What is the home study?
The home study is “an assessment of prospective adoptive parents to see if they are suitable for adopting a child.” It covers many elements of the prospective parents’ lives to not only ensure that they are ready and able to take care of a child, but that they will be placed with a child that is the best fit for everyone involved.
What is the process?
While a portion of the process, as the name suggests, is in the home of the prospective parents, there are other steps as well. In the “home” portion of the process, a social worker or case worker will evaluate where the family lives and plans to raise the child. They will check to ensure everything is safe for children, such as child locks on cabinets containing cleaning supplies, as well as the home is up to code, if that state requires that type of check. You can find out more about the laws in each state here.
Outside of the check of the home itself, there are many pieces of the home study. There will be several documents and statements the prospective parents will need to provide the social worker such as health statements, income documents, background checks, and potentially more depending on the particular state or agencies standards. The prospective parents will also have multiple interviews with the social worker, and potentially write an autobiographical statement about themselves, to provide more information. Information from interviews and statements include but are not limited to; family background, education, previous and current employment, daily lifestyle, past experience with children, previous and current relationships, religious affiliations or belief system, their surrounding family and friends, and their feelings about adoption and welcoming it into their lives.
In addition to these logistical measures, there will be aspects of the home study that explore the character of the prospective parents. This portion is not in place to discriminate who is able to adopt a child. Rather, it is to help ensure that the parties involved are ready to be parents and that they will be matched with the right child based on their abilities and lifestyle. References from people who have known the prospective parents but are not related will give the social worker more background as well as give them a view of the network of loved ones that will be around.
Other aspects may be included on a case by case basis. For example, if the prospective parents already have children, those children may be interviewed to gauge their thoughts about welcoming a new family member as well as helping to ensure the safety of the home by how they have been raised so far.
What’s the purpose?
The purpose of the home study is to prepare the prospective adoptive parents while assessing the fitness of the prospective adoptive parents to adopt and match them with a child who they can responsibly care for.
I really want to start my family, how long does this process take? Is it expensive?
The time and cost of home studies can vary dependent on the type of adoption, state laws, specific agency fees, and more. The average time of compiling a home study report is 3 to 6 months. For domestic infant adoption through a private agency, $1,000-3,000 can be expected but that may also include other fees. For foster care into adoption, it can less, and for international adoption it can be similar or more.
How can I make sure I get approved?
There are no set standards for who gets approved to adopt a child through a home study, other than elimination of those with history of abuse and certain crimes. Different agencies and states may have varying views and guidelines they must follow. Race, religion, sexuality, gender, and other identifying elements are not in any way accounted for in someone’s ability to be approved for adoption. These aspects may help a social worker see what children could be a potential match, but they will not affect the approval process.
Some general tips to keep in mind for a positive home study experience are:
- Know the laws and requirements for home studies in your state
- Be completely yourself and 100% honest
- Whether it be about your income, previous relationships, or potentially even matters of your criminal history, always be honest. Social workers can help, even with criminal activity if one is rehabilitated, dependent on the crime, of course.
- Stay organized and have any potential needed documents ready
- Ask for references from people who really know you and have for some time, not those who you think might have nice things to say about you
- Keep your home clean and safe but do not try to be perfect
- Social workers are not looking to eliminate applicants based on normal household clutter. They are looking for an environment that is clean and organized to a degree that is safe for a child while adhering to safety measures such as a working smoke alarm.
- Start thinking about your parenting style, what your capabilities are, and how a child will fit into your current lifestyle.
- No matter how much you want to grow your family, not every child being placed for adoption will be a good fit for you, nor you for them. Being open and honest with yourself and your social worker will help ensure you are placed with the child who will become part of your forever family.
- Be flexible and have a sense of humor
The home study can be a stressful process, but if you keep an open mind, be yourself, and let your social worker help you, you will find relief. For a more detailed view of home studies, check out this resource and be sure to research the home study services of your local adoption agency!