What is a home study and why is it necessary? Hopefully this information will help answer those questions.
Individuals wishing to adopt must be approved by a home study agency to do so. This process is done by a social worker who gathers documents from you, interviews you, comes into your home once or twice, and counsels you concerning adoption. The social worker is there to help you, not necessarily to judge you. Agencies are much more interested in bringing families together, than keeping them apart. There are many documents that must be gathered during the home study process. These include:
- Autobiographical Statements
- Health Statements
- Criminal Record/Clearance
- Statement of Finances
There will be interviews with you and your spouse together, and one on one interviews alone. She will be exploring your ideas about parenting with you. How were you parented, how do you feel about corporal punishment, do you have positive feelings about your parents? If you are interracially adopting, your feelings and those of your extended family will be explored, concerning this issue. What are your plans for child care? How do you feel this will change your role in the family? Have you resolved past issues about infertility, or any other issue. Yes, this all seems invasive, and it is. But I promise you, if you hire a kind person to do your home study, she or he will become like family. They want you to have a child. They must cover all of these areas in order to write out an acceptable home study for a foreign country. Be yourself. Be honest. Send her a picture of your son or daughter once you have adopted. She will proudly place it next to the many, many other children she has on her bulletin board.
TIP: Remember, you are hiring this person. If you can, call several agencies until you talk to a person you are comfortable with. If you have to get on a waiting list to have your home study done, keep looking. This could add months onto the adoption process.
TIP: Main reasons a person would not be able to adopt a child: recent criminal record, use of corporal punishment with other children in family, unstable marriage, life-threatening medical condition, chemical dependency, history of mental illness.
You and your spouse will each have to write an autobiography. Your home study agency will give you an outline to follow. This will cover just about every aspect of your life, and how you FEEL about a lot of things. Those who are logical, and have a hard time expressing emotions openly, may wish to let someone proof read this document, and offer suggestions on how to say "I really enjoyed ……" instead of " and then this happened, and then this happened." Write in your own style, but remember why you are writing it. People want to know what kind of parent you are going to be.
Examples of what will be required in your autobiography: Where did you grow up? Who reared you? Who do you admire? If you were married before, describe this marriage. What kind of relationship do you have with your family, siblings, etc., How do you plan to parent your child? What are you most proud of? What do you consider your greatest success? Failure, and how did you handle it? Where do you live? What do you do for a living? Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years?
Okay, you choose who your references are. Who is going to say you are wonderful, and would make the greatest parent on Earth? Family members are not included. Friends, neighbors, your boss, priest/pastor, former teacher, all of these are acceptable resources. If someone you are thinking of is not comfortable with interracial families, or has different ideas of how a child should be raised, you need to find this out! Ask people if they will be willing to write a letter about these issues. Believe me, most people are truly honored. Your social worker will contact them by phone or mail, and ask them questions about you, mostly concerning their personal feelings about what sort of parent they think you will be. They will be asked how long they have know you, or have known both of you as a couple. What kind of marriage do you have? Get copies of these letters. They will make your day!
You will need to get a physical. If you have any medical conditions, these will need to be documented, and if you have a serious health problem that will affect your life expectancy, this may be a problem. Ask your social worker. Sometimes your home study agency will have a specific form they will want the doctor to fill out.
TIP: If you belong to an HMO or other health plan that takes a while to get a doctor apt. for a physical, make the appointment now.
This step is different depending on what state you live in. Sometimes you will be fingerprinted, and sometimes not. Regardless, a criminal background check is run on you to see if you have any criminal record or any charge involving a child. Misdemeanors that were committed in your youth will probably not be held against you, if you have already divulged them to your social worker. Please, think back. It will show up, and you need to discuss it ahead of time. You don't want to look like you are hiding anything. If you have been charged and/or convicted of a violent crime, or a crime against a child, or illegal substances, you are not in a very good position.
TIP: Please tell your social worker of anything that may show up on your "record"
TIP: If you need to be fingerprinted, Get fingerprinted for INS at the same time. People who need to get fingerprinted for this step need to do so at the beginning of their home study. Fingerprint checks can take months. I know.
Statement of Finances
A helpful bit of information to know at this point is: You don't have to be rich to adopt, you just have to demonstrate that you manage your finances, whatever they may be, responsibly. You will be asked to provide your W-2 form, or a copy of your income tax form from last year. Don't sweat this. They are not going back years and years. You will be asked about your savings, your rent or mortgage payment, charge accounts, and monthly expenditures. You just basically need to show that adding a child to your household is not going to cause a serious financial strain