I do not consider myself a professional, but when it comes to answering, “How do I prepare for my domestic infant adoption home study?” I feel I can adequately address that question. I say that because we survived our home study. Before I get too far into this article on how to prepare for a domestic infant adoption home study, I do want to clarify that, again, I am not a professional and this article is written from my own personal experience and research. Please do not consider this legal advice and contact a professional adoption worker or attorney for legal and professional advice. With that, let’s see if I can help you prepare for your adoption home study.
We might want to start with the basics: what is an adoption home study? An adoption home study is basically the process to qualify you to adopt a child. Specific home study requirements do vary from state to state, however, most include paperwork, interviews, background checks, and a physical home visit. I will discuss each of those in further detail below.
Find a home study provider:
First things first, you will need to find a licensed adoption home study provider. If you are working with an adoption agency, chances are they are also licensed to complete your home study. If you are working with an adoption attorney, you will most likely need to find a licensed home study provider. If you are adopting internationally, your home study will be a little more complex, for that, you should find a home study provider that is Hague-accredited. This simply means they adhere to the U.S. government rules for adopting internationally. Also, if you are adopting from the foster care system, your state worker will most likely be able to perform your home study. Again, the best way to find a home study provider would be to start with your adoption agency. If your agency or attorney do not complete home studies, be sure to find a reputable agency that does complete home studies.
We were lucky enough that our adoption agency completed our home study. I have urged many couples to find an agency they feel most comfortable with during the adoption process. That is, find an agency and/or home study provider that you feel comfortable sharing your life story with. Adoption is a very personal, emotional, and intimate experience. Making sure you have a good working relationship with your agency worker will make a world of difference. Many couples come to grow their family through adoption because they have struggled with infertility. I know that was true in our case. Which meant, we had to discuss why we were choosing adoption and what led us to choose adoption. It is not always easy to talk about. Thankfully, we had an amazing adoption social worker who was compassionate, understanding, and awesome to work with! Hence, why I tell people to find an agency and/or worker you feel comfortable talking with and sharing personal details about your life with.
This may be the most daunting task of the home study, well, maybe the second most daunting task, behind the physical home visit. I say it is daunting because it is time-consuming, more than anything. Again, what agency you use will ultimately determine what necessary paperwork will be required of you. Generally, they will require the following documents in order to complete their home study. Also, different states and types of adoption will require different documents to be provided. Many of these documents can be gathered before you even start the adoption process. However, I would make sure you get a list from your adoption agency or worker to be sure you include everything they require of you. Most agencies will require some or all of the following:
– Birth certificates – this includes both parties and any other children in your home
– Marriage certificates
– Divorce certificates – if applicable
– Adoption decrees for any adopted children you may have
– Death certificates – if applicable
Your agency may require that the above are certified copies. If so, you will most likely need to retrieve a certified copy from your local vital statistics office.
– Drivers license, social security card, green card (if applicable)
– Employment verification
– Income tax returns – usually for a number of years (two to three years)
– Income verification – pay stubs for a certain amount of time (last two to three)
– Proof of health insurance – also proof that an adopted child may be added to the policy
– Proof of life insurance – if any
– Proof of auto insurance
– Proof of homeowner’s or renter’s insurance
– Proof of assets
– Proof of debts
– Proof of mortgage or rental information
– Military discharge – if applicable
– Any previous home study reports – if applicable
– Passport – if adopting internationally
– Pet vaccination records – if any
– Physician statement regarding physical health
– Mental health statement from treating doctor – if any
– Criminal background check (for every state you lived in)
– FBI clearance
– Sex offender clearance
– Child abuse and neglect clearance (for every state you lived in)
– Parenting plan
– Written references – usually a limited number can be relatives
– Family photos – if required or necessary
Not every agency is going to require all of the above. However, this is a very good rough idea of what to expect.
In addition to the above, your home will need to meet the following safety requirements:
– First aid kit available in your home
– Carbon monoxide detector(s) – the size of your home determines how many are necessary
– Smoke detectors on every floor and outside all bedrooms
– Locked firearms – usually ammunition to be kept locked and kept separate from firearms
– Fire evacuation floor plans
– Outlet covers
– Fire extinguishers
– Gates for any stairs
– Screens and locks for all windows
– Screen coverings for any fireplaces or wood stoves
– Covered garbage cans
– Fences around any pools or bodies of water on your property
– Locked hot tubs
– Emergency telephone numbers posted
– Locked medications, cleaning products or other toxins and out of child’s reach
– Safeguard any heating equipment
Now you know why I say this task can sometimes feel daunting. It is a lot of paperwork and can take a lot of time to collect. But don’t let it stress you out. You have time to collect the paperwork. Usually, the required paperwork is submitted over time. The home safety requirements need to be proven at the time of your physical home visit, which gives you a little more time to prepare those. If you have any concerns about preparing the list of documents, talk to your social worker. And again, I urge you not to stress over it! Take your time and tackle one item on the list at a time.
