Home Sweet Home Study
Just when you think that you've answered every question about your personal life, along comes the home study—a written report required by both the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and your state of residency to evaluate your potential as an adoptive parent.
In the home study, a licensed social worker meets with you several times, both in your home and in the agency's office, individually and, if you're married, together. She takes examines your home life and asks you to elaborate on the answers you've given on your home study statements. She then writes up a report explaining her findings. Although it sounds intimidating, and most adoptive parents-to-be feel vulnerable during this stage of the process, think of it as you would your yearly physical exam, where you're asked to strip down and put on the pink gown with the opening in the back. It's a bit nerve-wracking, but you'll get through it. Besides, something wonderful will come from all of it!
Before you sanitize your home from top to bottom, however, realize that the social worker isn't looking for perfection—her visit isn't army boot camp where she'll bounce quarters off your bed to see if it has been made correctly. (A comfortable, lived-in home is more in line with life with children.) Nor is she coming to judge youthful indiscretions. (Taking responsibility, for instance, for an arrest at 15 for shoplifting probably won't be held against you when put in the context of occurring shortly after the breakup of your parents' marriage.) Rather, the home study assesses your willingness and commitment to adopt and makes certain that the home you're bringing the child to is a safe and loving environment.
Although home studies vary from agency to agency, and state to state, some elements and required documents are universal: The autobiographical statement where you're asked to write "the story of your life," including where you were raised and how, your current occupation, and your marital status (including the state of your marriage if you are married); the financial statement to make sure that you can manage your finances (a big bank account is not necessary to becoming an adoptive parent, but the report will verify income through your W-2s, and/or 1040 tax forms); the health statement to confirm that the prospective adoptive parents are both physically and mentally up to the job of raising children (some home studies require a complete physical exam, others just a tuberculosis test); character references to get an outside opinion on your readiness to adopt; and the background check for criminal and child abuse records. The process, from paperwork, interviews, and report, takes about four to six months to complete.