Every adoption in the United States requires the prospective Adoptive Family to complete a home study before a child may be placed in the Adoptive Parents home. A home study is an assessment of the prospective Adoptive Family and this narrative report is used at various points in the adoption process.
For domestic adoptions, home study requirements will vary from state to state. The process in every state is designed to educate and prepare hopeful Adopting Parents, gather information about the family and evaluate the fitness of the family. In the event that an Adopting Parent is adopting a child from another state, the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) will govern and ensure that the prospective placement is safe and suitable before approval.
Generally, the report will include information on the hopeful Adopting Family’s background, their health, their home and neighborhood, parenting style, references, education, employment, financial statement as well as details about their readiness and reasoning behind adoption. Legal documents such as marriage licenses, birth certificates and divorce decrees will need to be provided and all adults in the household will also need to obtain criminal background checks.
Most states require their department or licensed child placing agency to conduct the interviews and complete the narrative report. Some states allow licensed social workers to conduct the home study. In other states, a licensed psychologist or therapist or a person designated by the court may also conduct the study.
If there is a finding that the Adopting Parent or member of the household might pose a risk to a child’s safety, a home study will not be approved. Criminal child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, crimes against a child and crimes of violence are barriers to home study approval. In some states, a conviction of human trafficking or convictions of physical assault or battery or drug-related crimes within the past 5 years may also lead to an unfavorable recommendation.
A home study may also be denied if the Adopting Parent’s income or financial skills are inadequate to provide for the family, if their home is unsafe or inadequate for the family, if they have a physical or behavioral condition that would prevent them from providing appropriate care for a child or they falsify information on their application.
For international Orphan and Hague adoption cases, a home study is required and must be submitted to U.S Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). This allows USCIS and the foreign country’s adoption authority to determine if the hopeful Adopting Parents are suitable and eligible to adopt a child.
With an international adoption, home study requirements will vary because each state will have its own laws and because there are different requirements for Convention and non-Hague Convention adoptions.
International home studies will generally include an in-person interview, a physical, mental and emotional evaluation of all members of the household, an in home visit, detailed financial information about the Adopting Parents, an assessment of the Adopting Parents ability to care for an adopted child, the number of children the Adopting Parents may adopt, any restrictions on the children who should be placed with the Adopting Parents, a check of criminal history, child abuse, substance abuse, sexual abuse or domestic violence for all adults in the household and if there were any previous rejections for adoption or if there was ever an unfavorable home study prepared.
The Adoption home study 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 or agency can be a resource if future questions arise as the adoption process progresses.