What is an Adoption Home Study?

open adoption home study interview
by Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P.

The adoption home study may sound a little invasive and scary for some hopeful parents, when in fact it is more paperwork than white glove inspection of your home. The “home study” is really a “people study”. A combination of a written and oral description of your family and your lifestyle and inspection of where you will raise your child. The process is conducted by a licensed social worker trained to educate and prepare you as the adoptive family for adoption, and to assemble information about the prospective parents for the report.

This social worker will examine many areas of your life, from financial, criminal background checks, work, health, parenting styles, and your ability to care and love for a child that is not of your body, but comes to you through adoption.

Many parents have had to go through the same study and make it. Hurrah! It is a very vital part of the adoption process.

By reading a family’s home study, a social worker, attorney or adoption agency will be able to learn more about you and the type of home and family a child will be raised in. A social worker will also include in the home study a series of visits to your home. These visits mainly serve to ensure your home meets state licensing standards for safety. The number and frequency will largely depend on the agency or laws of your state.

You may hear the phrase “home study ready” which means that you have completed a home study and the written report has been completed and now are ready for a match or placement depending on the type of adoption you chose to go through. In domestic adoptions, many birth mothers in open adoption are seeking parents who are home-study ready. It is a great relief to them to know that the family she is considering has been investigated is safe and is ready and willing to adopt and love her child.

With the paperwork complete the process can move quickly in some adoptions and then in others may take a year or longer to complete depending on your adoption, paperwork, and court calendars. You must have an approved home study in most states to be able to bring a child into your home or take custody of a child. Many organizations allow you to start your search with them for a match while the home study is underway.

There are expiration dates on home studies and almost every home study can be easily updated for a second adoption or when a family has moved. Ask your home study provider how long the home study is valid and what the cost and process are to get an update. Often it is simple.
completing paperwork for adoption home study
When we work with adoptive parents at the Lifetime Adoption we often start working before the home study even being started, to get a head start in the search. The adoptive parents must then move forward and do the paperwork that is needed in the first few weeks. The adoption coordinator can refer you to a home study provider that has perhaps worked with additional adoptive parents from Lifetime and this can help in the process as well.

This home study assessment process normally takes 30 to 90 days to complete. The time frame of your adoption assessment can take longer if you delay returning your paperwork to your home study agency or social worker. That includes appointments for a physical and gathering the needed documents, so create a file for just your home study and a check-off list to keep organized.

Remember the home study provider is there to help you complete your study and will answer any questions you have about the process or the adoption in general. If a social worker feels that there are any unanswered questions regarding your application or your family, they will recommend clarification before approving your home study.

Upon successful completion of your home study, a final report is written, certifying that you, the adopting parent, or parents are qualified to adopt.

Each state has its own laws about adoption; you will need to speak to a qualified local adoption agency or attorney in your state about the particular home study requirements and fees. If you are working with Lifetime Adoption they will provide you with referrals.

Start the process early when possible; don’t put off beginning your search for a child until you have your home study complete. Many prospective adoptive parents are happy to know they are doing something positive by starting their search for potential birth parents while they are completing their home study.

Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P., is a recognized adoption expert and award-winning author. Through Lifetime Adoption, which she founded in 1986, she has helped thousands of families build their families through adoption. To learn more about adoption success, read Caldwell’s books, Adoption: Your Step-by-Step Guide, Adopting Online, and Called to Adoption.