest about any possible problems, your social worker can tell you straight away if they will be an obstacle to you adopting.

When it comes to the home visit, the social worker is not going to look for dust mites. You don’t have to clean every nook and cranny or make sure that the entire home is baby-proofed on the first visit. For all home studies, you will need to have working smoke detectors. If you have a pool, it must be fenced or covered and locked. Other than that, specific requirements depend on the type of adoption you’re pursuing. Generally, foster adoption has the most stringent requirements - medications must be locked away, water heaters must be set at a specific temperature, and so on. You won’t fail if you don’t meet all the requirements at the first visit. You will be given a list of the items to address, and you’ll have time to correct them before a subsequent visit.

The social worker is not looking for reasons to fail you. Children need families. Remember to breathe and be honest, and you’ll be fine.