The adoption home study is a detailed written report of your family compiled and prepared by a social worker. This can take three to six months to finish. The adoption home study requires the prospective adoptive family to gather different documents, answer several questions, and explore their reasons for adopting. Through a series of visits and interviews the social worker can get a complete picture of who you are and what life is like in your family. The adoption home study is a part of the decision making process for both the prospective family and the workers. Not only can the adoption home study help the worker place a child into your home who would best fit into your family, but help the family and the worker decide if now is a good time for your family to adopt.
The adoption home study can include the following pieces of information. Keep in mind that each state or country, in an international adoption, may require different information.
Autobiography/Family Background - Some states or agencies have a social worker working very closely with the family to finish this part of the home study, while others have a detailed list of questions that the agency wants answered. These questions are typically about your family, past and present; how you feel about discipline, your fondest childhood memory, or your greatest fears. We enjoyed this process as we learned so much about ourselves and each other.
Neighborhood/Community/Schools - Be prepared to describe your environment. What is your school system like? Which schools will your child/ren attend? Do you have a relationship with your neighbors? What resources does your community offer to help you parent a special needs child?
Physical Health - You may need a physical or health exam and/or a Tuberculosis(TB) test or chest x-ray. The social worker will also be interested in hearing how you have any health issues under control. Be prepared to explain how these health issues will or will not effect your ability to care for a child. There shouldn't be an issues with you adopting unless you have a serious health problem that effects your life expectancy.
Financial Statements - You must be able to show that you can care for an additional person(s) with your current income. Be prepared to verify your income with paycheck stubs, W-4, or income tax forms 1040 or 1040 EZ. You may also need to show information on your savings, insurance coverage, investments and debts. There will also be a worksheet to complete that covers your bills, such as mortgage or rent payments, car payments, and charge accounts.
Criminal Clearances - Most states require by law criminal record and child abuse record checks. Misdemeanors from long ago along with a good explanation of your behavior are usually not held against you. Felony convictions of any charge involving children or illegal substances will most likely not be allowed.
References - You will need the names, addresses, and phone numbers of three or four references. Some agencies will contact by phone, others will require that your references write a letter of recommendation. Choose people who have known you for several years and know your family. They should be familiar with you and have seen you in a variety of situations, with children, your spouse, etc. References will not keep you from adopting unless workers receive several negative comments, or a reference has brought up a questionable criminal record.
Interviews - Interviews are a time for the workers to go over your paperwork, learn more about you, clarify anything in your autobiography and see that your home is a safe and healthy place for a child. You do NOT have to be a clean freak! The worker will tour your home and will want to see the bedroom that you have planned for the child. If you haven't already discussed it, you may want to have a safety plan in place in case of fires or other natural disasters. Be honest and show your personality, a sense of humor is always a good thing to have, especially when parenting.
If You Already Have Children - Some agencies will have the children write a statement about their feelings toward adoption. If they are too young, they may be asked to draw a picture. Workers will want to know about your children's interests, hobbies, and grades. Your children will be involved in interviews, and may meet with the social worker individually.
Cost of the Home Study - The cost depends on the agency or the worker completing your study. Public agencies, such as the Department of Social Services, does not usually charge, or if they do, you will be reimbursed after the adoption is final. This charge is usually minimal. With private adoptions the adoption home study can run anywhere from $500 to $3000. This could be less if you are adopting a special needs child.
An adoption home study can be a nerve wracking thing, but if you go in prepared and knowing what to expect you will get through it just fine! As always, good luck on your adoption journey.