Liz Westermann, LCSW
The home study is one of the most important documents generated during the adoption process. It is essentially the approval of a parent or individual to be adoptive parent(s). There are many goals that the home study is geared to meet which include the following:
- Determine the suitability of the applicants to be adoptive parents
- Ensure the safety of the home in which the child will live
- Prepare the family for adoption process and adoptive parenting
- Explore the family’s motivation to adopt and their adoption plan to ensure the child will be the right fit for the family
For some, the home study process can be stressful because of the paperwork required, the questions, the home visits, etc. The process can also be a positive way to learn more about adoptive parenting, and to better prepare yourself for the placement of the child in your home. It is also an opportunity to establish a trusting, working relationship with your agency and social worker. The home study process is exactly this: a process. It does not begin and end with the home visit, but rather it is the beginning of a journey and relationship with your social worker and agency that results in the placement of your child in your home and family!
Here are a few tips to remember to make this journey as easy and beneficial to you as possible:
- Be organized. There is quite a bit of paperwork. Create a separate file for your home study documents with clearly labeled sections such as financial, references, medical information, and background checks. Your social worker needs complete, accurate information in order to finalize the home study on a timely basis. Please ask questions about paperwork if you get stuck. The agency and social worker are there to help.
- Prepare a parenting plan. Think ahead to the time when your child is placed in your home. Have you and your spouse talked about parenting issues? Also consider the initial adjustment period. Will there be a language barrier, or will your child have immediate medical needs to manage? Will you and your spouse take parental leave? If so, how long will you take? Who will care for your child after you return to work? Your plan for disciplining your child is also an important issue to discuss during the home study process.
- Be prepared to talk about what type of child you would like to adopt. Consider age, race, and medical conditions or developmental delays you may consider in a child. Are you open to birthmother exposure to drugs or alcohol? Your social worker will help you process your thoughts on these issues to determine your comfort level and what type of child would be a good fit for your family.
- Your home does not have to be perfect. A home visit does not require perfection. Your home does not have to be spotless, just a safe place for a child. Do have a plan for where the child will sleep and discuss plans to baby/child proof your home ahead of time. Also consider reducing clutter that may be hazardous for a child and have working smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors installed.
- Discuss your finances. Now is the time to talk about how a child will impact your financial situation including added medical expenses, education costs, etc. Also, how will the adoption costs, including travel, be managed?
- Research community resources for your child. This applies to those adopting either a healthy or special needs child. Look into local public or private schools, pediatricians, and other professionals who can help address any medical issues, developmental delays, learning challenges. Research the youth programs in your community such as recreation, library programs, early childhood playgroups, etc.
- Ask questions. If there is something that is not clear about adoptive parenting, or if you have concerns about anything related to the process, your social worker is there to help. For example, you may have completed your parent education requirement, and want more information on how to talk to your child about adoption. Your social worker can suggest additional readings, and give you more resources to address your specific concerns. Remember, the home study process is not just about the social worker getting information about you, it’s also about giving you more information about adoption. Your social worker and agency are there to help!