What To Expect In a Home Study

When I first looked at the stack of adoption paperwork sitting on my kitchen table, nothing intimidated me more than the idea of a home study. At the time, my husband and I were deep in the throes of fostering and had five children in our home ranging from 18 months to 16 years old. We had been through the home study process before when we became licensed foster parents, yet this time it felt as though so much was at stake because we had an 18-month-old baby that had our hearts. Every day it was unknown whether or not we would get to be her parents. We were waiting for the state to approve what we already knew in our hearts. This child was meant to be in our family.

Preparing For A Home Study

Our daily lives were filled with multiple appointments, counseling, and visitations. You would have thought our home was The Grand Central Station. One social worker described our home as “busy” and that was a huge understatement. He watched as I greeted our teenagers and their friends walking through the living room and headed to raid the kitchen for snacks. The baby was crawling at my feet, babbling away. Between doctors calls and foster families, I was mentoring through my job as a Foster Care Peer Mentor; the phone never seemed to stop ringing. Children were in and out of the house for therapy appointments and visits with their parents. 

A house with five kids was most definitely busy, so the thought of a social worker stopping by and looking over the home and determining whether or not we were deemed fit to adopt was weighing on me. 

How could I possibly keep the house clean? How could I find time to schedule a home study when my schedule was bursting at the seams between therapies, appointments, and all the extracurricular activities my children wanted to do? I soon came to realize all those were just part of life and hopefully the social worker would see that too. What I wanted the social worker to see was that it wasn’t a perfect home, it was a “busy” and most of all happy home. A home filled with laughter, love, and family. Despite the busyness, the children were cared for and knew what living in a safe home felt like. That is the picture I wanted the case woorkerto see when he or she walked through my doors.

Our Home Study

When the day came for our first adoption home study, I cleaned the house from top to bottom, and put my best foot forward, but my children made sure that he got to see our home in real life. As I was giving our social worker a tour of the home, we walked into a kitchen full of laughing teenagers, flour everywhere, and the smell of cake baking. I nervously looked over at the social worker and sighed in relief, as he chuckled at the scene. Later during our interview, the cat jumped on his lap, demanding attention, again I sighed in relief when he told me he was a cat person. The little bows and pigtails I had put in the baby’s hair were out in seconds leaving little spikes on the top of her head. It was quite the event. The social worker quickly eased my nervousness as we talked and he got to know our family. I had psyched myself out for what ended up being a painless process. 

The funny thing is this wasn’t our family’s first home study. We were licensed foster parents and went through a very extensive home study for that. Yet, I still didn’t know what to expect. I learned there is a misconception when it comes to a home study, that there needs to be a sense of perfectionism, but what most social workers are looking for is real life. What is the day-to-day in your home going to look like for your adoptee? 

Who Does The Home Study?

I had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Campbell, she is a licensed adoption social worker, and does private home studies through Finding Forever Home Studies LLC . She has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, with an emphasis in Criminal Justice from Whitworth University and earned her master’s degree in social work from Eastern Washington University. 

She spent seven years working in Child Protective Services and Child Welfare Services, for DCYF. She worked with all types of families from all backgrounds through nonprofits, professionally and personally. 

Although her professional background is quite extensive, she has been touched by adoption in her own personal life. When Amanda was an adolescent, her siblings were placed into foster care. She was living with her father at the time, who was not her sibling’s biological father. The state didn’t consider him next of kin, because he had no biological tie to Amanda’s younger siblings. Amanda’s father went through the hoops of becoming a licensed foster parent and was eventually able to provide a forever home for Amanda’s younger siblings.

He then pursued further change to benefit future children in foster care by fighting for changes in legislation, allowing ex-spouses to become relative placements. He continued fostering as a single dad changing the lives of more children and giving Amanda a glance into the world of foster care. The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree and Amanda decided to get her master’s in social work and continue the work of helping children and families in crisis. 

Later on, Amanda, found herself facing an unplanned pregnancy with her daughter, she contemplated adoption and ultimately made the choice to raise her daughter. This gave Amanda empathy for the expectant mothers and the hard and brave choice they make whether to raise their children or place them for adoption. She went through her masters as a single mom, giving her more empathy and understanding of what single moms have to overcome.

