A home study is a thorough investigation, for lack of a better word, of your home, family, relationships and– more importantly– an opportunity to determine what “type” of child would be the best fit for your family. You will fill out countless papers, answer questions that you don’t think have anything to do with raising a child, and have virtually every part of your life probed. Following is an explanation of some of the paperwork and questions you will have. Hopefully, this will help you understand the process a little better.
The agency will conduct criminal background checks on each of your family members. Children over the age of 10 are included in this. This check will be looking for major criminal violations and any history of domestic abuse, battery, alcohol problems, etc. This is not to see how many speeding tickets you have.
A reference request will be sent to your current employer, and possibly past employers, depending on the length of employment in your current job. They are looking for things like:
- Dependability. Do you show up to work? Are you on time? Do your supervisors feel that you are a good and reliable employee?
- Length of employment. How long have you been at your job? Do you change jobs often?
- Stable income. Will you be able to financially provide for the child?
You will be asked to provide references for the case worker to contact. These need to be people you have known for a while, people who have insight into your personalities and parenting style. Ask them for permission first, and tell them when you have an idea it will be coming. These are lengthy forms, and will take them some time to fill out. All answers are confidential, unless your reference chooses to share them with you.
If you have older children who are out of the home, the social worker will contact them as well. They will ask about your parenting, how your child views your parenting skills, what methods of discipline you use, etc.
Each family member will be required to have a current physical, and have the results of that physical disclosed to the home study agency. This is to determine your medical ability to raise the child to the age of 18. Each person will also be required to have a tuberculosis test done.
If you have a physical or emotional disorder or disease, you can still be eligible to adopt a child. It does not rule you out completely.
The worker from the home study agency will come to your house to interview you, and to check the capabilities of your house to handle the child. In states where you are required to be a licensed foster parent first, they will check to make sure that your home complies with foster home regulations. You may request a copy of those regulations from your state to make sure that your home complies.
They are NOT looking to see if you have dust bunnies under your bed or if your home is spotless. Many parents spent countless hours cleaning. It’s okay for your house to be “lived in.”
During these visits, you will also spend time with the worker, answering more questions. The worker needs to get a feel for your personality, your parenting style, and your expectations to better assess the type of child that will fit best into your home.
The one thing I can not stress enough is to be honest during these “interviews.” If you cannot or do not want to parent a child who requires around-the-clock care, please say so. If you have filled out a behavioral checklist, share this with your worker. It will help to give the worker a better understanding of the child that will be the best match for your family. It is better, for both you and the child, for you to wait longer to be matched with a child, than to have a placement that disrupts.
There will be several visits spread over a period of time. Be prepared to wait. A home study could take 2-6 months, or even up to a year.