If you have just begun your adoption journey, you may have heard and read about the adoption “home study.” Chances are you have many questions or even fears about completing a home study. Here, I’ll share the types of information gathered during a home study and give some helpful hints for efficiently and confidently finishing your home study.
You’ll need to get a home study no matter which state you live in or where you plan to adopt. Typically, it gets filed with the courts and is a document that approves you as eligible to adopt.
What Is in an Adoption Home Study?
An adoption home study is a document that shares the story of your life: your health, daily life, your family and marital history, and your finances. It also contains an assessment of your house and neighborhood, references, and info about any criminal record or health concerns.
A home study contains lots of information about you, the prospective adoptive parents, including background checks, personal inventories, and financial statements. Your home study professional, a social worker, will review your provided documents, interview you individually and together, and then create a document that approves you for adoption. This document is called the “Home Study.”
Although the requirements vary from state to state, you can expect the information collected to include:
- Where you grew up
- Information about your parents and siblings
- Family traditions
- Your religious beliefs and how you plan to introduce your belief system with your adopted child.
- How you met your spouse and what makes you love him or her. How long you dated before you married, and when and where you married
- Child care plans once you bring your child home
- Reason for adopting
- How you feel about parenting and discipline
- How and when you plan to tell your child they were adopted
- How you feel about post-adoption contact with birth parents
You can also expect to provide this information and documentation:
- Previous marriages/divorces
- Medical history
- Current physicals
- Background checks with local, state, and federal officials and child protective services.
- Income and monthly expenses.
- Employment and salary verification.
- Information about your health insurance and life insurance
- Copies of documents such as driver’s licenses, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, and taxes
- Letters of reference from family, friends, and colleagues
For many hopeful adoptive couples, the idea of opening up their homes and lives to a stranger puts them on edge. A common worry about the home study is that it’ll find you ineligible to adopt.
The truth is, it’s uncommon for a home study to end with a negative judgment; most people can get an approved home study. However, there are disqualifying factors that vary from state to state. If there’s something in your background that you’re worried about, discuss it with the social worker. He or she isn’t trying to find problems; they are on your team and want to make adoption possible for you and your family.
Even though you might feel that the process is invasive, remember its goal is to ensure children are placed into loving, safe, stable homes.
The social worker’s written evaluation in your home study is based on interviews they’ve had with you during at least one in-person visit to your home. Your home doesn’t have to be child-proofed, contain a finished nursery, or have a separate bedroom for the baby before the social worker’s visit. However, they will want to know how you plan to accommodate your precious arrival.
Home Study Services from Lifetime
As a full-service adoption agency, Lifetime Adoption Agency provides this essential adoption service as you prepare for your adoption. Since you can adopt in your state or anywhere across the country, it is important for you to partner with someone who can complete a study that will work for you no matter where you take it! Lifetime is a licensed child-placing agency, so a home study conducted by one of our social workers ensures that you can adopt a baby from any state.
One of our licensed social workers will conduct your agency home study. They will train and educate you as you prepare for your adoption journey. In addition, this licensed social worker collects information about the prospective parents for the report.
Information compiled includes your finances, criminal background checks, work, health, parenting styles, and your ability to care and love for a child that is not of your body but comes to you through adoption.
The social worker will also make a few visits to your home. She conducts these visits to ensure that your home meets state licensing standards for safety.
How should we prepare for it?
Your home study provider will give you a list of documents they need to complete your home study. I recommended getting started immediately because some of these documents take longer to get than others.
Make sure to carefully read the list of required documents so you understand which documents need to be originals, which need to be notarized, and which can be copies or print-outs.
There is not much else to do to prepare for the home visit. Just be yourself: it’s important you’re honest and open when meeting with your social worker. They are not looking for perfection. There is no “white glove test”! Your social worker is there to ensure your home is safe and suitable for children.
How long does it take to finish?
The length of time it takes to complete a home study varies from state to state. Some states require adoption education courses or multiple home visits before completing a home study. Some states use paper fingerprint cards that have to be mailed in and processed, while other states offer electronic fingerprinting, which helps expedite the process.
Your home study provider should be able to give you an estimate of how long the home study will take to complete. A general range is three weeks to three months.
What are post-placement visits?
Post-placement visits are often required for a family to finalize their adoption. Typically, the same provider that completed your home study will conduct your post-placement visits.
After you adopt, your social worker will meet with you in your home to gather information for the post placement report. You can expect the following questions during a post-placement visit:
- How has your child adjusted to their new home? How is your adjustment to parenthood?
- What is your child’s schedule for sleep and feeding? What types of food/formula do you provide? Any likes or dislikes so far?
- How have you celebrated becoming parents? What response have you received from friends and family?
- What are your child’s growth measurements, such as weight, length, and height?
- Who is your pediatrician, and when has your child been to the doctor?
- Are you happy? Are you tired? The last two answers will probably be YES and YES!
Lifetime Adoption Agency Florida provides home studies. Learn how Lifetime can help you with this aspect of your adoption! Just give us a call at 727-493-0933 or by submitting this short form:
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on March 27, 2017, 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.