If you’re thinking about adoption, understanding the process is one of the most effective things you can do to prepare yourself for the journey.
In a previous post we shared tips about creating your adoption profile including common mistakes to avoid and advice on photography and word choice. Another important part of the adoption process is a home study; similar to your adoption profile, it’s a way for adoption professionals to better assess your ability to parent a child.
Adoption Home Studies: 6 Insider Tips From Our Social Workers
In the United States, an approved home study is required for the placement of a child and is defined as a social report written by a licensed adoption agency to approve an individual(s) to adopt.
We’ve asked two adoption professionals from our staff at Adoptions from the Heart (AFTH) to provide insight and advice as we dive further into home studies.
- Worked with AFTH for three years.
- Attended American University where she studied abroad in Kenya, volunteering with women and children in the slums of Nairobi. She has since travelled back five times.
- “Adoption is just another way of giving women and men the choice to figure out what is best for them and their children, and I find that fascinating and inspiring. I also very much enjoy being able to help families grow through adoption.”
- Worked with AFTH for five years.
- “ I’ve done close to 50 placements during my time with AFTH and feel so lucky to be involved in adoption work because I get to see happy endings.”
Introduction to Home Studies
Home studies serve three purposes:
- to gather information about prospective families that will help connect them to a child
- to evaluate the prospective family’s home for safety, security, and overall health
- to better educate and prepare families for adoption
On the adoption process timeline, home studies are one of the initial steps a family participates in. Before a family can officially enter the profile stage and be available to birth mothers, they must complete a home study. After a family applies and attends a pre-counseling session and education course, the home study process begins.
Many people believe that the home study is simply a visit to the prospective adoptive parent’s home for placement approval but there are many more steps. The home study is an evaluation of the home as well as the prospective adoptive parents. Though it may seem intimidating at first with the amount of paperwork and questions, it is best to take things one step at a time and not feel overwhelmed by the process.
Social workers will collect records from the family including criminal and medical background checks, and statements of income and assets. They will also hold individual and joint interviews, and complete a home visit. The process results in a written narrative that either approves or denies the applicant for adoption. For a complete breakdown of each document in the home study process, follow this link to RainbowKids.org.
Home Study Tip 1: “My number one tip for families about to have their first home visit is to be honest and up front with your social worker and don’t be afraid to ask questions.” – Ashley
The Home Visit
Home Study Tip 2: “Many of my clients are fearful of the home visit. I always tell families that I am not there to make sure they have the best house in the world. I am just here to report that everything is safe to bring a child home to.” – Amanda
During the home visit the social worker needs to get a sense for the general layout of the home. Most agencies do NOT require families to have a nursery set up or have their home baby-proofed. Overall safety is most important. “Pre-Parenthood: Surviving the Homestudy” from Adoptivefamilies.com is a post written from the perspective of an adoptive mother about to complete her first home visit. “But what is the smell of Parent? More specifically, what is the smell of Good Parent Material?” It’s a great read to get an inside look into the emotions one might go through: nerves, ‘Martha Stewart facade,’ and ultimately self-acceptance and contempt.
Home Study Tip 3: “Remember that the home visit is just a small portion of the whole home study and that we don’t expect your home to be spotless! We won’t come in with white gloves, I promise!” – Ashley
Home Study Tip 4: “I check for smoke alarms on each level, fire extinguisher in the kitchen and that there is a separate space where the child will sleep. Overall, I am just checking that everything is safe.” –Amanda
On average, a home study process lasts two to three months, and the home visit takes around one hour in Pennsylvania. Some other states have more specific requirements that may require a longer home visit, or multiple home visits. For more information visit Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption provided by www.childwelfare.gov. It provides statutes and policies for approving prospective adoptive homes in specific states.
We asked Ashley and Amanda how they recommend families prepare for the home study process.
Home Study Tip 5: “I tell families to just be prepared to be honest and open about who they are. The Home Study is a chance for a social worker to really get to know the individuals and report on what their lives are like. “ – Amanda
Home Study Tip 6: “Be prepared for a lot of paperwork and be ready to get down to business after the first home study meeting. Working together if you are in a couple is an important aspect of the whole process.” – Ashley
If you have any questions about home studies or are interested in learning more about adoption, visit these links:
- Babycenter: Preparing for a Homestudy
- Barker Adoption Foundation: One Social Worker’s View of the Homestudy
- Rainbow Kids: 5 Things to Expect During a Home Study