The adoption home study is typically one of the first steps a prospective adoptive family takes in the adoption process. And perhaps one of the most important. Once the process is complete, the family is officially an adoptive family, and they can begin the process of finding a child. But you may wonder, “What is an adoption home study?”

The home study is an overview of the hopeful adoptive family’s life, and a licensed social will complete it. Financial information, copies of birth certificates, criminal background checks and clearances, marriage licenses, health records and an in-home visit from the social worker are part of the home study. The visit involves a series of interviews with both adoptive parents and a home safety inspection.

State and federal governments require that home studies are performed to ensure the potential parents can adequately provide and care for a child. The home study checks if the home is a safe environment, and most importantly, if the parents are good people.

There are many hurdles you will have to jump during the home study before being  approved for adoption. But as long as you are prepared, organized and patient, the process will go smoothly and productively.

The Home Study Process

Finalizing a home study can seem daunting, but remaining motivated and understanding the requirements will make the process easier. And you will soon be moving forward with adoption.

Locate a Home Study Provider

The first step you will take in the adoption home study process is finding a home study provider in Tennessee. Most of the time, you will receive an application and more information detailing the items the state requires. After you return the application to your home study provider, you will be assigned a licensed home study social worker. They will be your point of contact, assisting you through the rest of the home study process.

Provide Required Documents

The next step in the home study process is to gather the required documentation. The social worker will collect it from you during their first visit to your home. The documentation stage of the home study is usually the most time-consuming and involves a significant amount of effort from the adoptive family. This is a crucial step in becoming parents, and the time and effort you put into it are absolutely worth it. The following are the types of documents and clearances you will need to give to your home study provider.

Clearances and Background Checks

Every state requires the adoptive family to undergo criminal background checks in their respective states. Thirty-one states require federal background checks, as well. Also, under the Adam Walsh Act of 2006, 38 states require federal child abuse and neglect clearances in every state that each family member has lived over the past five years. Your home study provider will give you in-depth instructions on how to get started on these background checks and clearances for Tennessee.

Financial Information

Most home study providers require documents that demonstrate the adoptive family can financially afford a new addition. They may request employer payment stubs, tax returns or income statements from the adoptive parents. Although the adoptive parents don’t have to be wealthy to adopt a child, they have to provide the child with everything needed to live a healthy, secure life.

Health Statements

Proof of the adoptive family’s physical and mental health is vital for an approved home study. Most states require the adoptive family to have a current bill of health from their physicians. And a general health information survey that includes their weight, height, tobacco use, etc. can be completed by the adoptive parents.

The mental health of the adoptive family is also a factor. Additional documentation is required if one of the adoptive parents has ever struggled with a mental health condition such as bipolar disorder or depression. They usually need to obtain a statement from their physician that  they are healthy enough to parent. This type of statement will also be required if the adoptive couple has participated in marriage counseling.

References

References provide another way for the social worker to learn more about the adoptive family. The home study worker will ask the adoptive parents to list three to five references, along with their names, phone numbers, and addresses. The adoptive family can choose anyone unrelated to serve as a reference. Examples include a coworker, boss, teacher, family friend, pastor, neighbor or anyone else that knows them well.

Once the documentation process is near completion, you should prepare for the in-home visit. Your social worker will come to your home for two purposes: an interview and inspection. Adoption home studies aren’t just presenting important documentation. You also need to prepare accordingly for the inspection and interview.

Close up of a hand checking a ceiling mounted smoke detector.

Prepare for the Home Inspection

The primary reason for a home inspection is to ensure that your living environment is safe for a child. Before the inspection, feel free to ask your social worker about specific things she will be examining in your home. It’s not a big secret, and she will be happy to share information to help you prepare. Below are some of the basic safety factors to consider when preparing for your visit.

Fire Safety Regulations

Make sure you have working smoke alarms throughout the home, and at least one fire extinguisher, typically located in the kitchen. Plan your escape route in case of a fire. Ensure you have a reliable way to exit the home from upper levels if applicable.

Fencing and Windows

If your yard is fenced, make sure it is in good repair.  If you have a pool or body of water on your property, you must have a fence around it. Check all your windows to make sure they are in proper working order and have screens intact.

Childproofing

It may seem unnecessary to childproof your home before the child arrives; however, it demonstrates that you are serious and prepared. So, it’s a good idea to go ahead and childproof your home before the inspection. There’s plenty of information online about childproofing methods. Place all dangerous items out of a child’s reach. Be sure to lock away all cleaning products, firearms, sharp knives, etc.

Cleanliness

It may seem obvious, but you do need to ensure that your home is tidy. The social worker is not looking for perfection. She wants to see that your home is clean and safe. She will likely want to see the bedroom where the child will sleep, as well. You don’t necessarily need to have all the furniture ready, but the room should be clean and devoid of any safety issues.

Pets

If you have pets, they need to be socialized and able to deal with strangers. An aggressive pet is considered dangerous to a child. So, if your animal has hostile tendencies, you may need to think about how this animal will fit into your life in the future.

Prepare for the Home Study Interview

The questions in the interview generally fall into one of three categories: health, income, and autobiography. Your autobiography will be the largest portion of the interview, and questions revolve around your past. Some examples include:

  • How was your childhood and family of origin?
  • What are your thoughts on discipline?
  • What are your favorite childhood memories?
  • What are your worst childhood memories?
  • What are your most pressing fears?
  • How long have you been married (if applicable)?
  • Do you have other children?
  • What are your reasons for choosing adoption?
  • What are your plans or hopes for the future?

 

The key to a successful home study is preparation. If you are seeking a Tennessee home study professional, contact us today at 865-392-6261. Our licensed social workers and adoption professionals are happy to assist you.

 

Author: Destiny Adoption Services

Destiny Adoption Services is proud to support and guide birth parents and adoptive families on the journey of adoption. We’re a state licensed nonprofit adoption agency with four decades of adoption experience, and our professional team of experts includes moms, adoptive moms and birth mothers who provide compassion combined with trusted resources and skills.