Deciding to adopt a child is a major life decision for individuals and couples. There are many factors to consider when adopting, such as which type of adoption is best for your family, how much the adoption will cost, and whether you should use an agency. One particular source of concern for potential parents is the home study. States have a responsibility to investigate prospective parents and make sure the adoptive family will meet the child’s best interests. This article provides basic answers to frequently asked questions about adoption home studies.
My state makes me undergo a "home study" to see if I'm fit to be a parent. What should I expect?
States take their role of protecting children very seriously and typically require potential adoptive parents to undergo some sort of investigation (often called a “home study”) prior to adoption. There are three main purposes of the investigation:
An agency worker or social worker typically does the home study. Home study requirements are different for each state and agency, but they usually involve interviewing the prospective parents, reviewing the home life of the prospective parents, checking referrals, and conducting background checks. As part of the investigation, the caseworker will create a report assessing the home. Many states then forward this report to the court for evaluation, but some states simply allow a social worker to evaluate the report.
What information is included in the report?
The following information about prospective adoptive parents is generally included in a home study report:
The role of the home study report in the adoption process has grown in recent years, and instead of being a simple analysis of the potential home, it has become a launching point for counseling and education for prospective parents. For example, if the prospective parents already have biological children, many states will use the home study report to discuss how to integrate the adopted child into the biological family, when to address the issue of the child's adoption, etc.
I'm anxious that I may receive an unfavorable home study report, can I do anything about it?
Caseworkers are not looking for perfection and simply want to be sure adoptive parents can provide a safe, stable, and healthy home for the child. Don't be surprised, however, if there are some things you disagree with in the report. As long as those potential issues don't prevent you from adopting, it's usually best to simply discuss them with the social worker and try to resolve any problems in a cooperative fashion. In the event you do you receive an overwhelmingly unfavorable report, most states will allow you to contest the report or appeal any negative ruling.
If you are considering adopting a child and have questions about a home study or the adoption process in general, an experienced family law attorney can help provide legal advice specific to your situation.