Amanda’s life was again touched by adoption when she married her husband and they went through the process of her husband adopting her daughter. While going through the steps of adoption and home study, Amanda realized the need in her community for private home studies and she started her own business, Finding Forever Home Studies LLC

After years as a CPS (child protective services) worker, she decided to embark on a new career. Going from CPS to private home studies was “polar opposites” Amanda explained. Before she felt as though she was in a losing situation, “It wasn’t just what I saw, it was what I couldn’t do.” Switching careers to adoption home studies gives Amanda the opportunity to join families and help them in their final chapter of adoption.

Home Studies With Amanda Campbell

When conducting a home study, Amanda wants families to know that “home study providers are people too.” They are there to support families and are wanting to see a successful adoption in the end. What they are looking for when conducting a home study is not perfection, but how a family lives out their day-to-day. Amanda is licensed to conduct home studies in Washington state. Each state has its own laws and regulations and part of Amanda’s job is making sure the home is safe and up to the state’s standards. 

Amanda explained that a home study is invasive, but it’s not an investigation. What she is looking for is transparency. She asks about a families’ weaknesses and strengths. It’s important for parents placing their children for adoption to know that information. It’s also important to know these things for the child placed for adoption. She wants to make sure the family and the child will be compatible and set them up for the best possible outcome. She is there to make sure the home is structurally sound, see what kind of room the child will have, what kind of consistency can the family bring to the child they are adopting. 

What does the family know about adoption, and how do they resolve conflict? No family is perfect and although some may have conflicts that need to be resolved, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be denied a home study, but they may need some counseling to work through those conflicts. 

Home study providers are there for the families through their ups and downs. Amanda enjoys getting to know the families she works with. A question she loves asking is “What is your favorite thing about your spouse?” Getting to see the smile that forms across their face as they reminisce about what they love about their significant other is beautiful to be a part of. It’s fun to bring up forgotten memories of first dates, and butterflies from early on in the relationship. 

So what about private adoptions? Finding Forever Home Studies LLC, is not an adoption agency, she does not match families to children waiting for adoption either. If a family is looking for an agency they can start by visiting //adoption.org. Most adoption agencies have their own personal social workers that conduct home studies. They have a process that will walk a family from beginning to end. The state has licensors they use for adoption through foster care and licensing foster homes.

A private home study can help with kinship adoptions. A kinship adoption is when a relative adoption takes place.  Amanda works mostly with step parent, or grandparent adoption. In these cases, the families are not in need of an agency but still need a lawyer and home study provider to complete the process, this helps eliminate some fees for families in the process of adoption. 

She can also provide a home study for previously denied home studies. A family member may have incidents on their records that come up in the home study causing the first home study to be denied. Amanda can step in and advocate for that person if they have gone through the proper channels of being an eligible, safe parent. She also works for families wanting to speed up the process of a home study. A family may already know a child they wish to have in their home, that is where Amanda can step in to complete a home study with a quicker turnaround than the state. This allows the child to reside in the home before the adoption is finalized. Currently, many state’s home studies are backed up because of short staffing issues. Having a private home study gives a personal touch through the adoption process. Amanda’s heart is to see to it that, “no child is parentless” she is there to make the experience fluid and easy. 

During my own personal home study, I learned to approach it with ease and not anxiousness. Does letting someone into your home create a sense of vulnerability that may feel uncomfortable? Is it invasive? Is it hard? Is it worth it? Yes, yes, yes, and yes! Aren’t all wonderful, life-changing, things in life hard? Just remember going through all that puts you one step closer to the last chapter of your adoption story, it pushes you towards that coveted finish line. 

Amanda uses her deep-in-the-depths-of-the-valley moments and mountaintop highs to continue to grow her giftings. She has used what life has thrown at her to help other families’ dreams come true. 

What can you expect in a home study?

Expect a social worker to inspect your home, expect the interview process to be invasive, and bring up some uncomfortable questions. Expect your home study provider to be on your side. Expect that once it’s approved, all the questions have been answered and all the paperwork is signed. When the judge hits that gavel the home study is done and the real journey can begin! Expect to feel unexplainable bliss, expect tears of joy, and expect that big sigh of relief that you made it through and get to have that happily ever after because so many prayers have been answered. That smiling beautiful child is taking your last name and there is that overwhelming sense of completeness. You have ended the chapter of the adoption process and begun a story of your forever family. 

Rachel Luttrull runs The InstaMommas, a Christian blog/podcast with her sister. She studied Early Childhood Education at Eastern Washington University. She is married, and a mom through adoption, and has fostered 26 children, ranging in ages from 0-17. She has a momma’s heart through and through and loves to share her experiences through writing. She currently teaches preschool and enjoys biking, hiking, and anything musical.