- What is a home study and why do I need one?
Home studies have two main purposes. First, they help to prepare prospective adoptive and foster parents for the tasks of raising a child who was not born into their family. Secondly, they provide assurance to individuals who are responsible for placing a child for adoption or foster care that the family is properly equipped to take care of a child. A home study consists of a series of interviews with a social worker, the collection of documents about the family, and a written narrative report. Home studies are required in most states and, if you are adopting internationally, by the United States Citizen Immigration Service (USCIS) and the country where the child resides.
- Where is Adoptions Together licensed?
At this time we are only able to work with families residing in the Maryland, District of Columbia and Virginia region. If you live outside of this area but plan on moving into the region please contact our office prior to completing an application.
- After I send my application to Adoptions Together (AT), when will my home study begin?
The Home Study and Support Services Manager will assign a social worker to you as soon as possible. You can expect to hear from the social worker within a week of when your application is received.
- How long does the home study process take?
During your first home study meeting, your social worker will explain the home study process in detail and answer your questions about any special circumstances in your family that may exist. Your social worker will tell you about the documents that must be collected before the home study can proceed and provide detailed instructions about how the documents should be completed. Once you have collected your documents, you will send them to the Home Study and Support Services Coordinator through My Adoption Portal (MAP), with the balance of the home study fee. If you are a couple, the social worker usually conducts three more interviews. If you are single, the social worker usually meets with you two more times. The home study process can take about 3 months after you have completed all of the necessary documentation.
- How complicated is the process of gathering together all the documents?
Don’t worry, it’s not that complicated. Your social worker will explain in detail about all of the documents you need for the home study, and you will receive individual written instructions about each document. You will have access to My Adoption Portal, where you can complete some documents by signing electronically, and uploading scanned copies of documents you have at home.
- What if I want the home study completed more quickly?
In limited circumstances, typically when the child you plan to adopt is about to be born, a home study can be completed in 30 days. Expedited home studies require prior approval of Adoptions Together’s Home Study and Support Services Director.
- What if the social worker and I do not “hit it off”?
Our social workers are highly trained in the unique issues faced by adoptive and foster families. They are expected to guide you through the home study process respectfully and competently. Most families who have been through a home study report that they felt very comfortable with their social worker. If, however, you think that your social worker is not a good “fit” for you or if you have any concerns or questions about your social worker, please feel free to discuss these issues with Anne Pearce, the Manager of Home Study Services, at any point during the home study process. (410) 402 1107 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- What happens if I become pregnant during the home study or prior to placement?
Every once in a while an applicant becomes pregnant during the home study or while waiting for a placement. If this happens, completion of a home study is delayed until at least six months after the baby is born. The transition to parenthood is often a very challenging time and dealing with an adoption at the same time would be difficult for parents and children.
- What happens if I move during the home study or before placement?
If you move, a social worker will visit you in your home and prepare an addendum to your home study. Also, some additional documents about your new home will have to be submitted. If you move within Maryland, Virginia, or the District of Columbia, Adoptions Together will update your home study. If you move outside of these states, an agency licensed in the state that you move to can update your home study.
- Are there age requirements for a home study?
If you are interested in adopting an infant, Adoptions Together requires that a single parent must be 50 years or younger at the time of application. If part of a couple, the couple’s combined age should not exceed 100. We can consider exceptions on a case by case basis given when a family has identified a placement resource willing to work with them and within a reasonable time frame.
- Can I be approved to adopt if I have a criminal history?
It is difficult to provide a general answer to this question because the laws and regulations about approval of adoptive parents who have been arrested or convicted of a crime vary greatly from state to state. The answer to this question depends upon where you live, the seriousness of the crime and when it occurred. Each case is considered on an individual basis. Most families are pleased to learn that “youthful indiscretions” will not exclude them from becoming adoptive or foster parents. It is very important to be truthful with your social worker and to disclose all relevant information about any criminal history that you may have. The information that you provide to us will be fairly and fully considered with respect to the requirements of the state where you reside.
- I have a chronic medical condition. Will this be a problem?
All home study applicants must have a recent medical examination, TB test and report from their physician. If you are currently under treatment for a chronic medical condition, or if you have had a serious medical condition in the past, your social worker will contact your physician to determine whether your medical condition significantly interferes with your ability to be provide a healthy, stable home for a child. In most circumstances, individuals who have chronic medical conditions can be approved to adopt.
- If I have participated in counseling, can I still be approved?
Adoptions Together views counseling or therapy as a positive approach to coping with life’s problems. If you are currently in counseling or have a recent or extensive counseling history, your social worker will contact your therapist for more information about your ability to provide a safe, healthy home for a child. In most circumstances, people who have participated in counseling can be approved to adopt.
