Married couple seated in their kitchen to work on home study paperworkWhen facing the adoption home study, many prospective adoptive parents feel overwhelmed with anxiety about the process. They wonder things like, “Will they find our home to be acceptable? What about our parenting approach?”
Indeed, welcoming a stranger into your home and fielding uncomfortable questions can unsettle anyone. However, getting ready ahead of time can greatly reduce these worries.
Preparation is key for a smooth home study experience, and we’re here to support you in feeling confident and ready. At Lifetime Adoption, we provide guidance on what to expect during a home study, offer tips for preparation, and debunk common myths about the process. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be well-equipped to successfully navigate your adoption home study.

What’s an adoption home study?

It’s an evaluation that a licensed social worker completes on a prospective adoptive family. Per state and federal regulations, you must have an approved home study to adopt. That’s because it will be used by your attorney to file adoption paperwork with the court. Before he or she approves and finalizes your adoption, a judge will review your home study.
It’s the perfect time to learn more about the adoption process and how to parent an adopted child. So make sure to ask the social worker preparing the home study your questions as they come up!

Information in a Home Study:

  • Your background (childhood, parents and siblings, and life events)
  • Important people in your lives
  • Marriage and family relationships
  • Reason for adopting
  • Expectations for your child and the adoption
  • Outlook about infertility issues (if relevant)
  • Parenting approach and childcare plans
  • Family environment
  • Your health history
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Finances (including your insurance coverage)
  • References
  • Criminal background clearances

What to Expect in a Home Study

The process typically happens in 3 stages:
1st Stage: Complete required paperwork
2nd Stage: A social worker will make at least one visit to your home, and conduct individual interviews of both of you.
3rd Stage: The social worker writes an evaluation of your family and their recommendation for adoption.
The entire process will take from two to four months, depending on how quickly you complete your paperwork and how busy your social worker is at the time.
Completing adoption paperwork for the home study

Common Myths About Home Studies

The home study process exists to prepare you, educate you, and gather information about you. Its goal is to match children with families who can provide secure, loving, healthy, and caring homes. Here are some commonly-believed myths about home studies:

“Our house must be perfect.”

A social worker is expecting to walk into a home that looks lived in, not one that’s been perfectly staged. The social worker won’t arrive in a little white outfit for a white glove test, we promise!
Shares adoptive one father, “In my experience they just want to make sure the child has a safe space and is being adequately cared for. We spent days cleaning and making sure everything was perfect, but it wasn’t at all necessary. The social worker is looking for safety issues, not an immaculately clean house.”

“We have to be rich.”

Even though adoption can get expensive, you don’t need to be wealthy to get a home study approved. The social worker is looking to see if you’re financially stable; that you stay out of debt and pay your bills on time. So, what’s more important than how well-off you are is your budget, debt, and how you spend.

“We have to own our home.”

Couples who rent a condo, apartment, or house can also get their home study approved.

“My past has to be clean.”

The social worker understands that you’re only human. With that said, you’ll have to answer questions about your criminal background, social environment, and medical history. If you’ve been directly or indirectly exposed to circumstances such as alcohol/drug abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse, jail, counseling or financial issues, you’ll need to share that information. In our experience, most couples have had some sort of exposure.
The social worker will evaluate the issues and address them. Sometimes, a hopeful adoptive couple needs to show growth and change in a specific area, or take additional training.
It’s reassuring to understand that social workers are genuinely supportive of your adoption journey and desire to help you become parents. Their main aim is to identify any concerning individuals or potential risks, ensuring a safe environment for children. It’s important to note that they aren’t seeking perfection, recognizing that no one can claim to be flawless parents.
Social worker tours a couple's home

How to Get Ready

Be prepared to answer questions about very personal topics such as your marriage, childhood, and any issues you might carry around. The social worker might ask about your mental health, how you were disciplined as a child, marriage conflict, infertility issues, and financial struggles.
By asking questions like this, the social worker is seeking to determine how you manage stress and difficulty. How have you worked through tough issues in the past? Do you have a strong support system? Are you willing to ask for help when it’s needed? By being straightforward about how you’ve moved through difficult events, the social worker can get a clear picture.

Valuable Home Study Tips

Expect to spend quite a bit of time completing paperwork and gathering the needed documents. Here’s a list of items that most professionals require:

  • Tax records
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificate
  • Background checks
  • Bank statements
  • Employment verification
  • Proof of insurance
  • Physicals

We recommend reserving a few weeknights or a weekend to work through the process. Put on your favorite music, grab some snacks, put on some music, and get to work!
When the social worker comes to your home, treat them with the same warmth and hospitality you would extend to any special guest. Think of them as a supportive friend eager to hear your story and share in your excitement about becoming a parent. It’s a nice gesture to offer them refreshments like water, coffee, or tea, and perhaps a quick snack such as a freshly baked cookie or muffin. This isn’t about trying to impress them or win them over; it’s simply about making them feel welcomed and comfortable during their visit.
It’s important to be yourself during the home visit and interview. Since the adoption professional is trying to get to know you and your family, it’s beneficial for you to be honest and straightforward.
Home studies typically remain valid for one year. After that period, an update is required, which means you’ll have to go through some of the process again and pay another fee, usually smaller. Although the home study process is extensive, it serves to adequately prepare your family for adoption. Soon enough, you will be bringing home the baby you’ve been dreaming about!


Adoption webinars, which are free to access!

Lifetime’s Adoption Expert Q&A: The Adoption Home Study, and more…
Behind the Scenes of Your Adoption Home Study
Adoption Q & A – All About the Home Study
Here are some useful articles:
Home Study 101: All You Need to Know
How to Speed Up Your Adoption Home Study Process
How to Get Ready for a Home Study in Florida
Surviving the Adoption Home Study

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on April 16, 2019, and has since been updated. 

Linda Rotz

Written by Linda Rotz

Linda Rotz, CWCM-S, CWCM-Trainer, ACC, is the Director of Adoption Services at Lifetime. Linda has worked in the field of adoption for 20 years within the child welfare/foster care system in Florida. She has degrees in Mass Communications and Human Development, and completed graduate studies in social work.

Due to her extensive expertise, Linda was called upon to write adoption procedures and training materials in Florida. She is certified as an Adoption Specialist, Child Welfare Case Manager Supervisor and Child Welfare Trainer in the state of Florida.