On the surface, the adoption home study can seem like it will involve a stranger coming into your home to assess if you are capable of raising a child. It’s completely normal to find this intimidating. However, it’s important to understand that everyone involved in the adoption home study has the same goal as you: doing what is best for the child. You’re not alone if you’re wondering “what does an adoption home study entail?”
Every state requires prospective adoptive families to participate in an adoption home study. This confirms that adoptions are being conducted legally and responsibly. This process is not just about ensuring that you are qualified to bring a child into your home. The adoption home study allows the social worker and your adoption professionals to get to know you. This information is the key to helping a birth mother find and choose you as the perfect match for her baby.
You can ease your anxiety and prevent delays in the adoption process by preparing for the adoption home study. So, what does an adoption home study entail? Understanding the home study process will help you enter this phase of your adoption journey with confidence.
Gather the Essential Documents
The initial phase of the adoption home study will be paperwork. Your adoption professional will set you up with the home study application and the licensed professional who will conduct the adoption home study. Once you have completed the adoption home study application, work on gathering the following documents:
- ID (such as a driver’s license or passport)
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Proof of employment and income
- Proof of insurance
- Financial records
- Medical records
- Documentation of a recent physical with your doctor
Your home study process will progress at the rate you turn in the necessary items to your provider. The more quickly you can get everything turned in, the smoother it will go. It’s a good idea to ask a potential provider about their turnaround time once they have everything they need.
Remain in contact with your home study provider to make sure things keep moving forward.
Each state requires prospective adoptive parents to participate in a background check. Depending on your state’s specific requirements, this may include:
- Federal, state, and local criminal records
- Child abuse records
Be honest about any criminal activity in your past. Depending on the circumstance, your adoption professional may still be able to work with you.
Interviews with the Social Worker
Look at your interviews as a way to build a relationship with the social worker. The social worker is there to educate you about the adoption process and prepare you for the next steps.
One purpose of the interviews is to document your social history. This is your story and what led you to choose adoption. You will likely discuss your background and family, any experiences you have with children, your parenting philosophy, how you handle stress, and what age child will best fit your family. Be authentic. No one is expecting perfection. Honesty is the key to making a successful match.
If children (adoptive or biological) are already a part of your family, they will also be involved in the home study. The social worker may ask about school, their friends, and their interests. Older children may be invited to participate in a group session to share their feelings about having a sibling. The social worker wants to make sure that the entire family is ready to welcome a new child into their home.
Due to the pandemic, the adoption home study has had to evolve and adapt. There is a great need for flexibility to keep everyone safe while still assessing a couple’s strengths and needs. Social workers have been able to connect with hopeful adoptive parents through virtual outlets instead of having face-to-face interactions.
“I have found that everyone has been so great during this time to try and be creative to keep families moving forward. They have done FaceTime or Zoom interviews, combining the interviews into a few times. It depends on the state as to if they will actually go to the home in light of everything,” says Renatta Heuer, an Adoptive Family Coordinator at Lifetime.
Your Home Visit Checklist
For many hopeful adoptive parents, the home visit can be the most intimidating part of the adoption home study. However, it’s not going to be a critique of your housekeeping skills. The social worker is more concerned with your home being a safe, comfortable environment for a child. Use a childproofing checklist like the one below to address any potential hazards before your home study:
- Toxic cleaners should be stored out of reach and behind a childproof lock.
- Tie up dangling cords on drapes and blinds.
- Make sure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors work properly.
- Safely store firearms in a locked location.
- Install safety gates, a fireplace grill, and outlet covers to protect young children.
- The yard should be safe, and any decks or pools should be fenced according to code.
- Have a plan for where your child will sleep and play.
Adoption during the COVID-19 pandemic adds a new dimension and considerations to the home visits. Fortunately, home study providers have been quick to adapt to a new way of completing home visits to allow adoptions to progress.
Many social workers will meet virtually with the hopeful adoptive couple, and conduct the interviews and home visit that way. For some, the home visit will involve carrying a cell phone around to show the social worker the house, inside and out. As states open up, we will probably see a combination of how home studies are done in adoptions moving forward. Make sure to check with your home study provider for more specific information.
The Home Study Report
All of this information is compiled into the home study report. It will include information about your:
- Education and profession
- Community and support system
- Parenting philosophy
- Daily routine
It is a snapshot of your family and what you have to offer a child. This document is an essential tool your adoption professional will use to present you to birth parents looking for that perfect match. You, the social worker, and the adoption professional are all members of the same team working to make the best match possible.
Completing the adoption home study moves you up to “home study ready” status. This means that you are ready to welcome a child into your home through adoption. You are now one step closer to realizing your adoption dream!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on July 15, 2020, and has since been updated.
Founder of Lifetime Adoption, adoptive mom, adoption expert, and Certified Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P).
Since 1986, adoption expert Mardie Caldwell has been dedicated to bringing couples and birth parents together in order to fulfill their dreams.
“Many years ago, I was also searching for a child to adopt. We didn’t know where or how to get started. Through research, determination, and a prayer, our dream of a family became reality. I started with a plan, a notebook, assistance from a caring adoption consultant and a lot of hard work; this was my family I was building. We had a few heartaches along the way, but the pain of not having children was worse!
Within weeks we had three different birth mothers choose us. We were overwhelmed and delighted. Many unsettling events would take place before our adoption would be finalized, many months later. Little did I know that God was training and aligning me for the adoption work I now do today. It is my goal to share with our families the methods and plans which succeed and do not succeed. I believe adoption should be affordable and can be a wonderful “pregnancy” for the adoptive couple.
I have also been on both sides of infertility with the loss of seven pregnancies and then conceiving by new technology, giving birth to a healthy daughter. I have experienced first-hand the emotional pain of infertility and believe my experience allows me to serve your needs better.
It is my hope that for you, the prospective parents, your desire for a child will be fulfilled soon.”