So you’re hoping to adopt, and you want to know how to survive a homestudy? You’ve come to the right place, here. (But if you’re adopting here, please don’t mention that you read this, okay? We prefer to think your lives are that impressive even without our influence.)
A homestudy is an in-depth report written by a licensed professional. It’s based on multiple in-person interviews (single and joint), careful reference checks, and one or more physical inspections of your home. The questions that get asked are required by the state from which you’re adopting and in which you hope to take placement. (Find Abrazo’s homestudy requirements here.)
If you’re adopting through a private agency, you not only have the honor of going through this process, you get pay for the privilege, too. The average homestudy for a private adoption costs anywhere from $1-$4k. If you’re adopting through the State, the taxpayers will likely help foot that bill. (But make no mistake– it still isn’t “free.”)
The homestudy is essentially the work product of the agency by whom it’s done, so most workers may let you see a rough draft but not give you a copy. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can say you want to adopt through the State and then pull a switcheroo just to get a homestudy at no cost to you. (Because they’re not likely to release a copy to you for private use. Nice try, but no cigar.)
Things You Should Know
Before you start the process, there are some things you should know about how to survive a homestudy. Homestudies are less about judging you, and more about protecting children, so try to keep this in mind when the process feels invasive. (Because it probably will. So just be prepared.)
The homestudy worker is there to feel out who you are and whether your home would be a safe environment for children. Homestudy workers aren’t looking for perfection; they’re looking for integrity, stability, resilience, empathy and maturity. The best homestudy workers have good radar, just like parents seem to have eyes in the back of their head, so those who try to hide anything usually come to regret it.
Yes, your home must still be inspected in person by the homestudy worker, despite the Covid-19 quarantine. No, they won’t poke through your underwear drawers. Yes, they will ask about your sex life. They don’t expect you to feed them, but they will ask for proof that all medications, firearms and other hazards are locked up, out of the reach of children. And while they can be charmed, they can’t be bribed, so please don’t even try.
The worker will meet with you alone, and with your spouse alone. He or she will meet with you together. One visit will need to include anyone else who may live in your home, if you have other children or domestic help or relatives or boarders. And one visit will be a walk-through in which the worker assesses safety and cleanliness of the entire house.
Things You Should & Shouldn’t Do
It’s normal to feel nervous before meeting with the homestudy worker. (Please don’t imbibe beforehand, though.) You will want to dress appropriately for homestudy interviews, but don’t feel you need to dress up. Shorts and t-shirts might be too informal, but no need to dress for church, either.
Most workers will check more for basic child-proofing than housekeeping standards frankly. If you don’t have a nursery ready, no worries; they’ll just ask to see the room that will be the child’s. Pet vaccinations should be current. Pools or hot tubs should be gated or otherwise access-restricted. Firearms must be locked in a gun safe. Prescription medications should be put away, even though you’ll need to honestly disclose what medications you’re on.
Honesty is the key here. If there’s something you’re concerned might disqualify you from adopting, that’s something you need to discuss with your homestudy worker upfront. (Trust us on this… please.)
Be yourself, but remember the goal is to enable the worker to get a feel for who your best selves are, warts and all. Homestudy workers know that nobody has a perfect life, or a perfect marriage or a perfect home. Their goal is to assess who you are, and what challenges you’ve faced. They want to see how you might be equipped for parenting, as a result of your resources and your life experiences and document that for your placement resource.
The Short List of Homestudy Problems
Over the years, these are the kinds of things we’ve seen that complicate the homestudy process:
- if hopeful adopting parents conceal truths about their past,
- when there are physical hazards in the home,
- if a marriage is clearly in trouble,
- when the adopters’ health potentially would put a child’s welfare at risk
- if either hopeful adopter has been accused of abuse in the past,
- when either hopeful adopter has a history of demonstrated instability
- if either hopeful adopter has a limited lifespan
- when infertility issues contraindicate adoptive placement,
- if the adopting parents’ pet attacks the homestudy worker.
The best homestudy workers serve as a helpful resource throughout your adoption process. They should be someone you can freely turn to with questions and issues. If for any reason you feel unable to communicate with your worker, ask the homestudy agency to intervene, or provide you an alternative worker.
(If a homestudy cannot be approved, for any reason, a family should be given an opportunity to discuss the findings and correct problems, if possible. You cannot, however, “just go do another original homestudy with somebody else.” Any accurate homestudy requires documentation of any prior studies completed elsewhere. And any inaccurate homestudy can be grounds for placement revocation later on.)
Usually, the same worker who prepares your homestudy will return to do your post-placement supervision, too. This is why feeling at ease with this person really does matter. You’ll want to enjoy having this same worker coming to see your new child in the months after placement has happened.
Knowing how to survive a homestudy is an important first step in preparing for adoptive parenting, so kudos to you in beginning this process.