A home study can be one of the most stressful parts of the adoption journey. Never again in your life will your home and life be so closely observed and for such a vital reason. From forms to cleaning, to child-proofing, the process can be incredibly overwhelming! Here are 7 things to remember and help you feel ready when preparing for your home study.
1. Safety First
Regardless of the age of the child you are adopting, an assessor is going to make sure your home environment is safe, sound, and secure for a child of any age. Even if you are adopting a newborn, they still want to make sure you are ready for when the child is mobile. Some assessors may not require that your home be completely child-proofed in the immediate future but in the case of your home-study, it is best to play by the “better safe than sorry” rule. If you do not already have a child, ask friends with children what kinds of dangers you should be ready for. Many county family services will have an online copy of the safety checklist they use when doing home studies for foster parents that is easily searchable and invaluable tool to have an idea of what they might be looking for. Some common sense things will include securing guns or ammo, putting up medication and cleaning supplies, and covering all electrical outlets. Some not so common sense issues may include having your fire extinguisher inspected, making sure there are no external locks on your interior doors, and making sure any art supplies are locked away such as paint, glue, etc. Ask for advice and ask for the checklist!
2. Forms, Forms, Forms
Hopefully, your agency will give you a checklist of all the forms they might need copies of for your file. It is also better to play it safe in this area and make sure you have all important forms available the day of your home study. Some of these may include birth certificates, ID’s, residential history, bank statements, tax returns, etc. Our agency forgot to include tax returns for the last three years on their checklist. I luckily had them on hand or it may have delayed our home study waiting for them to be mailed to me. Go through your important papers and ask yourself if you have ever had to provide the form to anyone and make a copy just in case. Ask your agency for a checklist if they did not provide one.
3. Start Early
Your home study may require forms that take a bit to come back from the parties who are responsible for getting them completed. If your home study requires the you get medical check-ups for everyone in your family, you should schedule them first thing. We ran into a few issues where our doctor was booked for months unless it was a sick visit.
Most home studies will require references. If your caseworker contacts the references, get them the information immediately. If you contact them, do so immediately as well. Do not pick absent minded Aunt Janice as a reference even though she might give you a glowing report. Find the most reliable people who know you well. Waiting on any of these things can hold up a home study and in turn, delay a child from being placed into your home.
4. Be Yourself
If you don’t typically walk around your home in a tux or formal ball gown, today is not the day. Be yourself! If you already have children, the assessor is not going to expect your house to be spotless or the kids to be quietly studying in their rooms. They are trained to smell deceit from a mile away and will know fake when they see it. Clean your home, prepare your children for company, but take a deep breath and be yourself. The assessor is here to get to know you. The real you. While it is important to put your best foot forward, it still needs to be YOUR foot.
5. Be Thorough
If you are asked to answer questions or write a biography, take the time to do it right. I know there are approximately a billion forms to fill out for your adoption, but this is not the time to skimp. While your answers don’t need to be unnecessarily long, take the time to think about your answers and make them heartfelt.
6. Be Truthful
Your assessor will have access to your child protective services and criminal history among other general history. Be upfront. If there is some sort of criminal history in your past, do not try to hide it. Explain the situation and be truthful about your growth since that time. Not all criminal offenses disqualify you, but they very well may if you try to hide them from the assessor. If the assessor asks you about anything in your past, it will benefit you to be straightforward. They are not looking for reasons to disqualify you from adopting, but rather a pattern of growth. Honesty is always the best policy in a home study setting.
7. Be on the Same Page
Real talk: My husband filled out approximately zero forms for our adoptions. It was mostly because I am type A and wouldn’t have let him anyhow, but I digress. If you are adopting with a partner, make sure to keep him/her informed with every step you take in the process. Not only does your spouse need to remain a part of the journey, but the assessor will go through your forms and ask questions about your answers. Don’t let your partner be a deer in the headlights when that happens. Do this together.
Following these guidelines will give you a good head start into the home study process and hopefully help alleviate some anxiety. There are many who have been here before you and experience is the best teacher. The resources at both Adoption.org and Adoption.com are endless and provide the community you will need to get you through. If you feel like you still need reassurance, use my default life advice: When in doubt, Google it.
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Written by Lita Jordan