06 Jun Surviving Your Home Study
An adoption home study is a series of visits with a licensed social worker (or other agent) to assess the suitability of a family and their environment to parent an adopted child. Every member of the family is involved in the process, including other children in the home. The name “home study” can be rather misleading, since an examination of your home (mostly for safety, etc.) is only one piece of this process. The study also includes a series of questionnaires/autobiographical statements, interviews, financial records, and medical evaluations.
Much of the stress involved in the home study stems from the fact that each one is different. Home study guidelines vary by state, by the type of adoption pursued (foster care, domestic, or international), by placement agency, and by the social worker or other agent performing the study. With so much variability, it’s difficult to prepare adoptive parents for exactly what they will face… But there are some important things to keep in mind to help you conquer this important step in the adoption process.
First, let’s address the elephant in the room: none of this is fair. Let’s take a moment to throw our emotional tantrum: Yes, it’s ridiculous how many hoops you have to jump through. Yes, it’s obnoxious that some people out in the world are irresponsibly procreating while you have to live under a microscope to be “allowed” to raise a child. Yes, it’s insulting to have someone judging every aspect of your life to determine if you are worthy of being a parent. Yes, they should make ALL parents go through this ridiculous crap.
Whew! Aren’t you glad we got that out of our system? Good. Now, we can focus on the task at hand. Spending too much time stewing over the injustice of the home study process only distracts from your ability to move forward. I don’t mean to sound insensitive… I absolutely had the same feelings of outrage and anger. But those feelings will not serve you here. The sooner you can separate from the emotion of how unfair it all is, the sooner you’ll be free to tackle the process itself.
Now that you’re emotionally prepared, here are my practical tips for helping your home study go as smoothly as possible:
- Get organized. Keep a file system that arranges your home study requirements by their time-sensitivity. This is also a good time to locate all important documents you may need, like birth certificates, social security cards, marriage certificate, etc.
- Start asking for reference letters EARLY. Find out your agency’s requirements for references and start making requests from friends and family. You may have the most supportive community in the whole world, but no one is as anxious to complete this process as you. People have busy lives and will inevitably drag their feet.
- Be as honest as you possibly can. Social workers (especially those with a great deal of experience) have a 6th sense for identifying BS. If you can be upfront and thorough in your autobiographical statements, your interviews will be much easier for everyone.
- Examine your home with a critical eye for safety. State laws vary in these matters (some require child-proofing outlets, cabinets, etc. where others do not) but take a common-sense approach. Make sure you have an adequate number of smoke alarms. Have a fire extinguisher on each level of your home. Be sure your medications are stored properly. And, for the love of God, remove any firearms from your house. I love the 2nd Amendment as much as any other safety-conscious Memphian, but trust me on this point. Ask a friend to store your hubby’s hunting rifle. This process is a million times less complicated if you can look your social worker squarely in the eye and honestly say that you have no firearms in your home.
- Don’t fear the financial statements. You don’t have to be rich, or own your home to adopt. Some countries have certain net-worth requirements for international adoption (China, I’m looking at you!) but our independent domestic adoption requirements were a breeze. (Hint: thanks to Robert’s PhD and 11 years of college, our net worth is actually NEGATIVE due to student loans. We were still approved!) I spent way too much time worrying about this before we completed our home study. Don’t make the same mistake!
- Try not to freak out. Easier said than done, I know. But remember that your social worker is not out to get you! They are not going to break out the white gloves to check for dust, either. Their role is to be an advocate for a voiceless child… which ultimately is your goal as well. You are awesome! They’re going to love you!
Above all else, try to connect with adoptive parents who have traveled this road before you. There is honestly nothing that helped me more than having a sweet friend willing to listen to me come unglued after I mailed in Robert’s KY background check forms for the fourth time. We’re all in this together, Mamas! Lift one another up.
Have you been through the home study process? Share your experience in the comments!