For many adoptive couples, one of the most unnerving parts of the process is the home study. Inviting a stranger into your home to assess your living arrangements and pry into your personal life can seem a bit daunting but is a necessary part to make sure that you can properly care for a child. But if you are prepared, then the home study does not have to be overwhelming and will go much easier than you think. The truth of the matter is that the home study investigator is not out to find all of your hidden skeletons. They don't even want to go through all of your closets. They just want to make sure that the situation is good for everyone. So, here are some tips to help you feel prepared for this important step.
1. Have all of your paperwork ready to hand over to the caseworker. You will quickly discover that you will have a fulltime job filling out paperwork, so making sure that you have everything together for your caseworker will help the process go quicker. Here is a checklist to help you:
o Birth certificates for everyone in your household
o Marriage certificate
o Divorce decree (if applicable)
o Death certificate (if former spouse died)
o Military discharge (if applicable)
o Photographs of you as a couple or family (if you have children) and pictures of your home
o Income verification (W-2 or income tax statement)
o Health status statement from physicians
o Personal references from friends (usually three to five)
o FBI, police, and child abuse clearances
o Statements from each of you declaring that you are not addicted to drugs or alcohol and that you have never been treated for a drug or alcohol addiction
2. Be honest in answering any questions. You may feel like the caseworker is asking some very personal questions, but it is important that you are honest and open. What you think may hinder your adoption may not be a concern at all, unless you keep it hidden. And the questions your caseworker asks could very well help you find a child who is the right fit for your family. Remember, the caseworker's goal is to help bring families together, and they are truly only looking out for what is best for everyone involved.
Our office has had clients who, in the past, were found guilty of DUIs or drug abuse, yet they were able to obtain home study approval. Also, just because you struggle in your marriage or deal with depression does not automatically disqualify you as an adoptive parent.
3. Create an inviting environment. Make sure your home is clean and ready for guests. Bake some cookies or light a scented candle. Adding these little touches will help everyone to relax and enjoy the visit. But don't overdo it. There's no need to rearrange your closets or to have the nursery completely ready to go. But you will want to be sure to have all firearms, if any, carefully locked away and medications and hazardous materials stored in locked cabinets or placed up high.
A home study doesn't have to cause you stress. The caseworker is simply another person invested in your adoption process. Welcome them into your home and enjoy the time you have to meet someone new and to share the story of your life. And a completed home study means you are one step closer to bringing your child home.