In the present day world, home study requirements vary from state to state, and sometimes from agency to agency. Sometimes, agencies who do international and domestic adoptions will apply some of the requirements for the Hague Convention to their domestic adoptions. I’m not sure if Hague requires this or if it’s just easier for the agency to have one basic process. In any case, all the different requirements can be baffling to prospective adoptive parents (PAPs).
In addition, there are people who question whether home studies are good enough. Most of this questioning comes from the international adoption side, where you see tragic stories about parents dissolving adoptions or worse, killing their children. However, the concerns brought up on the international side certainly can be applied to the domestic side. What does it matter how many times you have sex each month?* Shouldn’t the social workers be asking you about your support networks instead?
When I wrote for AdoptionBlogs.com, I wrote a list of what our home study documents entailed. Today, I’m going to talk about what home studies in Robyn’s Adoption Land entail. To make things easier, we’re going to say that a couple is adopting, just so I don’t have to worry about plurals and whatnot.
- The Application: Names, address, basic biographical information (ages, birthdays, etc.), valid forms of identification.
- The Photo: A photograph of the prospective adoptive parents/family.
- The Family Questionnaire: who are you? Why do you want to adopt? Who is in your family? Where do you live? What was your childhood like? Where did you go to school? Why do you want to be a parent? What kind of discipline would you use? What are the values you hope to instill in your children? Where can you turn for support? Where do you turn for support now? Are the people in your lives supportive of your adoption? Lots and lots of questions like these.
- The Child Questionnaire: What type of child do you hope to adopt? This is a list of all of the potential health problems a child might have – blind, deaf, drug and alcohol exposure, cerebral palsy, etc.
- Autobiographical Statements: Written statements about the PAPs’ lives. Basically, one paragraph for every 5 years or so of life.
- Marriage Certificate: A copy of your marriage certificate (if applicable).
- Divorce Decree: A copy of any divorce decrees (if applicable).
- Live Scan: A criminal background check that is run through a national database.
- Criminal Record Statement: A list of any criminal convictions.
- CPR and First Aid Certification: Hopefully, you will never need to use it, but it’s good to know.
- Guardian Designation Form: Choose the guardians for your child in the case of your untimely deaths. The guardians have to sign the form stating that they’re prepared to take on this task.
- Character References: Letters from 3 people, at least 1 of whom isn’t related to you, that state you’re solid people who would make good parents. (We had to get 6 from very specific individuals. That’s just way too many.)
- Medical Report: a form filled out by a doctor, stating any medical conditions. The important part is that the doctor writes that you are physically able to take care of a child. If you have any children in your house, you need to share any major medical information about them too. As always, being “up to date” on one’s vaccinations is not required. This step also requires a basic physical for all family members, which must be covered by insurance.
- IRS 1040: Two years’ worth of tax returns to prove financial stability.
- Financial Statement: A list of monthly income and expenses. This has more to do with the fact that fees in Robyn’s Adoption Land are charged on a sliding scale based on income.
- Social Worker Home Visit Reports: The social worker must come to the PAPs’ home twice. Once to take a cursory glance around and note anything that might need to be addressed, but primarily to interview the PAPs. The second visit is a more thorough study of the actual home.
- Education: All PAPs must take an approved seminar (can be a webinar) about open adoption. If the PAPs might adopt transracially, they need to add an approved seminar/webinar about transracial adoption. If the PAPs have indicated they might be open to specific special needs, they need to take the appropriate seminars/webinars about those special needs. (A seminar about parenting special needs kids in general might suffice. I just want to make sure that parents are prepared.) In addition, there will be a reading list from which PAPs must select at least 3 books to read and perhaps answer some brief questions about.
- Legal Forms Required to Cover the Home Study Agency’s Butt: Risk Release, Know Your Rights, Fee Schedule, and so on.
Note what isn’t included: A Job Verification Letter. If you’ve got income – and you’ve proved you have because you just handed over your 1040s – you don’t need to trouble your employer for a letter verifying it. I had to tell a white lie to get my employer to write my letter because I was afraid of being fired for adopting, much like I imagine some pregnant women fear being fired for being pregnant. Then, there are the parents who plan on being stay at home parents afterwards anyway. I think the Job Verification Letter opens the door for discrimination. People may not be comfortable sharing their adoption plans at work, and that’s OK.
Home studies in most states are good for one year, then they expire. At that point, you have to update them. Unfortunately, an update is almost as involved as the initial home study. In Robyn’s Adoption Land, home studies don’t expire until an adoption is finalized. At the one year mark, you do have to have another Home Visit with Interview, just to stay current. If anything significant happens during the process – you become pregnant, you become the guardians or parents of another child (such as in kinship or step-parent adoption), you get married or divorced, you move, you have a major health event (cancer, heart attack, etc.), you get arrested and convicted of something – then you need to update any relevant portions of your home study, and have another Home Visit with Interview.
* We were not asked about our sex lives, but apparently, many PAPs are.