Once you apply to adopt a child (whether you apply through an agency, an attorney or facilitator, or directly to the court in an independent adoption), the laws of all states require that you undergo a “home study.” Home studies are conducted to evaluate your desire and commitment to adopt, to explore the reasons why you want to adopt, to evaluate you as a prospective parent, and to provide education about adoption.
There is no set format that adoption agencies use to conduct home studies. They must follow the general regulations of their state, but they have the freedom to develop their own application packet, policies, and procedures within those regulations. Some agencies will have prospective parents attend one or several group orientation sessions or a series of training classes before they complete an application. Others will have their social worker start by meeting with family members individually and then ask that they attend educational meetings later on.
The adoption home study itself is a written report of the findings of the social worker who has met with the applicants on several occasions, both individually and together. At least one meeting will occur in the applicant’s home. If there are other people living in the home, they also will be interviewed by the social worker.
On average, the home study process takes three to six months to complete, but it can take longer through public agencies or less time in certain situations. The home study process, the contents of the written home study report, and the time it will take to complete vary from state to state and from agency to agency. In general, the following information is included in the home study:
- Personal and family background, including upbringing, siblings, key events, and what was learned from them;
- Significant people in the lives of the applicants;
- Marriage and family relationships;
- Motivation to adopt;
- Expectations for the child;
- Feelings about infertility (if this is an issue);
- Parenting and integration of the child into the family;
- Family environment;
- Physical and health history of the applicants;
- Education, employment and finances, including insurance coverage and child care plans, if needed;
- References and criminal background clearances;
- Summary and social worker’s recommendation.