Adoption Home Study Truths
Fears become real when the words “home study” are mentioned. Probably the top two questions that we are asked by those who are looking to adopt that know we have adopted are, “What is the home study like?” and ” What if we don’t pass?”. I am going to go over our experience. I will give you an insight to our home studies with three different home studies (actually four for three children… I will explain more on that later), two different agencies, and three different social workers.
So… What ABOUT that Home Study?
For those who do not know, a home study is a prerequisite for foster care and adoption. A licensed social worker will come to your home at least one time but sometimes multiple times to make sure they feel like you and your home are suitable for raising a child. There will be mounds of paperwork involved consisting of everything from the time you were born to your future. There will also be home inspections. It CAN be overwhelming but I hope to calm some of your fears in this article.
Differences in Agency’s Expectations and Requirements
Let me make note that every agency is different than the other. We adopted both of our boys through the same adoption agency. For our daughter, we were her foster parents first and then adopted her. There was a HUGE difference in the adoption home study with our boys compared to our daughter’s home study.
Most agencies have a list of everything expected to happen during a home study. With our daughter, the paperwork side was about the same as the boys. A gazillion questions about ourselves, each family member living in the home, medical history, physicals performed by your doctor, a whole lot of documents signed saying you agree to the way the agency operates, expectations of the future, pet vaccinations records, fingerprints, and more questions about yourself. Your social worker may know you better than your mom even knows you by the end of it! Ha!
Just a few differences we found between agencies were things like:
- one said medications needed to be locked up, the other just said out of reach
- one said cleaners needed to be locked up, the other just said out of reach
- one said we needed outlet covers, the other did not
- one came to our home several times, and the other only came for the home inspection but did the interviews with us in their office.
- one had a bunch of classes we had to take as part of the home study, the other just had a day session we had to participate in
How Long is a Home Study Good For?
Typical home studies will be valid for 18 months. With our oldest son, everything went super quick. We completed our home study and within a few short months, he was born. With our middle child, we were getting really close to the 18-month mark but we made it without having to update our home study. With our youngest, we were her foster parents first. We had her in our care for more than 18 months before we were able to finalize her adoption. So, a couple of months prior to her adoption, we had to update our home study.
Home study updates are not nearly as extensive. You still have to redo stuff like the fingerprints, medical check-ups, new fire inspection, and fill out more paperwork. The social worker will go through and update a lot of it on their end but may need to ask you more questions to make sure he or she has the most current information. By this time, you are pro so the stress level will be MUCH lower!
Adoption Home Study Tips
The first piece of advice. Take a deep breath and RELAX. It is NOT something to stress over. Is it important? Absolutely. Is it as scary as what it sounds like? Absolutely NOT! Be honest with your social worker. If you are nervous, tell them you are nervous. Allow them to walk you through everything.
The absolute most important thing when taking part in an adoption home study is to be 100% honest. You want to gain the respect of the social worker. Being honest is the only way to gain that respect. Every family has weaknesses and strong points. Admitting those weaknesses is NOT a bad thing. Of course, if you have weaknesses, make sure you have goals and are trying to work toward ways to better your family.
Have a Clean, Safe Home
A big, brand-new home is not what they are looking for. The social worker’s job is to make sure that a child placed within the home would be loved, accepted, taken care of, and safe. If you can meet those requirements (and don’t have a criminal record), you have nothing to worry about. The social workers do NOT come in with a white glove to check behind your tv and inside your cabinets to make sure no spec of dirt is to be found. They just want a loving, safe home.
A few things that the licensed social worker will be looking for when “inspecting your home” include:
- Medications are locked up or in an upper cabinet out of the reach of children (different agencies are different when it comes to this. Some require medications to be behind a locked key. Others only expect the medications to be kept out of the reach of children.
- Cleaning Supplies also need to be locked up or out of the reach of children
- Fire Extinguisher available in the kitchen area
- If you have any gas coming into the home whether it is for heat, a gas fireplace, or a gas range, a fixed gas detection system should be in place.
- Every bedroom and main living areas need to have working smoke detectors
- Any Guns and Ammo are locked up
- General cleanliness of the home (I would suggest you do a little above your typical “basic cleaning” job (don’t leave dishes in the sink and beds unmade)
- Running water
- Some agencies require outlet covers to be in every exposed outlet
- No holes in the floors, rats chasing each other around, mold growth, etc.
- If you have a pool, there are a lot of detailed rules. Ask your social worker about their specific expectations. Most of the time, the agencies will expect there to be a gate all the way around the pool to prevent possible drownings.
An adoption home study can be extremely stressful. I can remember washing all my baseboards and cleaning out every single closet in my home prior to my first adoption home study. I look back and laugh at how nervous I was. Do not stress over the home study. Just remember, it is one step closer to having a child to love! TOTALLY. WORTH. IT.