I said when I first started writing this blog that I would write about things that would interest me, and one of the things I searched high and low for was information about the homestudy process. I wanted to know what questions would be asked, what documents might be required, and just exactly how comprehensive the whole process was. However, I couldn’t find anything but vague generalities. Now that I’m in the middle of the process, I can let other adoptive hopefuls know what to expect in the homestudy process. I wanted to know out of curiosity and because I’m a planner. I would have liked to have started locating some of these documents before they were asked for.
The following is a list of what you might expect to be asked to provide in a homestudy. Every agency is different, and every state has different requirements.
- Copy of your marriage license if married
- Copies of your transcripts or diplomas for the highest level of education each has received.
- Copies of birth certificates for every member of the immediate family- for children living in and out of the home.
- Shot record for all pets.
- Letter from dog’s vet saying she’s been looked over and is not aggressive.
- A sketch of the layout of our home and an explanation of the function or purpose of each room space.
- Three letters of recommendation from non-relatives discussing you as a couple, as members of your community, your faith (if applicable), your ability and capability to raise children and their general views and feelings of you as people. Personally, we chose to ask only our closest/oldest friends for these letters.
- Doctors reports on each family member saying you’re all free from communicable diseases (such as Hepatitis or TB) and the adults in the family are healthy and capable of raising a child.
- Tax forms for the past 3 years.
- All bank statements for any checking, savings, IRA, etc. accounts.
- Letter from health insurance company saying every member of the family residing within the home is insured and that the child you adopt will immediately be added onto the insurance just as a baby born into the family biologically would be.
- Notarized letter from current employers saying you do indeed work there, and for how long.
- List of both adults’ employment history dating back ten years.
- List of both adults’ residences dating back ten years.
- Detailed list of monthly expenses and balances.
- Detailed list of all personal assets and their value.
- List of all (parents’) siblings, their spouses, how often you talk and where they live.
- Picture as a family, picture of yard, house and sometimes pets (to verify dog is not of a vicious breed.)
- Full detailed criminal background check.
- Forms asking you if you have a history of child abuse or neglect towards a child.
- Forms asking you if you have ever been arrested, and why.
- Forms asking about current and past drug use or other addictions.
- Letters from any psychologists, therapists or psychiatrists currently treating either member of the parent couple explaining why they are being seen, any medications they are prescribed, and if they are viewed as stable to raise a child.
Some agencies will ask you for a detailed autobiography of yourself and your spouse prior to the actual face-to-face interview while others wait until they meet you to ask you all of the questions about your life. These questions can be invasive and slightly overwhelming. Just be yourself.
~They’ll ask about your own raising, your parents and siblings, family vacations, traditions, holidays, how you were disciplined growing up. They’ll also ask about all current relationships with your parents, how often you speak, what kind of relationships you have with each other.
~They’ll ask the same questions about relationships with your siblings and in-laws.
~They’ll want to know about your pets, your traditions, your faith, how you plan to discipline your children (or how you discipline the kids you have), the kinds of things you do together as a family, the hopes you have for growing your family.
~They’ll want to know all about your marriage: how you met, how long you dated, where you were married, how you handle conflict, how you both feel about each other, how you nurture the relationship, how you communicate and fight, etc.
~They’ll ask detailed questions about your job and how it affects family life, your finances, your debt, your budgeting skills, your plans for college funds or other savings accounts, your personal motto on money and spending, how well you communicate about money together, etc.
The Social Worker is typically on your side. It is their job to get to know you, and more often than not, they want to see you succeed. They aren’t there to judge your religious beliefs (unless you do something freaky that harms animals or others), your political opinions, or your housekeeping skills. They are NOT going to do the white-glove test on your mantel or windowsills. They aren’t going to make sure your basement is organized or pull out all of your fitted sheets to make sure they’re folded the way Martha does it. Keep your house clean, but lived-in is expected. They want you to be comfortable and to present the most authentic version of yourselves as possible. They want to get a good assessment of YOU in parent form.
They may want to see that you have working fire extinguishers or smoke alarms. They may want to see proof that you have a well-stocked first aid kit (I heard one adoptive mom say she showed them band-aides and Antibiotic cream in her cabinet and that worked well enough.)
They just want to know that you are responsible, mature, level-headed people who are prepared to handle all that is involved in the adoption process (hey, you’ve made it that far at least!) and in parenting.
Even though you’re going to stress no matter what I say, I’ll say this- don’t stress. Just be yourself and say a prayer that all goes according to plan. And if it doesn’t, you have the opportunity to show the Social Worker how cool-as-a-cucumber you can be in the event of a mess or disaster that often comes with having children. So if the dog knocks over the scented candle you had lit to make the house feel homey and it burns a section of the carpet, view it as a test in patience and put on a smile. You can’t control everything. You can only be honest and try your hardest to represent the most authentic version of yourself possible.
I hope this has helped ease some fears or at least prepare some of those like me out there who tend to dread walking into any situation unarmed with information.
Breathe. We’ll make it out.