The first thing to keep in mind when preparing for the home study portion of the adoption process is to realize that we are not trying to exclude or disqualify a family from adopting. We want you to adopt!
Most issues that would disqualify a family from adopting are found before the actual home study through background clearances, physicals, therapist letters, etc during the information gathering stage of the process. If there are concerns with a family’s actual home they are typically fixable, and we can usually give the family that opportunity to correct whatever concern was noted. Things such as smoke detectors not working or medications not being out of reach of a child are easily correctable. If concern is noted with information a family provided during the interviews, we will address those concerns with the family and determine if there is a way to move past them. In some instances, this may require additional classes, trainings, or evaluations, but typically, adoptive families are given the chance to address any concern.
It’s also important to understand why there are so many regulations and requirements in a home study. Some of the requirements are agency requirements, based on what they determine to be best practice. Other requirements are determined by the state you live in, and a few are determined by federal law. The reason behind so many different requirements is that, when a family wants to adopt, an agency has to attest that they believe that family will make a good adoptive family and provide a child with a safe, stable and stimulating environment. We have to evaluate every angle and address every concern brought up so that we can be confident when approving a family to adopt.
So what do you really need to know about preparing for a home study?
- We won’t look under your beds or in your closets (unless there is something suspicious!).
- We don’t have a white glove to test for dirt and grime.
- You don’t have to have a nursery set up.
- You don’t have to baby proof your home.
- You don’t have to bake the social worker cookies.
- We will be looking for a safe and appropriate space in which to raise a child, including an appropriate room that is designated to become baby’s room.
- We will be looking for general safety including appropriate safety concerning bodies of water and fire arms.
- We will ensure you are aware of the potential hazards in your home and agree to address them once your child becomes mobile (baby proofing).
- We will be testing your smoke detectors during the visit and looking for fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors.
- We will be ensuring your hot water will not scald a child and your pets are friendly and vaccinated.
- We will be checking to ensure your medications and alcohol are kept out of reach of children and your cleaning chemicals are not stored next to your food.
We will also be conducting interviews with you. The number and location of interviews varies from state to state. The interviews are not meant to fool you or catch you off guard. They are to expand on information already provided to the agency and gather more pieces of your social history. The interviews provide the opportunity for the social worker to further assess your reasoning, thoughts, and values about parenting as well as clear up any missing pieces from your paperwork.
It’s important to be prepared for the home study process and if you have specific questions, check with your social worker to have those concerns addressed. While the home study is one aspect of the adoption process that is often feared and causes a lot of anxiety, most families will exclaim it’s much easier than they anticipated!