A home study generally happens after you have completed your training classes and adoption application. All states require that families applying to adopt complete a home study.
Once a home study is complete, your caseworker creates a written report about your family. It includes basic information gathered from you as well as information provided by third parties.
Generally, a home study report includes:
- Family background, financial statements, and references
- Education and employment
- Relationships and social life
- Daily routines
- Parenting experiences and expectations
- Details about your home and neighborhood
- Readiness and reasons why you want to adopt
- References and background checks
- Approval and recommendation of children your family can best parent
The home study process, which can take between three and six months to complete, may seem invasive or lengthy. However, agencies are typically looking for ways to help families adopt rather than prohibit them.
Child Welfare Information Gateway has two publications that help explain the home study process:
Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption, a fact sheet that summarizes state laws and policies regarding what information is collected.
Preparing for home study costs
If you’re working with a private agency or certified social worker in a private practice, the cost of an adoption home study can be anywhere between $1,000 to $3,000. We went through Bethany Christian Services. Our Home Study was $2,000. This fee sometimes covers additional services such as an application fee and required training.
When planning to foster, it is very unlikely you will be charged a home study fee by a public or private agency. However, if you are completing a foster-to-adopt home study, fees may apply.
Preparing for home visits and requests for information
To help speed up the home study process, ensure all necessary information is supplied completely and accurately and that you don’t delay filling out paperwork, scheduling medical appointments, or gathering the required documents.
There will be some visits where the social worker comes to your home. It’s easy to get yourself worked up about these. Don’t. It’s not a white glove test. Straighten your house like you would if friends were coming over. If you’re so inclined, serve some coffee and cookies. (You’ll notice I didn’t say “make cookies”. I’m no Suzy Homemaker. But, If you want to make them, go for it!) It’s a nice touch and our caseworker certainly didn’t complain 😉
These visits are more laid back than most prospective adoptive parents expect. It’s an opportunity for them to get to know you and learn more about why adoption is important to you. Just be yourself.
Things to have or be prepared to gather
A physical exam within the past 12 months is required for all prospective parents, and tuberculosis (TB) tests are typically required for every member of the household. Medical conditions under control such as high blood pressure or diabetes usually don’t prevent individuals from being approved to adopt. However, a serious health problem that affects life expectancy might.
Criminal background check
All adults in the household must complete forms that are sent to child protective services and a state’s police check center. Adults in the household may also need to obtain Federal Bureau of Investigation fingerprint checks and local police clearances under certain circumstances, such as recent relocation to the state where you currently reside. Applicants whose state or federal records indicate they have been convicted of harming children cannot adopt.
Family income, and sometimes budget information, will likely be requested. Some states may require a copy of an income tax form, a paycheck stub, or a W-2 form. Don’t worry. You don’t have to be wealthy or own a home to adopt. And, even if you receive some type of assistance or have debt, you will likely be eligible to adopt as long as you have adequate resources to provide for your family.
You will most likely need to supply names, addresses, and phone numbers of three or four individuals who can attest to your experience with children, the stability of your current marriage or domestic partnership and household, and your emotional maturity. Most agencies require that references be people who are not related to you. Good choices might include close friends, an employer, a former teacher, a coworker, a neighbor, or a church leader.
Many adoption agencies will ask each applicant to write an autobiographical statement or story. This is, essentially, the story of your life. It helps your caseworker understand your family better and assists them with writing your home study. Some agencies have workers available to assist you, and most will have a set of questions to guide you in writing your statement. We went through a christian agency so we also had to provide a statement of faith.
Copies of legal documents
Copies of any applicable marriage licenses, birth certificates, divorce decrees, and other legal documents relevant to your application to foster or adopt will be required.
Reviewing a copy of your home study report
You should receive a copy of your home study. Look over it for any inaccuracies. If you find any, bring them to the attention of your agency right away. Depending on the agency you work with and the child you want to adopt, the information contained in your home study could be shared with birth parents or others. If you have questions or concerns about the confidentiality of your information, ask your agency who it might be shared with.
So after all that, you may be feeling overwhelmed. Maybe it even feels like this is all just too much. I know it can feel that way. I absolutely felt that way. So…you’ll just have to trust me here. It’s not too much! I’ve been there- twice.
If you take it one step at a time, it is possible to breathe through the process. Just complete the next thing and then the next, one at a time. When you have your child in your arms, it will all be worth it. You will laugh at the idea that you ever thought the process was too much.
And, if you need some extra encouragement, just imagine the sweetest little girl you could ever imagine picking a flower just for you…
For even more encouragement, check out this post.