Adoption: The Home Study
Adoption: The Home Study
Jennifer Perry (Executive Director, Children's Action Network) gives expert video advice on: How do I get approved to adopt a child?; How do the home study results affect my adoption plans? and more...
What is the purpose of a "home study"?
The purpose of a home study is really to make sure that the adopting parent or parents are comfortable with the process of adoption, to make sure you live in a safe place, to ascertain the parents' commitment, and to actually help you through the adoption process. A home study is no where near as intrusive and invasive as I think a lot of people perceive it to be.
When do I, as an adoptive parent, start the home study process?
The home study process and how you find a social worker depend on the type of adoption. If you are going through a foster care adoption, your home study is conducted by the foster care adoption agency that you're already working with. The home study is most likely going to be conducted by the social worker that you've been working with for your adoption process, and there will be no cost associated with the home study. In a private or independent adoption, you could be working with an agency or you could be working with a facilitator and/or an attorney who will help locate a person to conduct the home study for you. In some instances there is a cost associated with the home study.
What documents do I need for a home study?
There are a number of documents that you need to provide as part of your adoption home study. They include a birth certificate, a W2 and/or a tax form. Often you will be fingerprinted to confirm that you haven't been convicted of a felony. If it applies, you'll have to provide a marriage certificate and/or a divorce decree, as well as proof of military service or discharge and references from your friends. You usually need about 3 or 4 references from friends and acquaintances as part of your adoption home study.
What information does a social worker collect during a home study?
As part of a home study, a social worker will collect a number of pieces of information and other documents. They'll want autobiographical information from you, but that doesn't mean you have to write a forty-page history of your life. Just major events, so they can get to know you better. They'll want to know about your marriage, if, in fact, you're married. They may want to know a little bit about work, your parents, and your family history. There's also specific information that a social worker wants as part of a home study, and that includes information about your finances, to make sure that you're financially able to take care of a child, references - and those should be from people you've known for a while, if possible, your friends and acquaintances. And the social worker would just be asking them, "Would this person make a good parent? Are they ready to bring a child into their home?" A social worker in a home study is also going to want to find out a little bit more about why you want to adopt a child. Is it because of infertility issues? Are there other issues? Do you want to expand your family? There's no right or wrong answer. They're just trying to find out why you are heading on this journey. The social worker is also interested in making sure that you're healthy. You don't have to be an Olympic athlete, but they want to make sure you're healthy enough to bring a child into your home. The social worker's going to ask questions about what type of child you might be interested in adopting. Are you interested in adopting an infant? Are you comfortable with an eight-year-old? Are you comfortable with siblings, which would be an immediate expansion of your family? So they're just really trying to figure out who and where you are as a person. They're helping to make sure that you're ready to begin the journey of adoption.
What are some issues that can come up during the home study process?
Issues that might come up during the home study process include looking at a couple's marriage to make sure that both partners are committed to the adoption and comfortable. A social worker may talk to each part of a couple individually just to make sure that they are both in the same place about bringing a child into their home. Other issues that may arise is if there's a significant history of drug or alcohol abuse, or a significant history of psychological problems. But people should also know that if, say you have a misdemeanor in your past, that's not going to be a problem. If you committed a youthful indiscretion, that's not going to be an issue in the home study process. If you committed a felony, that is an issue in the home study process.
Does everyone in my home have to undergo the home study?
Anyone who is living in your home with you has to be a participant in the home study. That could be a relative, other children, step children - anyone who's actually living with you. The purpose of the home study is to make sure there's no one in the home who poses any kind of a danger to the potential adopted child.
How do the home study results affect my adoption plans?
The home study is a crucial part of your adoption plans, as it is the way of certifying that your home is safe for the children and that you are ready and financially able to take care of a child. It can also be an important tool in international adoption and support your qualifications for adopting in another country. The home study is also part of determining how many children you are able to adopt, simply based on how much room you may have to comfortably house and provide shelter for a child.