Easing Home Study Anxiety
Prospective adoptive parents can feel quite anxious about meeting with a social worker during the home study process. What will she think of us? Is it okay to talk about the challenges we have faced? Will she examine our home with white gloves?
What is a home study?
A “home study” refers to the process of interviews with a social worker and providing documentation to demonstrate your readiness to be a suitable parent to an adopted child. In addition, the term “home study” refers to the written document that is a result of that process. The home study is required for most types of adoption.
o If you are adopting a child being placed by an agency, the agency will require the home study.
o If you are adopting a child from out of state, the Interstate Compact will require the home study. If you are adopting a child from overseas, the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the foreign government will require the home study.
All of these entities are required to ensure that the best interests of the child are being protected. You may find it helpful to think of the home study as your first step towards becoming a parent through adoption.
What is covered in the home study interviews?
Your social worker will talk with you about many aspects of your current life, including:
She will also talk with you about your family of origin and upbringing, as that will affect what you bring to parenting. She will help you to explore what strengths you bring to parenting, and what challenges you may face. Your social worker does not expect you to be perfect. What is more important is how you have dealt with challenges and what you have learned from those challenges.
What will the social worker look for in the home visit?
The social worker needs to verify that you have an appropriate and safe home for a child, with adequate space for the child to sleep and play. She needs to have a tour of the home. She will not, however, be checking for dust on the furniture or under the beds!
What kind of documentation is required?
Each state has regulations for child placement agencies that establish what documentation must be obtained from a prospective adoptive family. Typically the documentation includes criminal clearances; child abuse clearances; medical reports; references; financial documentation; a safety inspection of your home; and copies of your birth certificates and marriage certificates.
What if I have a medical condition?
If you have a chronic medical condition, or have had a serious medical condition in the past, your social worker will contact your doctor and any specialists who have provided medical care to you. Your social worker will be seeking information in order to determine whether your medical condition will interfere with your ability to parent a child. The hope is that there is an expectation that you will be able to parent throughout the childhood years, so that the child will not experience the trauma of another loss. Many people with chronic medical conditions can be approved to adopt a child.
What if I have a criminal history?
It is important to disclose any such history on your application and to your social worker. Many factors will go in to determining whether you can be approved to adopt. State regulations, the nature of the history, and the age that you were at the time will all be considered. Many times “youthful indiscretions” will not prevent a person from being approved to adopt. Some foreign countries will not accept a prospective adoptive parent who has a criminal history.
What kind of training is required?
An important part of the home study process is to prepare for parenting an adopted child. There are many opportunities to obtain this training. There are in-person seminars and workshops available, as well as on-line training. The amount of hours and specific requirements will depend on the type of adoption that you are planning to do.
How come we have to do all this?
Some families may find this process intrusive and unfair, when clearly there are biological parents who could not meet these standards. If you think in terms of the best interests of children and of the responsibility to protect children, it may help you to understand why this is needed.
Is there anything that I can gain from this process?
Actually, the home study process can be very helpful to you. Your social worker is experienced with adoption, and may be helpful to you in sorting through what type of adoption is right for your family. In addition she can help you think through whether this is the right time for you to proceed. Your social worker can help you to prepare for what the experience of adopting the child will be like, as well as what to anticipate in raising an adopted child. She can help you to identify resources within your community. Think of your social worker as your guide and as a resource. She can be a support to you throughout your adoption and after you bring your child home.