Now that you have decided that you want to adopt, selected a means to adopt, the next step is the home study. The home study brings a lot of anxiety and causes severe traumatic flashbacks to some who have gone through it. The home study is the truth serum. It’s a holistic look at your life by a 3rd party. It can be painful at times because if your road to adoption was filled with heartbreak like ours, reliving it over again can be an emotional time. The good news is that if you are honest with your social worker you should be able to pass your home study.
Lifetime Adoptions was our agency that handled our adoption but because we lived in Maryland we used a local agency to complete our home study. We used Adoptions Together and they were amazing. They let us know what to expect each step of the way and they were always available to answer any questions we may have.
How do you survive the home study? You have to stay organized. You have to have multiple copies of any record they may ask you for. Our process was once we received anything we would upload a copy of it to Google drive so just in case they needed something while we were away from our computer or scanner we would just forward the Google drive file to them. We had the outstanding luck of having to do two home studies because we moved to Georgia during the adoption process. It was a tale of two experiences. While Adoptions Together was modern and we were able to upload files to their web portal the agency in GA was still stuck in the 90s. We were stuck faxing and occasionally snail mailing forms to them.
I won’t detail the endless things you need because you will encounter them soon enough. After being organized – create a checklist (Adoptions Together Portal has one for you)and work it. Lifetime told us that it was distinctly possible that we would have a short wait based on the expectant parents they were seeing. We fit the profile of what a lot of the expectant parents were looking for. We were focused on completing everything in a timely fashion. Normally my wife is the logistics person but I took the lead on this because I work really well with immediate goals and checklists.
The hardest part of the home study is waiting. We would submit the forms and we would wait for them to be processed to ensure we didn’t need anything else. There was a lot of hurry up and wait. The writing of the personal statement was stressful. It was nerve wracking for me I had to talk about my prior arrests for theft in HS. Even though those were expunged I was informed to be forthcoming about it. The wife and I had lived in multiple states due to work so we had to get information about our stays in all of those states. It was a pain in the ass. Only to have people ask you about adoption and say “you don’t just walk into a building, pick a baby and leave” Nooooooooooooooo…. Go away.
A few tips: Don’t worry about the home visit. They could care less if your house is as clean as a museum. What they are looking for is that the house is lived in and how do you plan to keep up with the same standard of clean when having a newborn. They are looking if you have room for an extra person i.e. not trying to pass a closet off as a baby’s room. My favorite thing that they look for is there aren’t any “doors to nowhere”. Ensure every exit/entrance that needs a step have steps. The interview process is easy don’t sweat that.
The place where we benefitted the most was the training. There was so much insight in our training. The Domestic Infant Adoption training was great. It gave us lot things to consider going into adoption. They were helpful educating us about adopting a child that may be addicted to drugs. The training detailed about the type of drugs that were most harmful. Who knew that fetal alcohol poisoning and a mother who smoked were more harmful to the baby that someone who smoked marijuana. (Neither is good for the baby btw)
The home study is where you get nickel and dimed to death. The agency cost is pretty upfront – ours was $2100. It’s getting your background checks and driving records from multiple states for us, and any other random thing they may need. Those things cost money. Granted it’s not a lot up front but it adds up — $5 here, $20 there, another $15 here and next thing you know you have paid almost $500 just for paperwork.
On top of that while we were closing in on completing the home study we both received offers to transfer with our jobs to Georgia. It was depressing to know that everything we have done didn’t transfer. What made it easier was that we were organized. We already had a lot of the information that was needed but we had to go through another round of interviews.
“The pressures on but guess who ain’t gonna crack” – Jay –Z
We found our agency in Georgia shortly after we were matched. Just to give you a timeline we were matched September 2nd (we were still able to be matched because our initial homestudy was approved), we found an agency late September, our home study was completed around Halloween and MiMo was born November 18th. The interesting thing about it is that we were able to complete two home studies in 5 months. I’ve heard just completing 1 can take that long.
There is a lot to fear about the home study. Most people who have survived it say ‘don’t sweat it’ but there is a lot riding on the home study. Failing a home study will put a temporary hold on expanding your family. Go into the home study with a strategy who will handle what and how you will go about getting it done. Ask questions; get clarity because there is nothing like having to do the same thing multiple times (we had to do our financial report several times). The joy you feel at the end of the rainbow of bringing home baby makes it all worth it. Seriously it does — but the home study is aggravating.