If you’re exploring how to get a homestudy done, this is a good place to get started.
Ruben and Hannah have finished infertility treatments and decided to adopt. They’d assumed that just filling out an adoption agency application would be enough? But then they learn they also have to do something called a homestudy. They’re worried if they’ll get approved, since they rent (rather than own) their home? What, they wonder, is a homestudy, and how in-depth does this process get?
In Texas, a homestudy is your ticket to adopt, basically, whether you adopt privately or through the State. It can take anywhere from several days to several months to complete. And different states have different requirements, so if you’re doing an interstate adoption, your homestudy has to meet the requirements of both states.
The homestudy itself is an official report, written by a licensed social worker/therapist, agency or court-appointed investigator. It’s based on a series of individual and joint interviews about your childhood, your family relationships, and your health and stability. It also includes an inspection of your home and a review of your finances. The average cost of a quality homestudy generally ranges from $1200-2500. (If you’re adopting through the State, though, taxpayers may subsidize that cost.)
How “good” a homestudy is, once finished, depends on a number of things. It depends on how truthful all the interviews were, and how experienced the interviewer is. But most importantly, it depends on the integrity of all the people involved. This is essential in safeguarding the welfare of any child/ren to potentially be placed in that home.
What does a Texas homestudy involve?
The State sets the minimum requirements for a Texas homestudy. (You can find our version of Abrazo’s homestudy requirements here.) Supporting documents are often also requested as verification of citizenship, marriage, income, health, vaccinations, etc.
Best practice standards require that homestudy interviews be scheduled in a course of several days. This gives everyone time to process all the information that’s discussed. (Curiously, Texas standards do not specify this? However, Abrazo does not accept “drive-by homestudies” in which all interviews were done in one sitting, or in less than 3 days’ time.)
Each household member must be interviewed separately, and then the couple together. At least one joint interview should include everyone in the home all together. (This includes any live-in help, boarders or other relatives who are part of the household, including all children ages two and older.) The homestudy investigator must also contact any adult children of either spouse living outside the home.
There must also be a visit to the home to assess the physical surroundings, evaluate housekeeping standards and note any safety concerns (ie, pools/hot tubs, firearms, etc.)
The completed homestudy documents whether or not the home is approved for placement of a child and if so, what type (age, gender, needs). It expires 12 months from the date of the last face-to-face interview, but must be updated periodically if any changes occur.
Your relationship with your homestudy worker should be one in which you feel comfortable both asking and answering questions. An experienced homestudy worker should have a wealth of adoption information and life experience that enriches the clients’ preparation for adoption. If you’re uncomfortable or feel the worker is “out to get you,” then ask the homestudy agency for a different investigator.
Whether or not the worker will allow you to see the finished report is a policy question for the homestudy agency. Some provide clients with a copy of the completed report, but many will not do so. (Homestudies done by the county at taxpayer expense are often not released.)
Placement agencies rely heavily on homestudies to assess whether or not a home is safe to place a child in? In reality, though, adoption professionals should personally know their own clients well enough to corroborate any information the homestudy provides. Abrazo’s director once reviewed a homestudy that recommended a couple for placement, even though it noted that “it is unfortunate that the adoptive father’s prior three wives all died in the home, of gunshot-related wounds.” (Note: Abrazo did not elect to work with said family.)
Homestudies may be shared with the Interstate Compact (ICPC) officials, and upon request, with Licensing and/or judges. Traditionally, birthfamilies do not see these reports. However, there’s no reason they cannot, if an adopting family asks that it be shared with them.
How Can Someone Fail a Homestudy?
The best way we know to fail a homestudy is simply to hide the truth, either by concealing information or by refusing to cooperate with the interviewer (or to show up for meetings.)
A “good” homestudy isn’t a report on perfect people (since those don’t exist, in reality.) Rather, a good homestudy documents the challenges and problems a healthy couple has faced by explaining what they learned from them and how they overcame them. If you’ve struggled with depression, conquered addiction, gone through unemployment, overcome infidelity, or recovered from cancer, these are life circumstances that all can say something about resilience and strength.
(However, if you’ve been convicted of child abuse or substance abuse, caused the death of another person or committed kinds of certain crimes, even the best homestudy can’t get you approved for adoption in the State of Texas, so be forewarned, there are limits.)
In Texas adoptions, a social study will also be required, prior to finalization of your adoption. This is a different report than the homestudy, though. (After placement, ask the attorney who will represent you in court how to get this done, when you’re ready to finalize the adoption.)
For now, though, just follow these directions on how to get a homestudy done, and know that an amazing journey is almost sure to ensue.