Whether you have decided to take the plunge and bring a child into your family through adoption or you are still considering the journey, one of the most daunting challenges many families face is the mile-high mound of paperwork needed to complete the process. Foster, domestic, and international adoptions require a home study to begin the process. A home study is essentially an overview of your life. It includes everything from criminal and background checks, to financial records and health assessments, to your views on parenting. Every member in your household over the age of 18 will be required to provide the necessary documents listed. It’s important to note, too, that home study requirements are set by the state. What might be required in Minnesota may not be required in California, and vice versa. Your agency will be able to give you any state specific requirements and advise on any additional documents you may need to provide.
Documents You Will Fill Out:
- Individual fact sheets for every member of our family – these included residential history, employment history, educational history, relationship history, health history, and the names of our extended family.
- Financial information form – to include a list of annual gross income, assets, and debts.
- Background history affidavit – this is a signed document regarding substance abuse, child abuse, and domestic violence.
- Background check packet and fingerprint cards – Every person in your household over the age of 18 must submit to both a background check and fingerprinting. Your agency will provide the materials, and both background checks and fingerprinting can be easily attained at your local police station.
- Child abuse and neglect registry packet – These are clearance forms for background investigations of every state you have lived in since the age of 18.
- Medical exam report – for both parent(s) and any child(ren) in the house. The medical exam is fairly straightforward and designed to assert that you are physical fit to raise a child.
- Discipline plan – Each parent will need to sign a document saying they will not engage in corporal punishment with their prospective adoptive child.
Documents You Will Need to Provide:
- IRS form 1040 and W-2s of your most recent tax returns
- Employment Letter – on letterhead
- Birth certificates/adoption decree for every member of your household
- Marriage certificate (if applicable)
- Verification of current health insurance
- Verification of start of intended adoptive child’s insurance coverage
- Photograph of applicants – Both passport size and photos of your home and community.
- Proof of mortgage or rent
- Driving record for every member of your household over 18
- Rabies certificate for any pets in the house
- Pre-adoption education certificates (state standards of education hours vary)
- Letters of reference (usually three)
- Vehicle liability insurance
- Home safety standards to pass home inspection (includes smoke detectors, etc.)
- Guardianship plans
Some of these documents will need to be notarized so pay close attention to your agency’s requirements. Planning to adopt internationally? A good tip is to get duplicates of all of the above documents as you will need them for your country dossier. A dossier is much like the home study in that your agency will send information about you and your family to your prospective adoptive child’s birth country. Most dossier documents need to be both notarized and apostilled on both the state and federal level. (Here is a great guide about international adoption paperwork!)
Though it may seem like a lot, if you work through your paperwork gradually and keep a checklist of what documents you have obtained and what documents you still need to get, I promise the process will go smoother than you think. And just remember, at the end of that stack of papers waits a child who will join your family.