Homestudy Frequently Asked Questions
One of the most feared and questioned processes in the adoption journey is the home study. However, most find that after the home study is completed, their fears were not justified and are surprised at how easy it was. I’d like to take a moment to review the most frequent home study questions I receive.
So what is a home study?
A home study is a process of collecting background information on potential adoptive parent(s), interviewing them/him/her, touring their/his/her home, writing a report summarizing all the information and ultimately rendering a decision as to whether the prospective adoptive parent(s) have been found fit to adopt and parent a child/ren.
What is the process like?
The home study process consists of a lot of paperwork on the prospective adoptive parent(s) end. While requirements vary from agency to agency and state to state, there are common requirements that prospective adoptive parent(s) should be prepared for. Prospective adoptive parent(s) will likely need to submit letters of recommendation, birth certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees; complete physicals, write autobiographies, and obtain several different background clearances.
The process also will likely entail at least 2 interviews with a social worker. The interviews are meant to elaborate on the paperwork already submitted and to fill in any gaps that were not covered. Prospective adoptive parent(s) shouldn’t be surprised by anything in the interview; they typically touch on familial patterns and background, thoughts on religion and discipline, as well as a basic understanding of what raising an adopted child might entail in regards to expectations, ideals surrounding not sharing a biological connection with your child, and inherent loss. One should also expect to discuss birthparents, feelings towards them, and what one might be comfortable with in terms of ongoing contact.
Why are there so many requirements?
Adoption agencies have one set of requirements for adoptive parent(s) that were established for that agency. Most adoption agencies are licensed through the state they are located in and therefore, bound by the regulations of that state too, so that adds to the requirements. Agencies, and therefore the state, are essentially signing off on the prospective adoptive parent(s) and attesting that we feel you would be a fit parent(s), so we need to ensure that we have done a thorough job of screening.
What if I/We have an imperfect past?
No one is perfect! It is important to open and honest with your agency and social worker up front and throughout the process so that any issues that need to be addressed can be. For example, we have families with a criminal history, drug or alcohol abuse history, health history, and who experienced abuse or neglect as a child. The process of the home study looks at what you have been through, how you coped, and where you are at today. We are not looking for ways to exclude you, but rather hope that we can find a way to make it work.
How much should I/We write for our autobiography?
Prospective adoptive parent(s) are typically given an outline to follow when writing their/his/her autobiography. It can be written as a narrative or in question/answer format. Typical autobiographies are 3-5 pages in length, but this can vary. If information is missing, it will either be requested or filled in during the interviews.
Do I/We need to have the nursery prepared or baby proof the home?
No. Unless the agency has this specific requirement, this is not necessary. There will be basic safety requirements that are expected, but the agency should be able to provide a list of these expectations prior to the home visit. Common requirements are working smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, pool and/or hot tub safety, and alcohol/medication safety. Overall, the social worker is evaluating the basic safety and appropriateness of the home for a child. (we don’t even look in closets or under beds!)
What if the social worker finds something in my/our home that is not acceptable?
It can be fixed! Under most circumstances, if something in the home is not properly functioning or does not meet the requirements of the agency, one will likely have the opportunity to fix the problem, therefore passing the inspection. In some circumstances, the social worker may need to come back out to determine if the item(s) were adequately corrected; other times a photo of the corrected item may suffice.
What if I/We don’t pass the home study?
In the majority of instances, if someone isn’t going to pass the home study, that is determined early in the process based on background checks or philosophies around discipline. If the prospective adoptive parent(s) have made it to the interview portion of the process, hopefully there won’t be any surprises. If something is questionable, it can likely be addressed. In rare instances, the home study might not be approved. If the prospective adoptive parent(s) have specific concerns regarding passing the home study, it is advised to ask those questions up front and to always be honest with the agency and social worker in throughout the process.