Many hopeful adoptive parents find the home study to be the most time-consuming and nerve-wracking part of the adoption process. They wonder things like, “Will they find our home to be acceptable? What about our parenting approach?”
Today, Lifetime Adoption Agency will share what to expect with a home study and how to prepare, as well as shed light on common home study myths!
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
- Finances (including your insurance coverage)
- 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.
Common 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!
“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 my 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. While there are felonies that would disqualify a couple from adopting, each state has its own laws. So it’s best to evaluate them with the social worker.
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
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!
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.
This part of your adoption process might involve a lot of work, but once you bring your baby home you’ll see that it’s completely worth it!
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
6 Proven Tips on How to Get Your Home Study Done in a Flash
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, 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.