Wednesday, December 16, 2015


So many people fear the homestudy and social worker visit. They worry about their apartment being large enough, their home meeting any state or federal standards or that their dog may be too friendly or bark too much. Mostly, they worry that they will be deemed good enough to be approved as an adoptive parent.

Let’s start at the beginning – The social worker has the task of evaluating you and your home for the placement of a child. This includes assessing if you understand parenting and adoption, have family, social and community support, have the financial resources needed and if your home is suitable for the raising of a child.

Most social workers take this responsibility seriously. They are not looking to turn you down, but rather making sure what type of child (age, gender, medical or psychological need, etc.) is the best match for you and your family.

What is the best way to convey you are a good person and will be a great parent or will be able to add another child to your family?

Be prepared. You cannot study for the homestudy. In fact, most of the information is autobiographical. You know who you are and what your life has been up to now. If you were asked to do adoptive parent training, do it before the visit and be prepared to talk about what you learned or if you still have questions.

I approach the homestudy as a dialogue between myself  and the adoptive parent(s). I am there to collect information and educate. Adoptive parents are there to provide information and ask questions. Together we can make sure that you are prepared for the adoption process and the intricacies of adoptive parenting.

Your home needs to be a safe and inviting place, where a child can grow and flourish. You should ask the social worker if you need to have a room cleared or set up for a child, but it is not necessary that  the room be set up as a nursery or child’s room in every instance.  Every state, agency and social worker has different requirements. I like to know which spaces the child will occupy. If an infant will initially sleep in a bassinet in a parent’s room or will have a room of its own.  In New York, where I practice, many growing families do not move to a larger space until they outgrow the one they are in or have used a spare room as an office or guest room. The home does not need to be immaculate. In fact, a home that is too clean or minimalist in style leads to a discussion of how the parent will emotionally handle all the equipment, toys, etc. that are part of a child’s life. It is wise to make sure there are no safety hazards in or around the home. Safety proofing  outlet plugs, stair gates and window guards can be installed before you bring a child home

Lastly, have a pad and pen ready to take notes. I often provide local resources or suggested readings or Internet sites, or go over what documents are still outstanding.

Be yourself. It is pretty easy for the social worker to spot when someone is not being truthful or emotionally strained. If you are nervous, let the social worker know, before the visit and on the day of the visit. If you have difficult periods in your life or in your family history (illness, substance abuse, divorce, etc.), be honest and be prepared to share how you have overcome or grown from these experiences.

The social worker is trying to get a feeling for who you are and wants to be able to reflect your story and personality in the report.

Don’t hide pets. They are a part of your family and how they react to a child in the home is an important part of your preparation phase to parenting. As a dog owner, I am aware of the status your pet holds in the family and watching you interact with your pet is indicative of your capacity for love, patience and nurturing.

Make your home welcoming. Most social workers will have travelled some distance to get to your home. After introducing yourself and all family members, ask them where they would like to sit (in the living room, kitchen, etc.). The social worker will be writing down information and many like to sit at a table. Then offer them something to drink (coffee, tea, water, etc.). You may also want to put out a snack that is easy to eat while talking and writing (cheese and crackers, cut up fresh fruit, nuts and dried fruit, etc.). If you know the social worker is coming around mealtime, ask them ahead if you can provide a more substantial meal (breakfast breads or pastries, sandwiches, salad, etc.). Ask if there is a beverage they prefer. Again, you want to make sure they can eat and conduct the interview at the same time. Providing food to anyone is a nurturing and caring gesture. I have always appreciated this kindness.

While you may have spoken on the phone, the home visit is the chance for you and the social worker to get to know one another on your home turf. As you show them around your home, make sure to point out personal touches or photographs. Mention any renovations you did when you moved in or will do in preparation of your child’s arrival. Describe the plans for the child’s room or nursery.

Allow time for the visit. You should discuss with the social worker approximately how long they will be in your home, so you can plan accordingly. Take off the day or let the office know you will be in late. If you have other children in your home, talk to the social worker and plan ahead of time when they will need to be present. Your other child (children) will need to be seen but there will be times your child can be in another room. With a younger child, it might be a good idea to have someone there to watch your child while you are talking to the social worker. A family member or babysitter your child knows is a good choice.

The social worker. The social worker is assessing who you are and the type of child you are hoping to add to your family. They provide information, a shoulder to lean on and assist you as you adjust to parenting. As an advocate for children, parents and families – it is easiest for me to help when I really have a good feeling for who you are, your hopes and dreams for parenting, how you react to change and what are the social network and resources in your community.  By getting to know you, and you me, this relationship can last during the adoption process and in the parenting years ahead.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. She has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled adoptive parents and parents-to-be, and has trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program from March 1992 to March 2015. She is Head Writer for, member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and has a private practice in New York City. She was a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series and named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. Follow or reach her at 

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