The most common question I get from prospective adoptive parents has to do with the one and only, the required but fiercely dreaded—Adoption Home Study. Yes, just writing about it brings back the memory of the many hours spent researching and worrying about that one moment that I felt would give us the yay or nay as to whether or not we could move forward on our journey to adopt.
What is the Home Study? Every state, while sometimes different, requires a licensed social worker or licensed agency to compile certain resources and information about the adoptive parents to be presented to the court at the time of the hearing or adoption finalization. To my surprise, the home study is actually a long written narrative that outlines literally everything about the adoptive family, from your medical history to the specifics of your house, all the way down to your extended family. It is quite detailed which is why you will spend more time completing your application than you will with your actual agent who will come to your home for a visit.
Our two adoptions were both domestic, in-state infant adoptions through a local agency. Once you complete all the paperwork, it’s time for the home visit. So let me tell you from personal experience just What The Home Study is Really Like.
I asked my husband recently what he remembers most about our first home study. His response. . .”It wasn’t anything to worry about.” And there, you have it. What we build up in our minds over the upcoming Home Study is really nothing at all to worry about. The one thing I came out on the other end of adoption realizing that may help ease your anxiety is that the Social worker WANTS you to adopt! They want a child to be placed in your home, and they want to find the right family for every child. In short. . .the Social worker is FOR you, not against you. They are not entering your home for the white glove test or to judge you for not cleaning your oven or folding your towels into thirds. NO, they are there to make sure that all safety requirements are met, that your home environment, both physical and emotional, is suitable and desirable for a new addition to your family. They are there as a huge resource to you and your family on this journey. They are there to HELP you!
I spent hours upon hours researching and Googling just what we should expect for our home study. And most just said, it’s not as bad as you think. But where are the specifics? I mean, that’s what we want to know, right? The focus was on our family interview and safety around the house. Get those locks for dangerous items like paint, medications, poisons, household cleaners, guns, ammunition. Put up gas cans in the garage. Install carbon monoxide and smoke detector; adjust the temperature on your hot water heater; make sure each window has screens; make sure outside doors have locks—and then be yourself.
For our first adoption, we spent months cleaning and painting and installing safety gates, foam on the hearth around the fireplace, baby locks on everything to the point we could no longer get into the cupboard to get a glass so we just sat a stack of disposable cups on the counter. Yeah, we were in this thing for all it was worth.
Exactly one year after our daughter was born, we received a call that we had another baby already born. Everything in our home study had pretty much already been updated as we did anticipate another adoption in the future. But we were not expecting that particular call that day. So, on a Sunday, just 24 hours after getting “the call” the social worker was on our doorstep for her interview and walk through.
Our second adoption home study went a little like this. “Come on in. . .watch your step through the sea of toys and don’t trip as you scale the toddler gate into the living room.” The laundry was piled high, the sink had dishes in it and I’m pretty sure I had to advise 2 out of our 6 kiddos to please put on pants.
The social worker places more importance on your interview than the condition of your house. They want to know if everyone is on board with adopting. Your strengths and things you want to work on. What kind of situation you are willing to and ready to handle. They just want to find the right match between family and child. They want to watch your child come home.