“The home study is the social services’ equivalent of a root canal.” Who said that? I did… after my third adoption. Then I became an adoption specialist, and I was on the other side, administering the… well… “procedure” and had a fresh perspective. I realized how valuable a home study is. Like a root canal, a home study can feel long, painful, and invasive. But something good comes out the other side: a document that is the result of dozens of hours of investigation that gives a snapshot of your eligibility for adoption. Here are seven reasons why the home study is important:
1. You’re a stranger.
As an adoption worker, the lowest standard is in this hypothetical situation taken from the PSMAPP pre-service curriculum: if I became temporarily incapacitated and could not care for my child, what would I what to know about the stranger that would take care of my child for about one year? That’s where the home study comes in; it answers questions every birth parent, as well as state officials, want to know.
2. Your family/friends know you better than I do.
Therefore, as an adoption specialist, I will call them and request a reference. Adoption specialists expect references to be open, honest, and thorough. Our questions may contain yes/no questions; open-ended questions; and multiple-choice questions such as: What qualities do the applicants have that would make them good foster/adoptive parents? What experience do the applicants have with children, etc.?
3. We need to make sure you are who you say you are.
Children are precious. Why would we not want to make sure they are safe in the home of a total stranger? In Arizona, foster/adopt agencies complete many local, state and Federal checks such as the following: driving records; fingerprinting; a Child Protective Services check; and a Criminal History Affidavit where you basically swear that you have not been arrested or charged with any crimes. Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?
4. We won’t give you the “white glove test”…well, actually we might.
Though adoption workers aren’t necessarily looking for spotless homes, but rather health and safety. For example, a hamper full of dirty laundry may not be a concern. However, a hamper full of moldy clothes may be a health concern. Or laundry strewn across a flight of steps may present a danger to children. Your home is where the child where be living, therefore adoption agencies need to make sure it is safe and healthy.
5. We don’t need your life history…well…actually, we do.
Adoption agencies need a mini-biography from all applicants. Information such as: how you were raised as a child; childhood discipline; current family relationships; and biological children are all included in the home study.
6. Home studies are part of your permanent record.
On the one hand, each successive home study can be built upon the original one. If you transfer to another foster/adopt agency or move out of state, the home study follows you, and you don’t have to start from scratch. On the other hand, if there is an unsubstantiated allegation against you, the allegation stays in your permanent record. Either way, the home study is important.
7. Home Studies can become legal documents.
Not only do social workers review home studies, but also state agencies, attorneys, and judges. The home study is what the State uses to determine whether to license an applicant for foster care. The home study is what a judge uses to determine whether to certify you for adoption and ultimately, whether to grant you an adoption. Home studies can be subpoenaed, entered into the court record and the adoption specialist and her supervisor can be called to testify as to the contents of the home study.
Bottom line: the home study is important, whether for foster care or adoption. The wait is worth it because once approved you get the honor and blessing of caring for a child who is in the system through no fault of his own. Be patient! It’s well worth it!