I distinctly recall the smell of burnt coffee and Lysol in the air. It was about 8 a.m. the morning of our home study, and I had not yet been to sleep. I stayed up all night to clean the house to make it seem like no one lived on the premises. Every closet, every corner, every single inch of our townhome was spotless. With our home study being scheduled for 10 a.m., sleep was futile. I threw myself on the couch in a state of exhaustion to read through my child-proofing checklist one last time. What if our home wasn’t good enough? What if I missed something? Our daughter was somewhere unknown in foster care, just waiting for us to navigate all this red tape. Soon, there was a knock at the door, and I just knew that this was the moment that would change everything.
The social worker walked in the door and was on to me immediately. You could see the smell of a very clean but cheap coffee house hit her in the face. She was lovely though as she sensed my nervousness and greeted all of my kids. I offered her the cookies I pretended I just made from scratch with my perfect sons who were dressed like we just went to the royal wedding. I ushered the children into the other room to watch some educational programming quietly instead of their usual Jurassic Park Saturday marathon.
The social worker began our interview by explaining that she was not there to judge us, but rather to make sure that we had all the tools to make our adoption successful and to bring our child into a loving and safe home. She began with the house check. This was my biggest concern and what had literally kept me up at night. She tested all of our smoke detectors and glanced in each room. Glanced. Just a glance. Did she not know the time I put into each room and she has the nerve to just glance?! I was mentally screaming while shooting daggers through my eyes at my well-rested husband. The house check was over in less than three minutes, and we sat to begin our first interview.
The social worker held nothing back. My husband and I were quite surprised that the information she had about us went much deeper than just our background check. We knew they would check to make sure we had no history as parents with CPS; however, we were not aware we would have to discuss every incident that ever occurred with our own parents, stepparents, and siblings. It was really just about clarifying each incident and noting if we took anything away from it that might affect our parenting.
On the subject of parenting, we also discussed our thoughts on discipline and general topics regarding our choices in raising a child. We were each interviewed separately as well. It was very much like a job interview. We discussed our strengths, weaknesses, why we wanted to adopt, and why we thought our spouse was a good parent. All of this took about an hour.
After our interviews were completed, our children were interviewed one by one. We were not in the room, but in earshot. Our 15-year-old handled the interview like a pro and was very cordial. Our 4-year-old son, however, we worried about as he tended towards being more of a free spirit. The social worker simply asked him, “Do you think you will like having a baby sister?” He paused as if he was thinking deeply for some philosophical answer. As we all held our breaths, he replied, “You know, I’d really just like a turkey sandwich.”
The entirety of the first visit took about two and a half hours. The “interrogation” portion was done, and we felt very good about it. We had two additional visits as a part of the home study. The second visit, we simply handed in mountains of paperwork including tax returns, financial statements, and employment verifications. The social worker came with a huge checklist to make sure that she had everything she needed. She also spent some time to let us ask any questions we had come up with during the last meeting. This meeting in total only took about an hour and a half. The final meeting occurred about a week later, and we just discussed the books we had read for our adoption education. It wasn’t so much a “quiz” as more of a book club type of discussion. Most of our books were about open adoption and raising a biracial child. The education really helped us in both areas, but it especially gave us the tools to see open adoption in a different light.
Our home study process was a bit rushed as our adoption kind of fell in our laps. Our adoption agency did a fantastic job of making sure we met all of the requirements. After the three-week process, it only took them about an additional week to send in our completed home study to the “powers that be.” Due to the rushed nature of our adoption, the paperwork was approved by the judge the last week of November, and we were able to bring our daughter home December 6th.
The home study process so often gets boiled down to an investigation of your home. This is why I was such a frantic mess trying to make sure that we appeared to be the cleanest, safest, straight-laced family in the state. However, the agency was not there to try to fail us. They were less concerned with our home and more concerned with making sure our family unit was prepared to bring home our daughter. Safety is, of course, important and cleanliness doesn’t hurt, but I knew to be much more laid back when we adopted again in 2017. We still didn’t opt for Jurassic Park, but I did just buy the cookies from the bakery and made sure my son had a turkey sandwich pre-interview.