Every adoption requires an assessment of the prospective adoptive family. This narrative report is used at various points in the adoption process.
In a domestic process, the written report will be used for your initial approval as an adoptive parent or family in the court pre-certification process if needed in your state, reviewed by attorneys and placement agencies, by the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) to allow you to bring a child from their state of birth into your home state of residence and in the court for the finalization of the adoption.
In an international process, it will be used by your adoption agency to make sure you meet the requirements of a specific country’s adoption process, by US Citizenship and Immigration Services for your approval to adopt, by your US adoption agency and attorneys and agencies overseas, by any government Ministries and the Central Adoption Authority overseas, in the court guardianship or adoption finalization process and by the US Consulate in determining your approval to adopt and authorization of your child’s visa and passport. If you have to readopt in the US, you will use the homestudy as part of that local court process as well.
Most states require a licensed adoption agency to conduct the interviews and complete the narrative report. Some states allow private licensed social workers to conduct the homestudy.
The homestudy includes an interview with all household members, child abuse and criminal clearances, medical reports, proof of income, adoptive parent education and preparation and references. Written in sections, the following is explored:
Biographical information for each household member—who was in the family you grew up with, the quality of the household relationships, family events and interaction with extended family, types of friendships and your activities as a child and young adult. There will be a description of your education and pursuit of interests and hobbies as an adult. Young children will be observed. Older children will be interviewed.
Household relationships will be explained, including the quality of the interactions and the expectation of changes with another child in the family. There will also be information on relationships with extended family, friends and community.
Medical information will be gathered from a physician’s medical report. If there is a history of medical illness or current illness, information will be gathered regarding the condition and the impact it would have on raising a child. Psychological and psychiatric information will also be gathered. If in treatment or taking medication, a report from the treating doctor will need to be provided.
Child Abuse Clearances are run on any state in which a household member resided for the past 5 years (some states require clearances since the age of 18 years) for a domestic adoption; and for an international adoption, for any state or country in which you have resided. It is important to be honest with the social worker or adoption agency regarding any past issues. Not all arrests or child abuse allegations will prevent a person from adopting, but lack of transparency may lead to your being denied the opportunity to adopt.
Adoption Education and Preparation is achieved through direct classes, on-line classes or readings and discussion of adoption and parenting with the social worker conducting the homestudy. Agencies, states and countries have varying requirements. Parent(s) need to show that they understand the lifelong impact of adoption on the adoptee and the family. The ability to meet the child’s needs is assessed. Local resources for support and networking with other adoptive families can be provided.
Finances will be outlined with the intent of showing the adopting parent(s) readiness to raise a child. If there will be a shift in employment or income, this needs to be addressed. Proof of medical coverage for the child will also be required.
References are provided by the adopting family. They need to include how they know the adopting parent(s), a description of their qualities and personalities, any interaction observed with children and their expectations of the adopting parent(s) as a parent and a family.
Guardians are named in the report. Whether a family member or friend, the relationship, ages, health, employment, financial status, expected interaction with the child and adoptive family and awareness of adoption and the responsibility to assume full responsibility for the needs of the child will be assessed.
Home and Community will provide a description of the adoptive home environment and neighborhood, actual specifics of the child’s room, safety proofing, and available community services. Some states and countries have specific home and room size requirements.
Recommendations include a review of the above information and the specific recommendation for the type, age, gender and any special or health needs of a child. This comes as the culmination of the discussion with the social worker and the assessment of your knowledge of adoption, parenting and readiness to meet a child’s needs.
The Adoption Homestudy is an important step of the decision making and preparation process. While collecting required information, it also helps the adopting parent(s) to review their hopes and dreams for parenthood, and their ability to parent a specific type of child. Questions about adoption and parenting can be answered and resources for additional information and local support provided. In addition, the social worker can be a resource if future questions arise as the adoption process progresses.