For many hopeful adoptive parents, home studies are the most nerve-wracking and time-consuming part of the adoption process. They wonder, "Will our home be acceptable? What will they think about our approach to parenting? What about my past?"
Join Lifetime as we debunk common adoption home study myths, share what to expect, how to prepare, and more!
What is a home study?
It's an evaluation of a prospective adoptive family that's completed by a licensed social worker. To adopt, having an approved home study is required by state and federal regulations.
We recommend using the time spent on your home study to get educated on the adoption process and parenting an adopted child. Your home study provider should be able to answer any of your questions that might come up. Your home study will be used by your attorney to file with the court. Finally, the judge will review your home study before finalizing your adoption.
Common Home Study Myths
"We need to be wealthy."
Even though adoption can be costly, you don't need to be well-off to get your home study approved. What's more important than how much is in your bank account is your debt, budget, and how you spend. The social worker wants to see that you're financially stable; that you pay your bills and stay out of debt.
"Our house has to be perfect."
A social worker isn't expecting perfection when they walk into a home. They anticipate walking into a home that looks lived in. We promise you, the social worker isn't going to arrive in a little white outfit for a white glove test!
"We must own our home."
Couples who rent their homes can also be approved to adopt.
"Our pasts need to be spotless."
You're only human, and the social worker will understand that. All couples have to answer questions about the criminal background, medical background and social background. "The adoptive couple will need to share whether or not they have been directly or indirectly exposed to circumstances such as alcohol/drug abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, jail, counseling or financial issues. Truth be told, most have had some sort of exposure," shares Linda Rotz, Lifetime's Director of Adoption Services in Florida.
Once it is discussed, the social worker will evaluate the nature of the issues and address them accordingly. It could be the family might have to take additional training or show growth and change in a specific area. There are certain felonies that would disqualify a family, but each state has their own statutes so it would be something the social worker would have to evaluate with you.
Information in a Home Study Includes:
- Important people in your lives
- Your background (upbringing, parents and siblings, and major life events)
- Marriage and family relationships
- Expectations for your child and the adoption
- Motive to adopt
- Feelings about infertility (if relevant)
- Parenting approach
- How you'll integrate your child into the family
- Family environment
- Your health history
- Finances (including your insurance coverage)
- Childcare plans
- Criminal background clearances
What to Expect
Typically, the home study process has three stages. First, you'll complete the required paperwork. In the second stage, at least one home visit is required, along with individual interviews of both of you. Finally, your social worker will create a report which includes an evaluation of your family and their recommendation for adoption. The entire process takes from two to four months, depending on how busy the home study worker is at the time and how quickly you can complete your paperwork.
How to Prepare
We recommend that you get yourself ready to answer very personal questions about your childhood, your marriage, and your issues. This includes topics such as the way you were disciplined as a child, marriage conflict, mental health concerns, infertility issues, and financial struggles.
By asking such personal questions, the social worker is trying to see how you both manage stress and difficulty in your lives. Do you have a strong support system? How have you worked through hard issues in the past? Are you quick to recognize weakness and ask for help? By being honest about how you've coped during difficult times in your lives, the social worker can get a clear perspective.
How to Get Through Your Home Study
It helps if you can anticipate spending a lot of time gathering documents and completing paperwork. Most home study professionals require birth certificates, marriage certificate, background checks, tax records, bank statements, employment verification, proof of insurance, and physicals.
We suggest setting aside several nights (or a weekend) to plow through the process. Get some of your favorite snacks, put on some music, and get to work!
Being yourself during the home visit and interviews is important. Your social worker is trying to get to know you and your family dynamics, so it serves you well to be honest and straightforward.
Completing a home study can be work, but it's completely worth it!
Home Study Resources
Here are some useful articles on the adoption home study:
- What Should I Know About the Adoption Home Study?
- Your Checklist to Get Ready for Your Home Study
- Here's What You Need to Know on the Adoption Home Study
- 7 Tips That’ll Help You Ace Your Home Study
And here are adoption webinars about the home study, which are free to access!