A home study is required for any family who is hoping to adopt. It is a report about the prospective adoptive parents and the family. A licensed social worker or agency must complete the home study and it must be completed in the state where you live. Many families are often anxious and unsure of what to expect during the home study process. Here are 5 things you can expect during your home study, regardless of the type of adoption you are doing.
1. Paperwork: You will have paperwork to complete and submit to your social worker. The documents will vary as some things are required for state licensing or for agency policy. Each agency and each state has different requirements. Most of the documents you should already have or will easily have access to. For example, birth/marriage certificates, tax records and other financial documents, and autobiographies. You will also be required to complete and submit a number of background checks. Again, these will vary by agency and by state. The most common include a state or national criminal history search, child abuse and neglect clearances, sex offender registry search, and a local criminal history report. Your social worker will guide you through the documents and should provide you with clear instructions about how to complete each background check. Typically, any adult (age 18 or older)is required to complete the clearances.
2. Interviews: The social worker will need to interview all members of the household. This does include children, based on their age and ability to understand the adoption process. You will provide the social worker with your life history (your family, education, employment, activities, etc.) He/She will also ask about your parenting skills and views on parenting. There are no right or wrong answers. The social worker will also interview any children in the home and ask about their support of the family’s decision to adopt. The home study report includes multiple sections that will be compiled using the documents the family submits, as well as the in-person interviews.
3. Adoption Education: Your placing agency and home study agency will require that the adoptive parents complete adoption education. For international adoptions, a minimum of 10 hours of Hague approved training is required. The trainings cover many topics related to adoption, which include bonding/attachment, effects of institutionalization on children, medical conditions, parenting and discipline strategies, raising a child from a different culture/ethnicity, etc. Some agencies will ask that you complete country specific or child related education. For domestic adoptions, the education will cover topics such as creating a life book, open vs. closed adoption, how to work with the birth family, etc. Many agencies provide the training for families or can refer the family to online training. Once you complete the education, you should receive a Certificate of Completion. Both agencies will ask for a copy of your certificate. There may be an additional fee for the adoption education.
4. Home Visit: Your social worker is required to meet with you in your home and complete a home visit. The purpose is to assess your home safety and suitability for the adoption. You should ask, prior to the visit, what to expect. Again, each agency and each state have different requirements. The social worker will want a tour of the home and to see the space you plan to use for the adopted child’s bedroom. You may also be asked to get records from your vet’s office for any pets you share your home with. There will be a section within the home study report that includes the assessment and detailed description of your home.
5. Review Process: Once your social worker has completed the required meetings with your family and has all of the paperwork from you, he/she will write a draft of your home study report. Your placing agency will have the opportunity to review it. This will allow your agency to ensure that the report contains all of the information they require, as well as the information the country you are adopting from will require. Many agencies will also allow you a chance to review the report to edit any of your personal information. Once the revisions are complete, the social worker will finalize the report and should provide you with multiple copies to disperse as needed (to USICS, for your dossier, to the placing agency, etc).
While the home study process can be daunting, it should also be a very positive experience for families. It is the start of your adoption journey! The fees involved and the length of time to complete vary by agency. These are important questions to ask when you are choosing your home study agency. KidsFirst is licensed and Hague Accredited to work with families in Indiana for their home study needs. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have about the home study process.