Perhaps the most important part of your adoption journey is the adoption home study. No matter what type of adoption you’ve chosen, you’re sure to undergo an adoption home study in order for the adoption professional or social worker to get a better idea of who you are as a family. This is all done to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child, so it carries a lot of weight in the overall adoption decision. For most waiting families, the adoption home study is their time to shine and show who they really are and what they can offer their child. Though nerve wracking, the home study process should be one of excitement, joy, and honesty.
The Adoption Home Study Process: Prepare for Each Step
Though there is no official format, for every home study there is a process most adoption professionals and social workers stick to that hits all the major points. There are certain things they’re looking for during a home study, making it important that the process is followed closely so that nothing is missed. In the average home study, familial and personal background is covered rather thoroughly, as well as certain records and personal information needed to paint a clearer picture of your home life and the environment you will provide for the child.
In general, the adoption home study process will include these steps, in no particular order:
  • Adoption Education
    At some point during the adoption home study process, you as the prospective parent or parents will be asked to complete an adoption education program. Typically, these programs outline and help parents better understand the unique needs of waiting children before, during, and after adoption. In addition to this, it will offer insight on discipline techniques, help when it comes to interacting with birth parents if you have an open adoption, and any questions that may come with a closed adoption. Overall, this program will help adoptive parents better care for their adoptive child, making them closer as a family over time.
  • Autobiographical Statements
    These will be gathered through interviews and forms in an attempt to get to know you better. Some agencies may send out a questionnaire of specific questions they want answered, while other will have the social worker work closely with you through interviews and visits. Some questions will focus on our familial and personal background, inquire about your hopes and dreams, fears and worries, and what childhood was like for you. For married persons, this portion of the home study may ask questions about your marital history as well as information on other children and your parenting style. In addition to these questions, you may have to answer questions about your community and the environment you plan to raise your adoptive child in.
  • Background Checks
    Background checks will mainly cover any criminal charges or arrests that may have happened in the past. It is required by law in most states that any criminal and child abuse records and clearances for both foster and adoptive parents be conducted. In most cases, if the misdemeanor happened a long time ago and you have a good explanation for your actions, the charge will not be held against you. However, if you are found to have a felony and imprisonment having to do with child abuse or substance abuse, the adoption will be halted.
  • Interviews
    During the adoption home study process, you will undergo several interviews. These are put in place to get to know you better as well as to develop a relationship with your social worker. The better your social worker gets to know you, the better equipped they are to find an appropriate placement for your family.
  • Home Visits
    Home visits are conducted to see how safe your living environment is. In addition to checking out the child’s room, the social worker will look to see if the home is safe enough for a child. This includes everything from working alarms, safe water, no obvious hazards, and more. Many people think that if there home is totally clean and spotless, the home visit will go well, but this is not what the social worker is looking for. If everything is tidy and the home is found to be safe and up to code, it should be enough to pass with flying colors.
  • Health Records and Statements
    You will need to submit health records so that your social worker is aware of your physical and emotional health. Most agencies require prospective parents to undergo a physical exam to catch any health issues that you may be unaware of. Typically, the health records should not have too much say in the final adoption decision unless you have a serious health problem that will affect life expectancy. If you have a chronic health issue that is managed, a statement from your primary physician outlining the nature of your health problem and your actions to regulate will be required.
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  • Income Statements
    Though you do not have to be rich or even “well off” to adopt, you do have to prove that you are financially equipped to adequately care for another person or persons on your current income. Adoption can be very costly, even with assistance, so it is important to have your financial records checked out and your stability validated. This will require tax forms and income check stubs.
  • References
    References from family, friends, your pastor, or colleagues will further help your social worker get a better understanding of who you are. When looking for references, it should be individuals who have known you and your family for a number of years. Acquaintances are okay in a pinch, but the agency is most likely looking for close personal friends and family who can give a true testament to your character and personality.
Overall, the adoption home study process can be long and feel arduous, but it is the best way for your social worker to get to know who you are. The elements of the process are all very important, though some hold more weight than others in the final adoption process. Be sure to follow the requirements closely, have all your documents prepared, and most importantly, be yourself!