During your home study, a licensed social worker who works on behalf of the adoption agency will interview you on a minimum of three occasions, during which time they will collect and evaluate information about you, your family, your finances, and your ability to care for a child. This all determines whether or not you are fit to adopt.
Understandably, the idea of a stranger holding your life under a microscope can be overwhelming and scary—and many of our clients have concerns over the home study process. To help you go into the process with open eyes, we’ve detailed the information that goes into a home study, as well as how far into your personal data your social worker will dig.
Do I need to eliminate every single piece of dirt?
Our clients often ask us, “what is the social worker going to do when they get to my house? Are they going to open my closest and look under my bed? Check the expiration dates on my medicine?” People worry that they’ll need to clean and sanitize their home, preparing it for a harshly judgmental critic.
We think people should know they can relax about it a little bit—and that the social worker is not coming in with the white gloves. They’re not expecting or checking for a pristine home. They’re looking for a family setting, and they know that families often live in chaos. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the social workers providing our home studies have children and homes with children in them, so you can expect a tolerance for the chaos that is normal in most homes.
We encourage you to feel comfortable and at ease inviting the social worker into your home and being thorough and honest with them through every step of the home study process.
Are my financial habits under scrutiny?
Clients also ask us, “how deeply are you going to look into our financial records? Are you going to review our tax returns, inspect our spending habits, and check bank balances?”
Yes, the social worker is going to review your tax returns, look at your pay stubs, and review letters from your employer stating your current wages. Yes, there is a minimum amount that your family must earn to qualify for adoption: the poverty guideline. For example, in the contiguous 48 states, a 3-person household must earn at least $20,420 in the year 2018 in order to qualify.
Here is a link to the USCIS Poverty Guideline Report. Its important to ensure that your family has the resources necessary to provide for a child placed in your home, but we are not looking for extravagant wealth or perfect credit scores.
I was wild in my youth.
Another worry our clients share is how their past will influence the process, whether they have an open container, possession of marijuana, or driving ticket from college. Our advice to our clients is to tell your case worker absolutely everything.
The last thing you want is to have a criminal history discovered in the vetting process that you didn’t disclose. You have a duty of candor, and your failure to disclose can result in denial.Tell the truth, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Youthful indiscretions do not amount to a basis for denying a home study. But the failure to be honest does. So, disclose it. Tell it all.
While small infractions are one thing, a history of domestic violence or sexual violence is a problem. A history of drug addiction is a problem. A history of any violent crime is a problem.
Will my home study be denied if I take anti-depressants?
Clients who are taking medication to stabilize mood or treat depression or anxiety are often worried that it will prevent them from adopting. For domestic adoption, it typically will not impact the outcome.
However, there are some countries that would absolutely bar the approval of an adoption where the adopting parent is taking an SSRI or other mood-stabilizing drug, so it is better to disclose this at the outset rather than allow your case worker to discover it late in the process. For example, you cannot adopt from Korea or China if you take or have taken an antidepressant.
Who in my family will be investigated for the home study?
Your assigned social worker will not only be looking into your background, finances, and personal data—they will also be required to learn about other adults in your home, including criminal record checks.
They will also need to produce a family history for you, including some basic information about your parents and siblings, where you grew up, where they currently live, and what they do. The goal of this is to determine if they are likely to provide support to you in an adoptive placement, helping to care for a child.
Will I need any additional documentation?
On top of providing basic information about you and your family, you will also need to provide proof that you have planned for the worst case scenario: who will care for your adopted child should something happen to you and your partner.
You must have a plan in place naming a person to care for your child in your absence, and that person must agree to the plan. Although we recommend the benefits of a good estate plan, you don’t have to have estate planning documents in place. You do have to have a stated contingency care plan, and you have to have discussed it with those people.
Many home study providers will require the chosen caretakers to furnish a letter stating that they are aware they would be guardians of baby to be, and that they would gladly care for the child in the event of her parents’ untimely deaths.
Still have questions?
We encourage you to contact us today to learn more about the home study process or find out the steps you need to take to get started!