I tell clients the adoption process is like getting on a roller coaster. You can count on ups and downs. So much of an adoption is out of the adoptive family’s control and can feel like getting on a roller coaster blindfolded, without knowing when it will start or end. You might have some fun, but it is likely going to be a little scary.
What is a home study?
A home study, or home assessment, is a process by which a licensed social worker or therapist evaluates a potential adoptive family to determine if they should be approved for the placement of a child for adoption. A home study is required by law in all states to complete an adoption. The home study is filed with the court in the adoption proceeding, so the Judge can review it before approving the adoption. The home study is also needed in order to obtain the initial order of custody, which allows the adoptive couple to care for and make medical decisions for the child.
Who performs the home study?
The home study provider will come to your home to meet with you. The provider will evaluate your home making sure the home meets basic safety standards and is appropriate for a child. Don’t panic! Your home doesn’t have to be perfect, or big or beautiful. The provider will discuss with you the goal of adopting and also provide helpful insight as to the adoption process and answer questions you may have. She will basically gather your entire life history, requesting extensive information about your family, past relationships, current relationship, parenting ideals and plans, details regarding education, employment, criminal and emotional health history. Basically, she will want to know everything about you. It will get personal, and it should. Sure, there may be things you’d rather not discuss, mistakes you’d rather leave in the past. However, most concerns if disclosed and addressed will not prevent a family from being approved for adoption. What is critical is that you are open and honest about it from the beginning. You will have to name individuals to provide reference letters along with verification from your doctor you are in good health. Some providers want marriage certificates and other documentation to support their analysis.
When is the home study needed and when should an adoptive family start the process?
The potential adoptive family should start the home study process as soon as they are serious about pursuing an adoption. The home study can take a few months to be completed and because it is required for placement, it is best to have it completed, or at least initiated, when the adoptive family is ‘matched’ with the birth mother.
A home study is valid for one year from the time of approval. Thus, if a family does not have a completed adoption within that year, the home study will have to be updated.
How much does it cost?
A home study can range in cost depending on the location. In the Midwest, most home studies cost between $1,000-$1,500 but in other areas the cost can exceed $2,500. A licensed individual can provide the home study, and adoption agencies perform home studies as well. Some agencies will provide the home study independently from other services.
Who should provide your home study?
Choosing a provider who you trust is very important. Although the goal of the home study process is to end with an approved home study, ideally the provider becomes someone that can be a guidepost for questions throughout the adoption process. You want to pick someone you feel comfortable with and who has experience in adoption. Seeking the recommendation from families who have previously adopted is a great place to start. Adoption attorneys can certainly provide their input as well.
The home study is work, but it is necessary work, and it can be the perfect opportunity to reflect and grow in your adoption journey. A good provider will make you think and provide needed support throughout the process. She will be nosy and bossy, so be prepared. A lot rides on the approval, so buckle up and get ready. Keep your eyes on the prize, because at the end of the adoption roller-coaster, hopefully somebody will be calling you mom and dad.
Megan Monsour is an attorney with Martin Pringle Law Firm. Her practice is devoted to adoption, assisted reproductive technology (ART) and child permanency litigation. She is committed to helping individuals and families realize their dreams of building a family. Megan represents both adoptive families and biological parents in their adoption journey and in a variety of other matters as well, including contested adoptions, foster care adoptions, step-parent adoptions, relative adoption, same sex and second parent adoptions. Additionally, she represents intended parents and carriers in surrogacy agreements. Megan is a Fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and has been recognized by Kansas and Missouri Super Lawyers as a Rising Star since 2011.
For more information on Martin Pringle’s adoption & surrogacy practice, please visit their website.