- I’m not rich. Can I still be approved to adopt?
You certainly don’t have to wealthy to be approved to adopt or to provide foster care for a child. You do need to have sufficient financial resources to afford adoption expenses and to provide adequate care for the adopted child. All family members need to be covered by medical insurance. The primary earner should have life insurance to cover one year of his/her salary. The reason for these financial guidelines are to protect both the adopted child and your family from serious financial distress.
- I have talked to my placement agency about adopting 2 unrelated children. Can my home study approve me for such an adoption?
Much as we understand your wish to build your family quickly, our professional experience is that it is not recommended to adopt 2 unrelated children at a time. Research has shown an increased rate of disruption when a family adopts more than one child at a time. It is more difficult for a family to form attachments to more than one child joining the family. The adjustment period when more than one child is placed can be especially stressful for parents and children. In the case of siblings, there is clear justification to place the children with the same family. However that same justification is not usually the case with unrelated children. Therefore it is the general policy of Adoptions Together that the agency will not provide a home study for a family to adopt unrelated children.
- What if my home study is denied?
It is unusual for a home study to be denied. If your social worker has concerns about whether you are able to provide an appropriate home for an adopted or foster child, he or she consults with the Adoptions Together clinical team. The team carefully adheres to the mandatory requirements of the state where you reside. In many situations, applicants are asked to participate in counseling or to have additional assessments completed before a final decision about the home study is made. If your home study is denied, your social worker will explain the reasons for the denial in person and will follow up the discussion with a letter that outlines your rights to ask the agency to reconsider its decision.
- Can I read my home study?
Absolutely. You are encouraged to read your home study report and to let us know if we made any factual errors.
- What if I am uncertain about the placement agency I want to use or whether I want to adopt domestically or internationally?
You can discuss your questions about placement agencies, as well as the risks and benefits of domestic and international adoption, with the Home Study and Support Services department staff and/or your social worker. There are specific things that the home study report must contain depending upon the type of adoption you chose, so by the end of the home study interviews it is important for you to know what type of adoption you plan to pursue. If your plans change after the home study report is completed, it can usually be amended with just a little additional work.
- Does it matter if I have other children?
If you already have children, your social worker will need to contact them. If they do not live in your home full-time, arrangements will be made on a case-by-case basis. Adult children of Virginia residents who live within 50 miles will need to be interviewed in person. If more than 50 miles, the social worker will contact them by telephone. Of course, interviews are always conducted with sensitivity and respect, and in an appropriate manner for the child’s age.
- There are other adults who live in my home. Does this make a difference?
Each adult who lives in your home must be interviewed and certain documents about them must be completed. If there are renters in your home who live in separate quarters with a separate entrance, usually they do not have to be included in the home study.
- I’ve heard that references need to be interviewed. Whom should I ask to be my references?
At least three references are required for each home study. At least one reference must be interviewed in person. It is best to ask three friends who have known you for three years or more. We do not recommend that you ask a relative, clergy person, your therapist or a work subordinate. If you have a child who attends school, one of your references should be a teacher, counselor or school official who knows your child as well.
- How long is a home study good for?
Home studies and some of the supporting documents need to updated annually. We encourage you to contact us before your home study expires, so that we can make timely arrangements to complete the update so that your home study will remain current.
- If I am adopting internationally from another agency, will the home study from Adoptions Together be sufficient for my agency?
Generally, yes, although some agencies have special requirements. If your agency requires any additional information, please let your social worker know.
- What if my placing agency requires that I provide more documents than are included with the home study?
Three notarized copies of your home study and three agency licenses are provided at no extra cost. If your agency requests additional documents please refer to the fee sheet for more information.
- What is the best way to “get through” a home study?
Be flexible and honest. Keep your sense of humor. Relax. Enjoy the moment. These are the same skills that will make you a good parent!
- How can I get more information about getting my home study done at Adoptions Together?
If you have access, it is best to contact our staff by email. If you cannot email us, please feel free to call between 9AM and 5PM Monday through Friday. Below you will find a list of email addresses and telephone numbers for our home study staff: Jenna Myers
Maryland & DC Home Study Specialist
for Maryland and DC residents
(410) 402-1120 Jessica Ostrander
Home Study and Support Services Manager
for Virginia residents
(703) 627-7291 Anne Pearce, LGSW-C
Manager of Home Study Services
(410) 402-1107 For more information about Adoptions Together’s placement programs and other services, please call our offices:
Calverton, MD (301) 439-2900
Baltimore, MD (410) 869-0620
Herndon, VA (703) 689-0404