Getting Ready for Your Adoption Homestudy

By Theresa McCoy, LBSW

terri mccoyIf you are looking into adoption, you have probably heard that you‘ll need a "homestudy." Even the word, itself, is intimidating and brings forth images of social workers in white gloves testing for dust on your furniture.

In reality, a homestudy is not only an evaluation tool used by social workers, it is also a learning process for you. If you are working with a licensed adoption agency, classes may be required prior to the homestudy to help you prepare for your unique adoption experience. Subjects might include Birthparent Issues . . . Talking With Your Child About Adoption . . . Respecting Your Child's Heritage . . . Attachment, and other related topics. Because these classes are an important step in the process, both parents are expected to attend (no excuses). Arrange your schedule(s) accordingly.

Following the classes will be a series of interviews with a social worker. At least one of these will be in your home and should include all current family members. Keep in mind that the social worker is looking for the "real" you, not just the "right" answers to his/her questions. An honest portrayal of your lifestyle, personalities, and parenting style is vitally important. When completed, your homestudy will be a comprehensive report on you and your family, including a recommendation as to your suitability to adopt.

During the matching process, your completed homestudy may stay with the original agency or, if you are working across state lines or between countries, it may be shared with other agencies/social workers.

In domestic infant placements, birthparents are often involved in choosing new parents for the child. In this case, in addition to the homestudy, you may be asked to create a "personal profile" for birthparents to read. This is not a form to fill out, rather it is your opportunity to portray your family in a very personalized way through a letter or scrapbook that will be shared with a birthparent. Creativity and honesty are very important because your profile is the first impression that birth parents will have as they consider you as possible parent(s) for their child. Imagine yourself being the birthparent. What would you need to know before trusting the care of your child to a total stranger?

The following charts will help you prepare for the entire process, including points to include in your personal profile.

Expect questions/paperwork about:
Adoption preferences (ie. age, open
adoption, special needs, etc.) 
Family Background
Marital History
Child Rearing Philosophy and Practices
Physical/Mental Health
Job History/Occupation
Financial Information
Criminal Record
Child Abuse Registry checks
Letter to Birthparents (See below)

Be prepared for questions about why you want to adopt, what your hopes are for your child's future, how you will handle discipline and how you were parented as a child. The paperwork may seem endless, but it can provide you and your partner with an opportunity to talk over important issues in preparation for parenthood.

Helpful Suggestions . . .
In General
  • Discuss adoption ahead of time with children/relatives.
  • It's not necessary to prepare new child's room beforehand; There is no guarantee of placement and it may set you up for heartbreak.
  • Be enthusiastic, but don't overdo phone calls to wrkr.
  • Attend all classes – it shows you are committed.
During the interviews:
  • Turn off TV and cell phone
  • Arrange activities (or get sitter for young children.)
  • A perfect house isn't necessary; a lived
  • in look is "kid-friendly".
  • Ask questions – this is your life; you need to know everything.
  • Give detailed answers. "Yes" and "No" may not be enough.
  • Be honest about your past: over-coming challenges can be a strength
  • It's OK to say "I don't know. . . I may need your advise on that."
Creating Your Profile for Birthparent Review

Choose a format (letter w/photos or a scrapbook of photos w/captions). Use no more than two pages for a letter. (Hand write if your spelling and handwriting are good.) Use first names only, do not include identifying info (address, schools attended, last name, etc.)
Include description of:
- Why you decided to adopt
- Marital relationship
- Your personality, interests, hobbies.
- Values and beliefs
- Occupation 
- Ability to provide higher education
- Home and community (good schools, etc.)
- Family/ closeness to relatives
- Relatives' attitude toward adoption
Explain feelings about:
- Meeting with birthparent
- Willingness to share info/photos post adoption
- Telling child about birth parent

Add A Personal Message:
- Acknowledge courage of birth- parent's decision 
- Ask to be chosen

These are brief guidelines. Use your own creativity, but most of all, be honest and be yourself.

Homestudies vary from state to state, agency to agency. Check the laws in your state; a homestudy may possibly be waivered for relatives and step-parent adoptions. Your homestudy may need to be updated to stay current or a new one completed for the adoption of another child. Be informed . . . be patient . . . the results will be worth the wait.

Theresa McCoy, LBSW has served all parties to adoption for twenty-five years, working in both public and private agencies in Iowa as well as handling independent homestudies. In addition to her work with children and families, she is a partner in Adoption World Specialties and has authored life books and an adoption preparation workbook for children.