What to expect during a home study

Many people looking to adopt have questions about the home study process.

It can be embarrassing to open up your home and private lives to the scrutiny of a third party, but it is an essential step for those wanting to adopt.

The specific requirements of a home study will vary depending on the state and the adoption agency.

In general, though, home studies include filling out several forms, a few in person interviews, and some home inspections conducted by a social worker. The whole process usually takes anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months, though it can be expedited depending on the circumstances and the social worker.

There will also be some interviews and home inspections conducted after your child is placed but before the adoption is finalized.

Typically, at least one home visit is unannounced.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind as you prepare for your home study:

 

Home studies are for the child’s benefit.

  • The important thing to remember is that the home study is done to ensure that the child is placed in a safe, healthy, loving home.
  • While the process may feel intrusive at times, it is necessary for the social worker to thoroughly evaluate your home before placement.
  • The information gained from the home study can also help agencies in matching you with a child: they get to see what you are prepared for and what you can handle.

They will interview everyone in your household.

  • In addition to the person(s) hoping to adopt, any other people living in their home will be interviewed.
    • This includes any other children you may have, though these interviews are kept appropriate to the age of the interviewee.Social worker conducting home study with happy couple.

They’ll do a background check.

Most (if not all) adoption agencies require prospective adoptive parents to submit to criminal background checks. These may be done using Social Security Numbers or fingerprints.

They will be looking for anything that might indicate that the safety of the child is at risk…

  • especially a history of negligence
  • child endangerment
  • physical abuse
  • sexual offenses.

You probably don’t need to worry about old parking tickets, but you should be upfront about any major violations.

If it has been several decades since an offense and there appears to be no risk that you’ll re-offend, then it will likely be fine.

 

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You may have to get a physical and talk about your medical history.

  • The social worker will want to know if you have any chronic illnesses that might make it harder for you to care for a child.
    • This includes both physical and mental illness.
    • Conditions that are being treated or managed with medication or other interventions are usually not a problem.
  • Active, life-threatening or terminal illnesses in one of the adoptive parents, on the other hand, can cause agencies to deny placement.
  • Some agencies also will not place children with parents who suffer a major disability, such as paraplegia
    • such cases should be determined on an individual basis.

They’ll want to know about your finances.

  • There is no set minimum income to be an adoptive parent, but it needs to be clear that you can financially support a child.
  • The social worker will likely ask for information from past tax returns and pay stubs.
  • They will also look to see if you have sufficient insurance coverage and if you have a lot of debt relative to your means.
  • Some agencies perform a credit check to acquire financial information, but not all.

Your home needs to be safe, not perfect.

In fact, if your home looks too good (like a magazine), the social worker may get suspicious.

The purpose of the visit is to make sure that there are no safety hazards, so your home shouldn’t be filthy, but don’t fret if it looks a little “lived-in.”

Use common sense and childproof any area where the child may be.

Do make sure that you have fire extinguishers and properly installed smoke alarms (be sure to test them and replace their batteries if necessary, too!).

All medications and firearms should be safely stored so that they are inaccessible to a child.

  • If you have a yard, is it fenced in and safe?
  • Do you live in a safe neighborhood?

The social worker will also be looking to see if there is simply enough space for the child.

  • Will he/she have a place to sleep?
  • Is there room to play?

Your family and friends may have to be interviewed, too.

The social worker may ask you for a list of references.

These might be family or friends, and they might speak either in-person or on the phone.

They may also ask them to fill out a few forms and/or provide a written letter.

Choose people who have known you and your family for several years and have seen you interact in different situations.

It’s also a good idea to ask them ahead of time if they would be willing to act as reference for your adoption.

Don’t lie.

This shouldn’t need to be said, but: don’t try to fool or mislead the social worker.

It is much better to be up front about anything you think might be a problem.

Answer questions honestly and frankly.

It is much better to have any skeletons in the closet exposed at the start of the process rather than be discovered toward the end.

Remember that you don’t have to be perfect to be an adoptive parent, but you do need to be able to provide a safe, healthy home for a child.

The faster you are, the faster the process goes over all.

It’s better to be prompt in filling out paperwork and scheduling appointments.

This makes the whole process more timely, which ultimately means you’ll get your child faster.

Further, this shows the social worker that you are a responsible person capable of managing your family’s affairs.

You should definitely have your home study done by the time you have completed your profile.

Certain parts may expire.

It’s always better to get your home study done early.

Placements sometimes happen very fast, with little notice and it’s better to be prepared rather than risk missing a match because you weren’t ready.

Still, if things take too long after the study, some parts of it might have to be repeated.

Most often this happens with the background checks, which are generally considered to be current for just a year (sometimes less).

If you are starting your adoption process and waiting for your home study, watch this FREE webinar on saving time and money!

[FREE Webinar] How to Successfully Adopt Without Wasting Time or Money!

View our FREE webinar for adoptive families trying to adopt a newborn baby;

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More information:

Here are a few more places you can go for more information about home studies:

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