STEP 1: ORIENTATION
While home studies can and will change from case to case, nearly all of them begin with some form of orientation. This can include anything from an in-person introduction to basic informational handouts. The primary purpose is to get you familiar with the home study provider/agency you’ll be working with and how their specific home study process works.
STEP 2: TRAINING
Once you meet the agency/provider, you’re ready to start training. Many states will require some form of guidance to prepare the prospective parents for the needs of the child, and the requirements of the agency. This is where families will develop an understanding of what child would work best for them, and what is needed to parent that child effectively.
STEP 3: INTERVIEWS
Now that you have covered the essentials to being a great parent, it’s time to begin the interview process. Social workers will conduct several interviews during the home study process, but the exact number will vary. Remember that they are developing a relationship with you in order to understand if your family and home are suitable for a child. Be prepared to answer in-depth questions regarding your childhood, relationship with your parents and other factors that may affect how you raise a child. We’ve created a list of the most common home study questions and offered advice on answering them in part three of this series.
STEP 4: HOME VISIT
An in-depth inspection of your home will be conducted to ensure it meets all of the health and safety checks required by the state before placing a child there. Individual requirements will differ based on your location and the age of the child being adopted. Some agencies may even require an additional inspection by local health/fire departments, so check with your social worker for a complete list of things to inspect.
STEP 5: GATHER DOCUMENTS
You will need to provide a collection of personal documents that include everything from health statements to financial records. Most social workers will collect these during the home visit, but some may ask for them as early as the first interview. It’s important to know which documents will be required ahead of time, as some things like health statements and W-2 records may take a few days to receive.
STEP 6: BACKGROUND CHECK
Every state will require you to pass criminal and child abuse checks to be eligible to adopt a child. It’s not uncommon for home study providers to include additional checks against local and federal law enforcement databases. If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor crime in the past, it’s always better to inform your social worker prior to them running the background check. This gives you the chance to explain the charge and shows them that you had no intention of hiding it.
STEP 7: FINAL REPORT
The final report is a written summary of all the information the social worker has gathered from each of the previous steps. Aside from being kept as a record for your home study provider, this report is how other agencies with children waiting to be adopted will be introduced to you. Depending on the type of adoption, some social workers may share this report with prospective birth mothers, so we recommend asking about the confidentiality of your report if this is a concern to you.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Once you have familiarized yourself with the process and have an idea of what to expect, it’s time to start preparing for the interview. In the third installment of our series we focus on the most common questions asked during the home study interview and what a social worker is looking for in your answers. Click the button to continue to the next step or browse the other parts of our series below.