Adoption Self Help Manual
The Home Study
What is a Home Study?
The home study is a detailed evaluation of you, your spouse, your home, and surrounding environment.
It is done so that any intermediary, agency, Federal Government or court can determine the fitness and suitability of the prospective adopting parents. It can also help for specific child matching. It is also used to reassure the birth mother and calm any fears she might have about who is going to be caring for her 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 to get involved with you or not. They frequently share much of the information they have gathered on you with the birth mother. She has the final word, so far as adopting her child is concerned. If she doesn't like what she learns about you in the home study, you won't have her child.
A home study is done in almost every adoption. It is a requirement for all interstate and international adoptions. It is also usually a requirement in an intrastate adoption. Most local courts will order some type of evaluation study to be sure you will be able to provide properly for the child they are going to place into your hands.
Does it sound like a home study is an important document? You bet.
Is there a lot riding on it? For sure.
Most adopting families look upon the home study as a challenge. 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't make themselves look good in the home study.
That's why there is this special chapter just on home studies.
Because the important thing here, as always, is for you to get educated.
If you learn what it is all about, if you know the kinds of questions to expect, you will be more comfortable with the whole process of home studies.
Then, when it is your turn, you won't be so frightened. You will give better answers. That means you'll look better to the evaluator and to anyone else who reads the study which has been completed on you.
A good home study increases your chances that the agencies will want to work with you.
A good home study increases your chances that a birth mother will want you to care for her child.
A good home study increases you chances that the government and/or courts will approve you for an adoption.
Things You Need to Know
Before they start to question you, there are some things you need to know ahead of time. Let's begin with…
Your Questions First
- 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?
- What happens to the fee you have already paid the agency? If you are rejected on the basis of the home study, will all or any part of the fees be refunded to you?
- Assuming it is a favorable study, how long after it is completed will you have to wait for a referral or placement?
- How long is the home study in effect? Does it need to be updated periodically? What is the cost of an update, if necessary?
Now, Their Questions
In the list you're going to get here, there are questions you may be asked by an attorney, birth mother, the agency, or the courts.
There are no "pat" answers or "right" answers for you to memorize. It is more a question of preparing you so you won't be caught off guard.
In addition, some of these questions will give you an idea of what the "ideal" is. It gives you a chance to change your thinking – to bring yourself more in line, where possible.
Having this knowledge will make you and your spouse much more confident when the time comes for the actual home study interview. With better preparation, you're bound to make a better impression.
- 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?
- You will have to furnish a lot of information about your background. What type of student were you in school? Have you ever been in trouble with the law? Those types of questions.
- How did your parents raise you? How did they discipline you when you did things they didn't like?
- You will need to discuss your marriage. Is this your first marriage? How did you meet your spouse? What attracted you to each other?
- You will be asked questions about your friends. Do you have many? 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?
- The evaluator will want to see your house. You will need to show the evaluator where the baby will sleep. Perhaps, the evaluator will want to see your yard, or the neighborhood.
- What is your financial situation? They may ask to see tax returns. 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? Do you have the policy available for the evaluator to examine? If not, can you furnish a letter from the insurance carrier that specifically describes what kinds of medical expenses will be covered?
- You will need to provide the names of some people the evaluator can talk to about you. You may be asked to provide the name of your clergyman and be asked if it is O.K. with you if the evaluator calls him/her and asks some questions about you.
- You will probably be asked if you are working with any other agencies.
- You will be asked: Are you willing to provide pictures and updates on the child's development to the birth mother? 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?
Are you surprised? There are other questions they may ask you, also. They can be even tougher and more personal and thought-provoking.
Most of this appears to be pretty straightforward. But you have to consider the effects of your answers.
Let's take question #23 again, just for an example.
"Are you working with any other agencies?" Some agencies or private attorneys will not work with you if they know you are on other lists. That's because they know you will go with whoever gets you the child you want first. They don't want to take time working with you, just to have you call them up one day and say, "Thanks for your help, but we've located a baby through someone else. Take us off your list." They will be out effort, time and money.
One more example. Let's go back to question #4.
"What is the reason for your adopting a child?"
Agencies want to make sure there are good reasons. Something like "We're adopting because my wife/husband really feels empty and we think a child will help keep our marriage together" will not be a good answer.
Most answers frequently concern the fact that you like children. Or you want to help another individual to achieve satisfaction in life.
You might mention that there is an emptiness in your life. Tell the interviewer that the idea of being able to share your life, your goals and dreams with a child is extremely important to you.
But this has to "fit in" or balance with everything else you've said. You can't toss in an answer like that and expect it to be believed if it doesn't "square" with everything else.
Please, let me stress again. There are no "pat" or "right" answers, although some answers are going to be more impressive than others.
But whatever you do, give your answers careful thought ahead of time. Become comfortable with what you are going to say. Always be honest. If you do these things, you should come out O.K.
A Special Note of Caution
Be totally honest with the agency conducting the home study. I can't begin to tell you the number of times people have gotten into difficulty because they didn't list all (I mean ALL) arrests they have had – including the DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) or the Possession of Marijuana, etc., ten or twenty years ago. If they had brought them out at the start, they still could have been approved. But because they mislead the home study agency, they were ultimately rejected.
Remember the Adoption Commandment #3 – Do not allow yourself to be part of anything which has even the slightest appearance of being shady or improper.
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