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What to Expect for Your Adoption Home Study

by McKenna on November 3, 2008
category: Adoption,Practical Tips

November Featured Families

November is National Adoption Awareness Month, so I thought I’d post about adoption this month.  One of the biggest pieces to our adoption journey, thus far, has been the home study process.  Before we started our adoption journey, I had no idea what the process was like.  I vaguely knew it was going to take a long time and I definitely knew it was going to cost a lot of money.  When we committed to adopting baby Reese, the first item on our to-do list was to have a home study completed by a licensed social worker.  I immediately started researching the process and became quite overwhelmed.  The lovely folks at Reece’s Rainbow walked me through the process and it ended up being much less stressful than I thought it would be.

I thought I’d share our experience with those of you who are beginning your own adoption journeys or those of you who are just curious as to how adoptions work.  Whether you are adopting domestically or internationally, you will have to have a home study done.  There may be some minor differences between domestic and international adoptio home studies and there is most certainly variances between social workers, but I believe that all home studies have the same foundation.

 Finding your social worker

  • This is the first step.  Finding a social worker who is experienced, licensed, and whose eager to help you in your adoption process can take some digging.  You can find many social workers at 1-800-homestudy or you can google or look in your phone book.  It’s important to find a social worker who is in your price range.  The fees for a home study can be anywhere between $600 and $2,500 for international adoptions.  Different countries have different requirements, so make sure your social worker has experience with home studies in YOUR child’s country.  If you don’t feel a personality connection with your social worker, find someone else.  This home study process can be anywhere from one month to several months long, so you want to be working with someone you like.  Ask what their turn around time is and what their process is like.  Every social worker runs their home studies a little differently, so shop around.  If the social worker doesn’t return calls, that may be a sign that they may not be easily reached when you need them.

Before your home visit

  • After you’ve selected your social worker, he or she will start you on a paper chase.  This will include locating your marriage license, birth certificates, divorce certificates (if applicable), filling out background check forms, having a medical exam, asking friends for letters of recommendations, having your fingerprints taken locally, and submitting financial records (note: you do not need to be rich to adopt, you only need to show that you are able to provide for your family).  Your social worker will also schedule a home visit to meet your family, see your home, and conduct interviews.  This may be scheduled before or after you obtain the necessary documents.

What to expect for your home visit

  • The home visit was the most intimidating part of this process.  We scheduled our home visit and it was canceled by the social worker last minute.  It was very frustrating because I had slaved over my house and it was sparkling.  It was rescheduled for the next week and again, I devoted myself to scrubbing and cleaning my house.  Our social worker arrived and was very friendly.  We gave her a tour of our home and she took a picture of each room.  She didn’t look in any closets (which I had spent hours cleaning) and didn’t even look at our master bathroom.  She looked at our backyard and didn’t look in the garage (whew!).  She said that she wasn’t there to inspect my cleaning abilities, but was there to make sure there was adequate space for our child and that our home was safe, which made me feel better, even though my house was the cleanest it’s ever been!  We then sat down to have an interview.  She asked my husband and myself individually about our motivation to adopt and about our childhoods.  Specifically, she asked about our parents’ discipline, activities we participated in, whether we had any history of abuse, etc…  She wanted to know what schools we’ve attended and what jobs we’ve had as adults as well.  She was pretty specific, but I did not feel like there was a “right” answer or a “wrong” answer.  She then asked us individually about our marriage and our parenting style.  She wanted to know if we would treat Reese like our other children and how we planned to incorporate Reese’s culture into our family.  After she conducted individual interviews, we were done.  Our kids are too young to be interviewed, however they were there the whole time, playing and fighting with each other.  We ate some pizza and salad, visited for a while and then she left.  She was at our house for about 2 1/2 hours.  I jokingly asked her if she was going to at least look at the fire escape path I made for her visit.  She laughed.  I had read that we had to have a fire escape path drawn out, so I did that and it wasn’t necessary in my case.  I know this sounds simple, but it really was this simple!

What happens next?

  • We are now in this stage of our home study process.  Our social worker left the home visit with the necessary documents and we received a draft of our home study about two weeks later.  I sent her some corrections I wanted her to make (minor things like misspellings and wording errors, etc…) and she made those revisions. We found out that our Child Protective Services clearance had not arrived, so we are now waiting for that.  Once that is received, she will UPS official, notarized copies of our final home study to both us and to our local USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) office.  From there, we will hopefully receive an invitation from USCIS to have our federal fingerprints done and an approval from the US to adopt soon after that.

This is a very nutshelled version of our homestudy process, but it truly was this simple for us!  Something that was incredibly overwhelming to me has been smooth and simple, except for the minor delay with our CPS clearance form.

Here are a few resources for you as you begin your adoption home study process:

For those of you who have had a homestudy, what tips do you have for prospective adoptive parents?

5 Responses to What to Expect for Your Adoption Home Study

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Amy
    November 3, 2008 @ 11:38 pm

    After two boys, I’m wanting a girl. And after two awful pregnancies, don’t think that I want to do that again.
    If we might be ready for a new baby in about four years, how soon should we start this process?

  • Comment by McKenna
    November 4, 2008 @ 9:47 am

    It just depends…we’re doing a special needs adoption, so our process is significantly shorter than normal international adoptions. Our total process should be around 6 months or so. So, if you might be ready for a new baby in four years, I’d start looking more into it in a year if you are wanting a typical developing child who is younger. I think adoption is so special!!!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Candid Carrie
    November 5, 2008 @ 6:36 am

    We’ve been foster parents in our community for almost ten years … give or take … and we adoopted a sibling pair a few years ago and are in the process of adopting another sibling pair.

    There are no financial expenses, but the emotional expenses take their toll. There is concurrent planning for the chidlren so at the same time you are considering adopting you are waiting for the courts to decide if the children will be returned to their parents.

    Foster parents do not choose their adoption social worker, you get who you get. The end. We currently have two (one for the home study, one for the children) and it has been very rough. I am outspoken and a strong advocate and the two workers have minimal experience in foster care adoption.

    We have had our five and seven year old for two and a half years and we sincerely praying that the adoption be concluded by the end of this calendar year (just like we were hoping for the end of the last calendar year).

  • Comment by McKenna
    November 5, 2008 @ 8:12 am

    Good luck with your adoption! I hope it starts going a little faster for you! Thank you for your insight on foster parenting. My personal knowledge of adoption processes is pretty limited to international and even more limited to the country we’re adopting from!

  • Gravatar November 10, 2008 @ 9:10 pm

    [...] In the spirit of National Adoption Month, I want to sneak this article in here (even though it has nothing to do with the topic at hand!) [...]

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