The Home Study
The Home Study is the required detailed evaluation of you, your spouse if you are married, your home, and surrounding environment. A home study is required in all domestic and international adoptions. The only exception (depending on your state law) may be the adoption of a close blood relative.
Home Study: Purpose
The Home Study is done so that any intermediary, agency, government or court can determine the fitness and suitability of you as a prospective adopting parent. It can also be used in an agency adoption or private adoption to reassure the birth mother and birth father and calm any fears they might have about who is going to be caring for the child.
Most agencies use the home study as a screening device. It gives them the information they need to determine, right from the beginning, whether or not they can assist you in the adoption process. Most adopting families look upon the Home Study as a challenge or a type of test. Because there is so much at stake, they are afraid of "saying the wrong thing." They are fearful of "blowing their chances" if they can not make themselves look good in the home study. If you learn what the Home Study is all about, if you know the kinds of questions to expect, you will be more comfortable with the whole process.
Things You Need to Know
The standard operating procedure for a Home Study is to collect detailed background information on you; e.g., personal history, financial records, medical history and records, state police and state child abuse clearances and personal and work references. Then the home study evaluator will meet with you (sometimes individually or as part of a group). The evaluator will ask you many questions, discuss various aspects of the adoption process and answer your questions. Usually they will meet with you at least three (3) times, of which at least one of the meetings will take place in your home where the evaluator will tour your home, grounds, and neighborhood.
Following the evaluation, the evaluator should provide you with a copy or original of the Home Study including their findings, conclusions and recommendations.
A Home Study can be done by a court appointed evaluator, a licensed social worker, an official of the state child welfare system, or a licensed adoption agency. If you are proceeding with a foster care adoption you can have a Home Study completed by any of the above. However, if you are proceeding with any other type of adoption we strongly encourage you to have a Home Study completed only by a licensed adoption agency.
The costs for a Home Study can range from approximately $0 - $2500 depending on who does it, the travel time and costs to and from your home, and costs for your criminal record and child abuse clearances.
Questions to Ask the Home Study Evaluator
Will you travel to the agency or interviewer, or will they come to you? How many visits to the agency will you have to make? How many visits to your home will the interviewer have to make?
Will you be interviewed alone, or will other prospective couples be interviewed at the same time?
How much time will you need to set aside for the study? Is the interview to be completed at one meeting, or will there be additional sessions needed to complete it?
What is the cost of the study? When must it be paid?
Once it is completed, will you be given a copy for your own use, or will the agency keep all the copies?
If the agency rejects you on the basis of the home study, do you have any recourse?
If you are rejected on the basis of the home study, will all or any part of the fees be refunded to you?
How long is the home study in effect? Does it need to be updated periodically? What is the cost of an update, if necessary?
Questions the Home Study Evaluator May Ask You
Please recognize and accept that there are no "pat" answers or "right" answers for you to memorize. It is more a question of preparing you so you can be more relaxed. Be totally honest with the evaluator conducting the Home Study. I can not begin to tell you the number of times people have gotten into difficulty because they did not answer the questions truthfully; e.g., they did not list all arrests they have had including those they thought were expunged from their records, including a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), trespass misdemeanor, or the Possession of Marijuana even ten or twenty years ago.
How do you feel about a social worker, psychologist or counselor coming into your home and evaluating your "competence" and ability to be a good parent?
Have you any anger or frustration at not being able to have children of your own? How have you dealt with this?
Do you and your spouse share the same views on adoption? (You may be asked this question separately. Be sure you discuss this beforehand.)
What are the reasons for adopting a child?
Why are you unable to have children of your own? What have you tried before seeking to adopt?
What is your lifestyle? How will a child fit into it? Or change it?
How do you feel about fathering and mothering a child that was not born to you?
What kind of child do you want to adopt? Why are you interested in one type as opposed to other types of children available?
What are some of the goals you see for your adopted child? How do you plan to help the child reach these goals?
If you already have a child or children, what have you told them? How do they view the adoption?
If you have no other children, what do you know about raising a child?
Will both parents be working? Who will care for the child during the day?
What does the rest of your family (your parents, sisters, brothers) think about the idea of adoption?
How did your parents raise you? How did they discipline you when you did things they didn't like?
Is this your first marriage? How did you meet your spouse? What attracted you to each other?
Do you have many friends? How long have you known these people? What do you look for in a friend?
What are your religious practices? What role does religion play in your life? What role do you expect it to play in the life of your adopted child?
What is your financial situation? Do you have life insurance? How much? Do you have medical coverage? What kind?
Will your medical insurance cover any of the medical costs of the adoptive child?
Are you willing to provide pictures and updates on the child's development to the birth mother and/or birth father? Will you permit the child to receive gifts and cards from the birth parents?
If you are adopting trans-racially, what special problems do you think a child might face in your family, school system, or community? What special community resources are available to you and your child?
Remember, there are no right or wrong answers to any of these questions. Try to relax, be as natural as possible and always give the "whole truth and nothing but the truth".
Additional Help and Resources
Adoption Services has extensive experience with domestic and international adoption as well as open and closed child adoption and intrastate and interstate adoption. We are able to help you with an adoption regardless of the state in which you reside but we are able to complete a Home Study only for adopting persons who are residents of PA, NJ, NY, VA, WV, and FL.
If you need or want some specific personal advice contact your state child welfare agency or state adoption contact. You can also contact Dr. Vince Berger, a PhD psychologist and adoption professional.
Please visit our home page to read about our commitment to assist adoptive parents like you as well as pregnant women and birth parents.