There are many steps in the adoption process. The steps will vary depending upon the details regarding the adoptive family, but the home study is one step that all families must take. Some may feel anxiety with this step because it judges the prospective parent. It also involves quite a bit of paperwork.
When a trained and accredited social worker conducts a home study, there are a few essential things to remember. Courts review the study to determine if the family is suitable to receive a placement. Secondly, adoption professionals will often require a home study before pairing prospective parents with a prospective child or expectant mother. These studies are valid for one year and must be updated if the family moves or a prospective parent gets a new job after the study.
Paperwork and administrative details
The home study will vary somewhat, depending upon the details of the parents. Some materials include:
- Important personal documents like birth certificates, marriage licenses, at least two financial records, and recent health records from health care professionals
- Clearing a background check, which verifies there is no history of child abuse and a criminal record
- Three or more character references from at least one relative (required), friends, and others who know the prospective parents
- An autobiographical statement from each prospective parent
A home visit is also necessary
While the above focuses on paperwork, a home study also includes an in-home inspection to determine whether the living space is safe and appropriate for a child. Details they look for include:
- Coverings for electrical outlets
- Screens on windows
- Gated stairways
- Fenced-in pool areas
- Emergency plans in case of fire, flood, medical emergencies, etc.
- Secure storage for toxic materials like cleaning products and medication
Don’t worry if expectations are not initially met — the social worker will typically point out issues of concern that need addressing.
Interviews of the family
During the home visit, the social worker interviews all household members. Topics discussed with parents include parenting philosophies and conversations about hobbies, interests, background, and upbringing. Potential siblings are asked their thoughts on the potential new brother or sister.
There is still much more to do
While an adoption attorney has little involvement in the home study, there are other parts of the process before and after the home study where they provide essential support to the prospective family.