Making the decision to pursue adoption is so exciting, but then can quickly become stressful. Don’t let the stress of the home study or paper become overwhelming. It’s really not that bad at all, especially if you know what to expect and prepare as much as possible.
The suggestions below are based on our experience getting an home study done for private adoption in North Carolina. I think in general, most of the states are pretty consistent with expectations, but I know there were a few things we had to do here that are not done in other states. I am just letting you know, since you may be in another state and it could be slightly different.
Also, before pursuing private adoption, we were foster parents and had to have a home study done to become licensed. That home study was WAY more involved, so the one we had to complete for private adoption was a piece of cake (I will write more about that in another post). The tips below will help you prepare as much as possible as you begin the process.
What to expect
When we started, the first thing we had to do was fill out what a long application to just start the home study process. The agency we worked with would usually take up to 12 week to have it complete, so we chose to expedite the process for an extra fee. It was totally worth it and we were done, home study approved in less than three weeks. This is what the process looked like for us.
We met with the social worker for a total of three times. Twice in her office, and the final time, at our home. During the first meeting, my husband and I had to speak to her separately. She asked us questions about our childhood, hobbies, personalities, and everything about us as individuals.
In the second meeting, the focus was on us as future parents. We discussed how we planned to raise our child, discipline, schooling expectations, and more. Both of these meetings lasted about an hour and all of the questions were pretty straight forward.
2. The home visit
When the social worker comes to your home, it does not have to be spotless and child ready. You don’t have to childproof or even have the baby’s room ready. They do want to see that you have a room to eventually turn into the nursery, but that’s it. I was worried stressed about this visit, but it ended up being easy and simple.
We walked around our house to every room. In the report, they have to document the entire house, even the laundry room. Our social worker did not look in closets or drawers at all. She just took a quick peek around and then we talked a little bit about our neighborhood. It is really easy and nothing to stress about.
Your home study agency will give you a list of documents that they will need. This may vary but some of the things we had to include were:
Don’t stress about this either right now, but just start looking ahead and getting things together. Your homes study agency will give you a list of documents you need and yours may be slightly different than ours.
4. Reference letters
We had to include three letters from friends or co-workers (no family members) providing a character reference about you. Choose people who have known you both for a while and ask them to write about you as a person. They should include your strengths, personality traits, and why they think you would make a great parent.
These letters had to be notarized, so it may be a good idea to start thinking about who you would like to ask. It may take them some time to write it and get it notarized. Again, your agency will let you know if this is a required part of your home study.
5. Fingerprints and background Checks
You will most likely have to get fingerprints done and complete state and federal background checks. For the finger printing, we were able to get that done through a system at the local UPS store. It was so easy and the results came back quick. Your agency will give you all of this information, and this part does not take too much time. However, we did have to pay extra for these things and that was not included in our home study fee.
Also, don’t stress if you have a minor infraction show up on your background check. Everyone makes mistakes, and even though things may stay on record for a while, it doesn’t mean that you will automatically fail your home study.
This is definitely a case by case basis, and I recommend talking to your agency upfront about any concerns you may have regarding what may show up. It’s better to tell them about an infraction ahead of time, than try to hide it and it show up on a background check.
5 more home study tips
1. Be Proactive with paperwork
This picture is an exaggeration, but there is a lot of paper work. And its very very repetitive. Be prepared to spend time filling out forms about yourself, your spouse, your finances, background, and more. I felt like I filled out four different forms about our finances, all asking the same things in different ways. As you get the papers to fill out, do them right then or as soon as possible. Don’t let them sit on your kitchen table thinking you will do them later. It’s best to just keep up with all of the forms as they com in.
2. stay organized
I recommend getting an accordion folder to keep all of your papers organized. You will want to keep original copies of everything. If you have to travel when you adopt, you will want to bring all originals, so go ahead and get a folder system that can easily travel. I got this one from Amazon and it worked great.
3. Start Gathering items now
Thinking of all the documents you will need, start getting them together now in case you need to get a copy of it. I could not find my birth certificate anywhere, but because I started getting things together early, I had plenty of time to request a new one from the register of deeds. The key to all of this is being proactive.
4. practice questions
You don’t need to memorize responses to questions you may be asked, but it’s always a good idea to practice. The social worker will probably ask you about how you and your spouse plan to raise your child, so go ahead and have these discussions prior to your home study visit. It will help you prepare, and also give you and your spouse an opportunity to discuss these important topics.
The adoption process is stressful and overwhelming, but also so exciting. Enjoy going through these things and just remember that every line you fill out is getting you closer to growing your family through adoption.
Having someone come into your home and investigate your life can be very intimidating, but just remember the social worker is there to help you. They WANT you to successfully complete your home study and become approved!
As you are starting to go through the home study process, what do you find to be the hardest part of it? How could you have better prepared?