Most home study providers will also conduct an interview of the parties. Depending on the agency, these interviews can be done individually or jointly. The interviews are meant for your worker to get to know you better. Your worker will most likely be asking you questions about your childhood to find out how you were raised as a child. They may ask about any family issues you may have had growing up. If your parents are still married or if they divorced. They may ask about how your parents disciplined you as a child. They will transition into asking you questions about your teenage years and then your adult life. They may ask about your current relationship with your parents and any siblings you may have. They could ask about your strengths and weaknesses.
They will ask if you have ever been seen by a therapist or counselor and for what reasons. They will ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime. They will ask about your financial situation. They will ask about your marital relationship; what roles you each play in the relationship and how you resolve disputes. They may ask about your spouse’s strengths or weaknesses. They will ask you what led you to adoption. If you experienced infertility, they will want to talk about that. They will ask you what scares or worries you about adoption. They will ask what excites you about adoption. They will ask if you have done any research regarding adoption. They will ask you about your expectations of parenting. They will ask about your views on disciplining your children. They will also ask you about your thoughts on openness in regards to an open adoption.
They may ask about your plans after the baby arrives. Will one of you stay home, if so, for how long? What will your childcare arrangements be after you return to work, if you return to work? If your agency allows, they may ask if you have a gender or age preference for the child you wish to adopt. They will also ask if you are open to adopting a child of a different race. If so, they may ask further how you will handle comments or looks regarding a child that does not physically look like you. They may ask about racism and if you have had any experience with it. Again, the point of the interviews is to get to know you as a person and understand what type of parent you would be. I again will say, this is why I urge people to find an agency they feel comfortable working with because you will be sharing intimate details about your life with him/her.
Part of your home study will include having a complete background check completed. This most likely will require fingerprinting for the FBI clearances. I know when we did our fingerprints we had to do them at our local jail. Make sure you discuss with your worker where you can obtain fingerprints and what the process is. Some places charge a fee in order to obtain the fingerprints. You will also need to sign releases in order to obtain the background checks for every state you have lived in, sex offender clearances for every state you lived in, and child abuse and neglect clearances for every state you have lived in.
The actual home visit is probably the most intimidating part of the home study process. It is not intended to be intimidating, but it just feels that way because you are having a “stranger” come into your home and basically evaluate it. That can seem like a very intimidating task. I am here to tell you, that is not what the workers want you to feel. They want you to feel comfortable. They are there to help support and guide you through the process. Your worker will schedule a time in advance to come to your home to make sure it meets all safety requirements and state licensing standards.
Each state will have its own guidelines for licensing. Some states require a certain amount of space. Some states require a certain number of bedrooms. Usually, children have to have enough space to call their own and children of the opposite sex are not to share their own room. Be sure to talk with your worker about your state’s specific requirements.
While your worker is in your home, he or she is not looking to see if you dusted the night before. They are not there to judge you on your cleaning skills. They are there to make sure the above safety requirements are met. They will be checking for outlet covers, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, safety locks, etc. I remember the stressful feeling of having someone come and look around our house. I hate to admit it but I spent days cleaning. Did it really matter in the end? No. Again, she wasn’t there to judge my housekeeping skills, she was there to make sure we had a safe and secure home to bring a child home to.
Also, I should note that if for some reason you are “missing” one of the criteria, they will allow you to correct it. For instance, we did not have enough smoke detectors when our worker came to our house for the first time. She made a note of that and when we put the extra ones up we notified her and she came to our house to verify those were added. So, there is no reason to get too worried because most things can be fixed to meet the criteria.
I know this seems like a lot of information and the home study process can be overwhelming, but take it from someone who has been through the process twice, you shouldn’t worry as much as you are right now. These things take time and your worker is there to help support, educate, and guide you along the way. I hope this article helped answer your question: how do I prepare for my domestic infant adoption home study? I wish you the best of luck with your adoption process.
Jessica Heesch is an avid runner and fitness guru by choice, occasional writer by coincidence, loved by an amazing husband, and mother to an incredible boy, Jackson, by the gift of adoption.