What is a home study? Do I need one to adopt and how do I have one completed? This article is designed to answer your questions and reduce your anxiety over the home study process. In the State of New York, every adoptive parent is required to go through a home study process, whether for private or public/foster adoption.* The home study is actually a written report, describing the prospective adoptive family. The home study is prepared by a licensed social worker, after a thorough in person interview. Your home study will be submitted at different stages in your adoption, to different entities.
In a private, independent or non-agency adoption, your attorney will help you contact a social worker, experienced in preparing adoptive home studies. The social worker will meet with you and each member of your household, at your home. Your family and your home will be described in detail in the report. The social worker will give you an advance list of the documents she requires. Please understand that the social worker is not there to trip you up, or make you feel uncomfortable. Rather the social worker is part of your adoption team and should be regarded as a valuable resource on all things adoption. Your social worker is tasked with preparing a report for the Family Court, which gives a complete picture of you. Accordingly, you will be asked for biographical information, including details about where you grew up, your extended family, education, hobbies and interests. You will also discuss your relationship with your partner, if you have one, and your motivation for adopting. The social worker will explore, with you, your finances, religious practice, parenting philosophy, medical and psychiatric or counseling history. Some of the documents required include personal letters of reference, driver’s license, birth certificate, passport or visa, social security cards, tax returns, and recent physicals.
In addition, the social worker will ask about any history of, or present use of illegal or prescription drugs or alcohol, domestic violence, child or sexual abuse. Child abuse and criminal history checks will be conducted. It is important to be fully truthful with the social worker as the court will not look favorably upon information that is withheld and later uncovered. It is not uncommon for an adoptive parent to have a prior arrest for a minor crime or a history of emotional counseling. Most often, this type of history will not preclude you from adopting. Your attorney and social worker will answer your questions about whether these issues rise to a level of concern for your certification as an adoptive parent. Typically, they do not.
The Family Court judge reviews your home study during the pre-certification process in New York. You must be certified as a qualified adoptive parent before you may bring home a baby or child. The home study is an integral part of the certification process. Later, if you are bringing a child home from another state, your home study will be forwarded to the agency or attorney assisting us with that state’s Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). This administrative office exists in every state and the administrator reviews the home study before an infant or child may cross state lines for the purposes of adoption. After your baby comes home, the social worker will come back for a post – placement visit and prepare an updated report, called the post placement report, expressing her opinion that your family is adjusting well and giving her support for the adoption to proceed.
The home study is one of the first steps on your journey to becoming an adoptive parent. Your social worker is there to gather information and educate you on the adoptive process and adoptive parenting. She should be a wonderful resource for you for books and other adoptive parenting resources. Remember, the social worker is there to be an advocate for you during the process and a strong source of support during the adjustment of becoming a new family.
*If you are planning to adopt through the foster system, you will also need a home study but you will not be required to hire a social worker to prepare it. The social services agency, with which you are working, will prepare you to become a certified foster parent and as part of that process, an agency caseworker will come to your home and interview you for a home study.