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The Homestudy Process
The homestudy is one of the first steps prospective adoptive parents usually take after they have decided to adopt. The homestudy is designed to not only educate the homestudy assessor about the family but also to educate the family about adoption. The evaluation process helps create the best match between the family and the child. The following FAQ is designed to inform the reader of the general expectations during a homestudy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the purpose of the homestudy?
A: In order to adopt any child, whether through a domestic process or international, a homestudy is required as part of the process. The purpose of the homestudy is to educate and prepare the family for adoption as well as to prepare the homestudy assessor for the future partnership between the family and the adoption facilitator/agency. Contrary to popular belief, a homestudy is not the process of looking for the perfect parents.
Q: How long does the homestudy process take?
A: The length of a homestudy differs from state to state and from agency to agency. However, an average homestudy generally takes anywhere from 3 to 6 months. You can help shorten the length of this process by actively participating in the process and preparing the required paperwork, scheduling medical appointments and gathering the requested documents in a timely fashion.
Q: What is the cost for a homestudy?
A: The expense of a homestudy varies by state and by agency. Public entities (such as county Children Services agencies) tend to be less expensive than private entities. Also, international adoption homestudies may be more expensive than domestic ones. Generally a homestudy can range in cost from $0 to $3,000.
Q: What are the basics of the homestudy?
A: The information requested for the homestudy will vary from agency to agency. However, the basic elements that make up a homestudy are: personal interviews, home visits, adoption education and preparation, submission of health records and financial statements, a personal statement, character references, educational training and criminal background checks. All of this information will be used to formulate the Homestudy Report.
Q: What can I expect in a homestudy interview?
A: Throughout the homestudy process a number of interviews will be conducted by the adoption assessor assigned to the homestudy. The purpose of the interview is to get to know you, your background, and your daily life. If you have other children, there is a good chance that they will also be involved in the interview process.
Q: What is a home visit?
A: An adoption assessor is required to come to your house and interview you in your natural environment. This visit is not to determine how clean and organized your home is. You should expect to focus on the following: having a room for the child; having working fire alarms; keeping appropriate hygiene in the house; meeting state safety standards; and childproofing your house.
Q: What is adoption education and preparation and why do I need it?
A: The purpose of the education is to help prepare potential adoptive parents for adoption and to ensure the child’s welfare is the paramount concern. This part of the home study is important because adoption is a unique experience that involves many issues which most parents have never dealt with. Topics covered in the training may include: the adoption process, child development, separation and loss, dealing with behavioral challenges, cultural issues, and adoption related issues. The education and preparation will vary from agency to agency and may require you to take a class, go to a seminar, or talk with a social worker before, during, or after the adoption is finalized.
Q: What is the purpose of disclosing health records? Will health problems interfere with an adoption?
A: Past and present medical records including mental health records may be requested as part of the homestudy process. Health records are a way for the homestudy assessor to ensure that the family will be able to provide a supportive and stable home for a child. Current health concerns that are not terminal are taken into account but generally do not automatically disqualify you from adopting. However, the assessor may require you to provide further documentation as to the status of your illness, such as letters from your treating physician.
Q: Why do I need to disclose financial statements?
A: There is no income requirement in adoption proceedings; however, financial information is another way for the assessor to ensure that the family will be able to provide a supportive and stable home for a child. Financial information may be requested to show that the potential parents are responsible with their finances and have a steady income.
Q: Why is a personal statement necessary and what should it include?
A: This can also be referred to as the autobiographical statement. It is your chance to tell your life story in your own words. The purpose of this statement is to let the assessor know you on a more personal level. Often times if you are considering an open adoption, the assessor may also have you write a personal statement that can be given to birth parents.
Q: Who should I ask to be a personal reference?
A: Personal references may also be referred to as character references. Agencies vary on whether the references should write a letter or whether the assessor will contact the person directly. A personal reference should be a person, usually unrelated to you, who knows you well enough and long enough to make an informed statement about your personal character and fitness for adoption.
Q: Must a background check be performed? Who is subject to a background check?
A: A criminal background check is required as part of the process. It is usually preformed on each member of the adopting family, any adult living in the household, and sometimes on any relatives who will be in close contact with the child. This may require the family to get fingerprinted.
Q: What is the homestudy information used for?
A: The information from the homestudy is compiled into a Homestudy Report. This report consists of all the information from the interviews, home visits, education/preparation, health records, financial statements, references, background checks, as well observations inserted by the adoption assessor. The report is then used to aid in matching the family with a child. In some agencies this report is confidential and in others you will receive a copy. Inquire with your assessor as to the confidentiality and to the extent this report will be shared with others.
Q: Do international homestudies differ from domestic homestudies?
A: International homestudies differ from domestic homestudies in that international homestudies have additional requirements. In addition to the state requirements, prospective adoptive parents are also subject to the homestudy requirements of the country from which they are adopting and the homestudy requirements imposed by the United States Citizenship and Immigrations Service, formally known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The details of the exact requirements will be laid out by the international adoption agency.
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