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One of the most important aspects of preparing for adoption is the home study or home visit. I talk to a lot of couples who are planning to adopt or are starting the process and this is one thing that makes people nervous. To them, it seems overwhelming to have a stranger come into their home and check things out. But, the reality is that this is a critical part of the adoption process that will also help you reflect on what you hope to be as a parent. The most important thing to remember is that a social worker isn’t coming to judge you or your home, but to ensure that it is ready to accommodate a child. 

What is a home study?

A home study, which is sometimes referred to as the home visit, is when a licensed social worker comes to see your home and interview those who are interested in adoption. The purpose of this visit is to ensure that your home is a safe environment for a child. The reasons for a home study are if you’re embarking on the adoption process or are planning to foster. 

Social workers will look at your home, meet your pets, and check out the room that a child might be living in. (For most home studies, it is required that the child’s bedroom has a window and not be in a basement. Check with your local agency to verify what constitutes an official bedroom in your area). Additionally, if you already have children, they’re going to want to meet them as well. I often hear people say that this seems obtrusive, but it’s not and in fact, it makes a lot of sense and helps you get ready to parent. 

What does a home study entail?

Be prepared for your home to be on full display. (I was surprised that our social worker looked into closets and wanted to hang out with our dog). An interview process is a major aspect of the visit where you’ll be asked about your plans for raising a child from education to discipline. You might be surprised to find that many social workers will ask about your own childhood and some fairly personal questions about your relationship if you’re in one. Your social worker is asking these questions not to make you feel uncomfortable or put you on the spot, but to ensure that you are equipped and thinking about what things are important to you as a future parent or caregiver.

How do you prepare for a home visit? 

When I thought about a home study, I was more worried about presenting a clean house. But, there were other things that we needed to do. Remember to check your smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and to ensure that you have working fire extinguishers. You’ll also want to ensure that you have a first aid kit and though not always necessary at the time of the visit, this is a good time to ensure that your house is properly child proofed with outlet covers, gates, etc. 

The best way to prepare is to talk to the social worker or agency ahead of time as well and get a general idea of what will take place. Also note that the home study could take a bit of time and you may want to have drinks and refreshments available for the social worker. A home study does expire. Most are only good for a year, so if you still plan to adopt and haven’t in that time frame, you’ll be asked to update your information. Sometimes it’s just your paperwork, but you may meet with the social worker again if anything major has changed–particularly if you’ve moved.

The process of going through a home study can seem overwhelming and fill you with anxiety, but after going through the process myself, I do see the value. It’s a great way to think more about your own ideas of parenting and how you will raise a child in your home, but also ensures that if a child is coming into your home, it’s a safe and hospitable environment for him or her. Following placement, the social worker will likely come back to see how things are going and do a final check. This time, you won’t worry so much if your house is spotless!

If you have more questions about the home study process, reach out to Adoption Choice, Inc