For those of you who don’t know, a home study is basically a document prepared by a social worker that details everything about your family: your background, your medical history, your financial situation, your reasons for adopting, your views on parenting, your values and beliefs, details about your home and lifestyle, etc. It usually involves a series of interviews and one or more home visits by the social worker. Typically it can take anywhere from 45 days to 4 months to complete.
Many people, myself included, are initially scared about the home study because of the fact that it is such a thorough analysis of your home and your life, and it can seem intrusive. But don’t let it scare you too much. The purpose of a home study is not to put you under a microscope and scrutinize every detail of your life. It’s simply to get an idea of who you are and what kind of life you will provide for your child. It also helps you by educating you and preparing you to deal with the issues that are unique to adoptive parents. It may seem like an arduous process at first, but if you take it one step at a time, you’ll be fine. As our social worker put it, “We laugh together, we cry together, we pull our hair out together, and in the end it will feel like I’m family!” 🙂
This post will be the first in a series of posts about our home study. For each session of the home study, I will write a post describing what took place in that particular session. Once the home study is complete, I’ll do a round-up post summarizing the entire process. My goal is to help you understand what the home study process is like and give you an idea of what to expect. Keep in mind that not everyone conducts the home study exactly the same way, so your experience may vary from mine. That said, you can use this to get a general idea of what it’s like.
Sound good? All righty then, let’s go!
Preparing For The Home Study
The first thing we had to do was contact a social worker to do the home study. Many adoption agencies include the home study as part of their services, but if not, you will have to find one on your own. Your agency or attorney should be able to recommend someone.
I contacted the case worker for our home study and one of the first things she did was send us an e-mail with special instructions for things we needed to take care of for the home study, with several attached PDF’s of forms we would need. Included were:
- An application for the home study which we had to fill out and bring to the first meeting (more on this below)
- A fee schedule for the home study, outlining what we would have to pay
- A form to bring to our doctor for medical exams
- Forms for obtaining fingerprints to send to the FBI for background checks
- Information for required adoption training (more on this below)
- A list of adoption fundraising ideas (cool little bonus!)
The first thing we did was fill out the application form. This form basically asked general information about us: contact information, occupation and income, past addresses, information about our family, etc. We also had to give five references.
The medical exam is really nothing more than a general wellness checkup. We also had to have a tuberculosis skin test done, and our doctor had to provide a letter confirming any diagnosis of infertility. For the fingerprints, we had to go down to our local sheriff’s office and get two sets of fingerprints each. This was free for adoptions. We then had to send these with our expedited FBI forms to get the background check done faster.
As for the home study fee, for us the total was $1,500, half of which was due at the initial meeting. Your costs may vary depending on who does your home study.
The first interview was conducted this morning at our case worker’s office. Courtney and I sat down, gave her our application form and check for the first part of the fee, signed a few more documents, and then got down to the nitty gritty of the interview.
The interview lasted about an hour and a half, but it was nothing really difficult. It was basically a “getting to know you” kind of interview, but was pretty thorough. Topics we discussed included the following:
- Our story, our history, how we met, and how we came to choose adoption
- What we do for a living, for fun
- Our family history
- Our feelings about adoption in general, open adoption
- What kind of child are we interested in or open to adopting, including what kind of birthparents
- How we handle stress, conflict, what we tend to fight about the most
- What role our faith plays in our lives and our marriage
- Views on parenting, discipline
- Plans for child care and education
- What we would do if something were to happen to us
Most of the questions she asked were pretty easy. But some of them really made us think. That last question in particular… we honestly had never thought about it and weren’t sure how to answer it. That was okay, though. The important thing wasn’t that we knew how to answer it, but that it would get us to think about it. That’s part of the goal of the home study process; it’s not just to find out information about us, but to educate us as well.
Now that our first interview is out of the way, we still have two more office interviews, and each of us has to give an individual interview. After that comes the home inspection. Of course I will write more about how this goes after it is done.
In the meantime, we’ve been given a list of more documents that we will have to provide: things like marriage license, birth certificates, recent tax returns and bank statements, recent paycheck stubs from our employers, shot records for our pets, etc. The paperwork never ends. *Sigh.*
We will also have to do some adoption training which includes taking online courses at adoptionlearningpartners.org, and reading a couple of required books and writing a summary of one chapter out of each book. (Seriously, we have to write book reports? Are we back in high school? Oh well, you do what you gotta do.) I will write more about this training in one of my upcoming posts.
So that’s it for the first interview. My advice for those of you who are about to start the home study is not to sweat this first part. It’s really not a big deal. Just relax, be yourself, and answer each question truthfully and honestly. There are really no right or wrong answers, so don’t worry. You’ve got this!
Questions: For those of you who have gone through the home study already: how did your first interview go? Were there any significant differences from ours? What’s your best advice to those about to go through this for the first time? For those of you who have yet to begin your home study: Do you have any additional questions? Feel free to comment below.