An adoption home study is a required part of any adoption process in the United States. The single exception to this is an attorney adoption in Georgia, though this may change in the near future.
Although every state has slightly different requirements for a home study, the overall purpose is the same. A home study ensures that an adoptive home is a safe physical and emotional environment for a child. Home studies are conducted by social workers. Many, though not all, states require the social worker to have Masters level degree in Social Work (MSW).
Adoptive parents are required to fill out paperwork describing their upbringing and current life circumstances. They are also required to submit documentation about their finances, medical conditions and marital status (including any divorces). In addition, all adoptive parents must undergo a criminal background check. This includes compliance with the Federal Adam Walsh Law. This law requires a background check for every state where the individual(s) resided in the last five years.
A social worker will meet with adopting parents to review and discuss all paperwork submitted. Many people are concerned an agency will reject them if they reveal anything negative in their background on their application, such as abuse or alcoholism in the family. This is not the case. It is important to remember that people are not responsible for what happened to them as a child. But, the social worker will be interested in hearing how adopting parents think their experiences will affect their parenting.
The final step of the home study is the home inspection. Most agencies, like the IAC, will provide adopting parents with a list of what they are looking for during the home inspection. For an infant placement, the home does not need to be completely baby-proofed, but there are some basic safety issues that will be checked. These include things like fences around a pool and safe storage of medicines.
After the visit, the social worker will write the home study. Most agencies ask adopting parents to proofread it to ensure accuracy. Once the agency approves the home study they should provide the adopting parents with a copy.
Many states require a home study to be updated every year or two. At the IAC, we require all of our clients to update their home study annually even if it is not required in their state because the expectant mother they match with may live in a state that requires an annual update. The update entails a visit with the social worker, who will write up a short narrative of the visit and attach it to the original home study.