In every adoption, especially those conducted through an agency, a home study is required. These are often the most important part of the entire adoption process, because they can make or break an adoption. A home study is most often conducted by a social worker or other adoption professionals in order to get a complete picture of your family, your home, and the type of living environment you’ll provide for your adoptive child.
As part of the process, a home study requires you to undergo a number of visits and interviews as well as to submit a different records or your personal and family background. In short, the home study carries a lot of weight in the final adoption decision, which means it should be made a top priority. If you feel you need help preparing for this most important step, this ultimate guide has got you covered.
What You Need to Know About Your Upcoming Home Study
The average home study can take between three and six months to complete due to the highly detailed nature of the report. Over time, it is compiled by an adoption professional, usually a social worker, who will go over everything as thoroughly as they possibly can. Many different documents are required from each family member as well, to ensure that everything matches up between individuals, creating a clear picture of what life for your family is truly like.
An adoption study makes it easier to decipher which child would be the best for your family, enabling you to be placed with a child sooner rather than later if they decide that your family is in a goodfit. On the other side, however, a social worker may find that they have to put a necessary stop to adoption proceedings that may be premature for some families. It is also important to note that, while most home studies for domestic adoptions have the same requirements, an international adoption may need you to submit different information.
Breaking It Down
There are a few points you should focus on when undergoing the home study process. These include:
Before doing anything else, you must ensure that all the documents the social worker requested are provided in a timely manner. These include:
- Medical Background: Provide all medical documents as signed off by a physician documenting any chronic illnesses that may hinder you from fulfilling all parental duties before child reaches maturity.
- Psychiatric/Emotional Background and History: Any psychiatric or emotional illness that you have dealt with or are currently experiencing.
- Criminal History: If there have been any past arrests or brushes with the law, you must report these. Additionally, all other family members living in the home may be interviewed concerning this. In some cases, a prior criminal history may disrupt the adoption.
- Child Abuse History: All individuals present in the household 18 and over will be interviewed about child abuse. If there is a history of abuse, the adoption will most likely be terminated.
- Financial Statements: Though there is no minimum income amount, you must provide financial statements to prove that you are financially stable enough to provide everything your child will need. You may need to show paychecks, income tax forms, and other tax forms in addition to give information on your insurance policy, your savings, current payments you’re making such as mortgage, rent, or car payments, and info on any debts you may have.
Some agencies and some states will have a social worker assigned to a family who will work closely with them during their home study. Others, have a questionnaire that the agency requires you answer. If you find yourself with the questionnaire, you will find questions about your entire family history, your views on discipline, your own childhood memories, your fears and likes, and other questions. This is set in place to get to know you better on a more personal level.
Information About the Neighborhood
During the home study you will be asked to describe your neighborhood. Is it safe? Is there a good school system? Where will your child attend school? How are the neighbors? How is the community overall? You will need to answer these questions and more to paint a clear and accurate picture of your community environment so that the social worker can determine whether or not it safe for a child.
Most agencies and states require a number of references from people who have known your family for several years. These may be other family members, your pastor, close friends, and even colleagues. References do not hold too much weight, but if you receive negative comments or if a criminal record or other questionable instance is brought up, it may halt the adoption process for further investigation.
Interviews will entail the social worker coming to visit your home, go over paperwork, ask questions, look over your home, and simply learn more about you. It is important to stay calm for this portion of the home study and to be you. There is no need to be the perfect family or have a spick and span home, as social workers are not looking for false perfection. In short, they really just want to see how you live, how you plan to welcome the child, and how safe your home is to house a child. If you already have children, they may be interviewed as well in order to get to know them as well as asked to draw pictures of their feelings about the adoption.
One Last Thing
The last thing you should know about a home study is the potential cost. For international adoptions, this cost could be very high as it may involve travel on your or the social worker’s part. For domestic adoptions, however, the cost may vary depending upon the agency you’re working with and the social worker. Most public agencies with a social services and human resources department do not charge, while those that do will typically reimburse you after the adoption has been finalized. For private adoptions, the cost may be fairly high, but this varies from case to case.