It is exactly what it sounds like…a study of your home (not just the bricks and mortar) to ensure that it (you) are suitable candidates for parenthood. Amazing that when we have biological children, the assumption is that we are suitable, but when we seek to adopt, we start at zero and must pass inspection of nearly every detail of our lives.
It is what it is, and if you’re committed to adopting, as we were, it’s part of the price you pay (no pun intended, right?).
We underwent two home studies, and in both cases we had a case worker with whom we forged a really great relationship right from the start. That is important. If you don’t connect, I would strongly urge you to find someone else do to it. This is the person who, for all practical purposes, holds your adoptive future in his/her hands, and you want someone who advocates for you, which means you want someone who likes you…a lot. It doesn’t hurt at all if the feeling is mutual.
The nitty gritty of the home study looks like this:
- Application…fill it out fully. Rest assured you are being checked six ways from Sunday, so do not lie. If there are things that need to be disclosed, disclose them. Better to deal with them now – especially if they are deal breakers – than after you have spent a lot of time and a good deal of money.
- Health History…physical and mental health, so get your physicals. Your doctor will have to fill out a form from your application packet that confirms your fitness to parent. It’s not about perfection, just about reasonable mental & physical health…and “reasonable” is a very elastic term. Don’t let this worry you.
- Criminal Background…the rule of thumb is no felonies, but obviously each state has standards specific to the state. This requires fingerprints, and it takes several weeks, so get your digits inked early. In our state, I learned it is a misdemeanor to fail to license your dog. Now I think this is a huge overreach of government intrusion into my business, but it’s small potatoes when you want to adopt, and the home study will require it.
- Financial Background…your credit history will be checked, so if there are issues, address them and fix what you can. Your income will be verified. Every state has a minimum amount a family must make to be considered for adoption, with a set amount more for each additional adoptee (if you want more than one child). We were considering that, so we had to verify we could, in fact, financially care for multiple children. You will need at least one, and probably 2-3 years of signed tax returns to provide, so find them and keep them accessible…and you will have to update them for every home study renewal, and for your final adoption hearing. Fair warning…
- Home Inspection…clean your house, lock up your firearms and ammunition separately, have a plan to keep your cleaning supplies & medications out of the reach of children, pick up your clutter, lock up hazardous materials in the garage, etc. It will all be checked. On this point, I think it goes easier for families who have kids already (we did), because the health and well being of your child(ren) is an indicator that you are, in fact, successful parents already. I’m not sure this is fair, but it is reality, so if you’re seeking to adopt your first child, jump high & clean through the hoops.
- Interviews…the only residents of your home who will not be interviewed are pets and young kids. In our son’s interview (he was only interviewed in the second home study, and was seven at the time), we were allowed to be present, but he had to answer the questions. We were interviewed jointly and separately. In our individual interviews, we were questioned about many of the personal issues that were addressed in our applications. Be truthful and honest. Don’t gloss over struggles and weaknesses, because it looks and sounds bogus. Address them head on, and be honest about how you manage them. We both did that. Case workers understand that no one is perfect, and why would you want that anyway? We are human, and fallible…what the case workers (if they are doing their job right) need to see is that you are functional, that your marriage is stable, and that you have the necessary qualities to make a good parent.
- Documentation…make sure you have certified copies of birth certificates (for everyone living in the home), marriage license(s), divorce decrees and custody arrangements (if applicable), legal residency and/or citizenship (if you were not born in the US), dog licenses (I’m serious!), and any other that is required. Keep it accessible, because you will need it more than once (thank you CPS, or whatever that agency is called in your state).
- Money…yes, the home study costs money, and it is not usually included in the cost of the adoption. This varies by agency, so check the stipulations of the agency you select.
One very important point regarding your interview: talk ahead of time about how you want to discuss your discipline strategies, because you will be asked. Spanking these days is controversial, so if you do spank, make sure you are prepared to answer that question. Also know that you will likely be required to sign an agreement that you will not spank your adoptive child, particularly if you are adopting from foster care. This is crucial to understand, because when you adopt foster kids, there are almost always issues with neglect and abuse (physical, psychological, sexual, verbal, emotional). Spanking is counter productive, because it reinforces abuse in the mind of the child. You must be willing and prepared to use other behavior modification strategies, and you need to make sure that you can administer them consistently and with love.
OK, soapbox done. Just be informed, so you can be good parents to whatever child(ren) God places in your family.
This is boring, tedious stuff. A lot of it is, in my opinion, overkill to satisfy the state’s requirements, but it not optional. My husband and I talked about adopting before we ever married, and we both felt (and feel) strongly that God called us to it. None of the hoops that we have jumped through to get to the end were lofty, but they were necessary, and in the end, our second child is now home. It was all worth it for him…even licensing the dog.