One of the first steps in the adoption process or foster qualification is a home study. I still remember hearing about it when we began. I didn’t know exactly what to expect and it was a little scary as my imagination ran wild with scenarios in which we didn’t qualify. My initial impression was that a social worker was going to come in, talk to us, look at our home and decide if we were worthy of adopting. Nothing like feeling totally out of control on that one!
Why is the home study a necessary part of the adoption process?
I get it. I mean they need to know that they are placing children in a stable and safe home. Still, it seemed unfair given that parents who get pregnant do not undergo this scrutiny. Having now been through the process, I feel like everyone should experience some version of it with their first.
So let me demystify this by going through a couple of misconceptions:
1. The social worker is judging our fitness as parents.
Well, yes and no. The social worker’s job is to ensure that parents are mentally sound, financially, stable, healthy, and prepared to have a child in their home. They are actually your partner in preparing for this major life event of becoming parents. There may be areas that you will need to address before being approved.
2. If we have serious issues in our family, e.g. relatives with addiction, medical or psychological illnesses, we may be disqualified.
No, not necessarily. Again, as I said above, this is a look at your coping skills. How have you handled these issues within your family? Do you get help when you need it (thereby modeling this life skill for your child)? Do you set appropriate and healthy boundaries? Especially in the case of foster care, this part of the adoption process is critical to ensure that children are not going from one unstable situation to another.
3. We don’t have a lot of money so we might not qualify.
Again, yes and no. The social worker will help you to look at your finances and make a decision as to whether you can realistically afford to bring a child into your home. Again, if you have a plan and demonstrate that, this is what matters.
What is the home study process?
There are a few parts to the home study process. The one that can seem most scary for many are the visits from the social worker. In addition to these interviews, you may also be required to take a certain number of hours of parenting classes or read a certain number of books. The requirements do differ by state. You can find out more about that here.
I will share our experience 3 years ago in Colorado. Our home study consisted of 4 visits by a social worker. Prior to the first visit, we were sent a packet with extensive history questions to answer. It included health history, financial documentation, parenting style, relationship questions. With each visit, the social worker discussed different aspects of this paperwork with us. She also did a home inspection looking for safety issues like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, water temp, storage of medications and chemicals. Just like with every other aspect of the home study, she gave us feedback on what to improve and checked in with us on her next visit. She had conversations with each member of the household individually, and most of the time, together. While professional, she was kind and supportive.
Once we were actually in the process, the fear was gone. It was the anticipation and the unknown which had my imagination running wild and creating the fear. But isn’t that true of most anything in life?
In the end, we really loved our social worker and appreciated the process. It made us more prepared as parents. When you are considering fostering or adopting, know that though the adoption process may feel daunting at times, it is there to support you and the children in the system.
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Home Study Requirements by State: