Adoption Home Study Advice
There is tons of advice out there on hundreds of adoption blogs regarding preparing the paperwork and interview answers for an adoption or foster home study process. This is not one of those blogs. This collection of tips focuses on preparing yourself and your home for the social worker’s home visit. Many of the suggestions come from social workers that have performed countless home study visits.
Cleanliness and Safety
Social workers are looking for a home that is reasonably clean and safe. In other words, don’t hire a cleaning service. There are countless online anecdotes from people who prepared diligently for months for their home visit only to have the social worker surprise them with just a few hours notice on a bad day. Their houses in a natural state of disarray, they still received approval to adopt. Sometimes the lived-in look is an endearing sign that you have a real life. Just make sure that your safety precautions are never sub-par. Have at least one smoke detector on every floor. Make sure power cords are safely tucked away and the pool is fenced and gated. Hazardous chemicals or weapons should be locked away.
“Make sure your home meets state standards, such as working smoke detectors, safe firearm storage and adequate space for each child.” – SheKnows.com.
“It is not necessary to clean the whole home from top to bottom. A certain level of cleanliness is necessary, but “lived-in” family clutter is expected. Most social workers would worry that people living in a “picture perfect” home would have a difficult time adjusting to the clutter that a child brings to a household.” – Adoption Related Services, Inc.
“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.” – Adoption & Child Welfare LawSite
“They (potential adopters) have usually been given a lot of ‘unusual’ advice by well-meaning friends and family members, some of it being from long ago when a ‘white glove test’ was in place. For one example, it is not necessary to hire a cleaning crew to come in and scour the house. A clean house is great, but don’t overdo. We workers want to see life in your home as it really is.” – Shannon Hoy, Social Worker from Georgia
“Get your home ready for a visitor, but don’t exhaust yourself cleaning and polishing,” – Friends in Adoption
“Social workers normally don’t look inside your kitchen cabinets to see whether your pots and pans are neatly arrayed, nor will they check your medicine cabinet in the bathroom to see whether you have any interesting drugs in there.” – FamilyEducation.com
Social workers may also want to check to make sure that your pets are clean and appear cared for and may even check their vaccination records. It stands to reason that if you are fastidious about pet hygiene and up-to-date on your pets’ medical care, you would take at least as much care with adopted children.
“I’m not kidding here: The social worker will want to see any pets you have to determine their compatibility with children. This is probably a good time to take a hard look at whether you really want to keep Brutus, your pet pit bull. (I know I am risking the wrath of pit bull lovers everywhere, who swear they are the nicest, kindest creatures on God’s green earth. But you’ll have to ask yourself: How badly do you want to adopt?)” – FamilyEducation.com
“This may sound silly, but little things to ask your worker before that first visit are important, like whether they are afraid of dogs, cats, other pets. I am intimidated by a large dog meeting me at the door first thing and barking (sometimes growling) furiously. I get distracted and don’t even feel like I have made a proper introduction. It would be best to put pets in another room until you ascertain whether the worker has a concern about pets, or even an allergy.” – Shannon Hoy
If baking relaxes you, then by all means, knock yourself out. However, providing a topnotch, catered brunch should not come at the expense of your sanity. The first priority is your demeanor. For instance, it would be better to sacrifice the Snickerdoodles, than be found lacking in your interview preparation. You don’t want to come across as “sweating the small stuff” because as the book says, “it’s all small stuff” – especially in parenting. Simply provide refreshments as appropriate to the time period that the social worker will be at your home.
“Offer the social worker a soft drink or cup of coffee when he/she arrives in your home. Family photos are a great way for the worker to ‘get to know’ your family (don’t bore him/her with volumes of albums, but some framed photos will be great.)” – Friends in Adoption
“Sure, offer something to drink, like coffee or ice water. However, don’t spend a great deal of time beforehand creating fancy appetizers or elaborate dessert creations. The social worker is there to do a job.” – FamilyEducation.com
Humor has a great place to break the ice and relieve the tension of a nerve-wracking situation, just make sure it’s appropriate and not overdone. Excessive attempts at cracking jokes and uncontrolled nervous laughter might red-flag an attempt to cover up an uncomfortable topic.
“Rely on your sense of humor, you will need this throughout the adoption process. A smile, a firm handshake, a joke, a generally warm and friendly demeanor among yourselves and with the social worker, will go a long way.” – Friends in Adoption
Social workers will want to meet the main players in a child’s potential home. This includes the parents, adult children or a live-in nanny or other help. Discourage curious, however well-meaning, friends, neighbors and relatives from dropping by to put in the good word for you. The social worker wants to get the chance to really dig into your background and motivation for adopting. Outsiders would detract from their ability to get to know you one-on-one. There is plenty of opportunity for loved ones to rave about you through a written personal recommendation. Although the social worker might want to meet and talk with young children already living in the home, it might be wise to arrange care for them once you get down to the nitty-gritty of your interview as they could be a distraction and might discourage absolute honesty.
“Sensitive issues can come up, so make certain you schedule those interviews on dates when other children or household members, that you don’t want to discuss these things in front of, are out of the home. I’ve had an unsuccessful interview when a parent was trying to keep little ears from hearing about a past abuse situation, former marriage, arrest, etc. was being discussed.” – Shannon Hoy
Above all, honesty
Don’t hide negative aspects of your personal history. As long as they are truly in the past, a heartfelt tale of overcoming adversity can demonstrate tenacity, strength and determination – all good qualities in parents (adoptive or not). In addition, experienced social workers are good at sussing out the truth. If they catch you in a lie, it would be far worse for your reputation than owning up to past problems.
“Many times, a family can prepare by being very open about the things that will be discussed. A problem that sometimes arises is that sometimes,someone does not want to disclose a prior criminal record or a past marriage, or any number of things, but it is important to do so because these things are found out, and you never want to build mistrust by not divulging that information to your worker before she finds out from another source. Honesty is key.” – Shannon Hoy
“Be completely forthright about all aspects of your life, and don’t mislead the home study worker by avoiding or limiting what you share about any part of your life.” – Friends in Adoption
“Report even minor incidences. The documents collected in the home study process will expose an inconsistency in what you have presented about your family. This may harm your chances of obtaining an approved home study, approval of a court, or in the case of international adoption, USCIS approval. Answer all questions honestly and be forthright about matters that can be checked or that continue to cause problems.” – Adoption Related Services, Inc.
Adoption Related Services, Inc. – http://www.adoption-related-services.org/faq.php
Friends in Adoption – http://www.friendsinadoption.org/adoption-resources/for-potential-adoptive-parents/adoption-home-study/
Shannon Hoy, Georgia Center for Adoption & Foster Care – http://www.gaadoptionresources.org/resources/archived-chats/161-tips-for-getting-through-a-homestudy-from-a-social-workers-perspective
FamilyEducation.com – http://life.familyeducation.com/adoption/parenting/34398.html
Adoption & Child Welfare LawSite – http://www.adoptionchildwelfarelaw.org
SheKnows.com – http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/812206/the-adoption-home-study