Thursday, June 29, 2017
WHAT IS IT, WHY IT IS NEEDED AND WHO SEES IT?
The adoption homestudy is a narrative report prepared by a social worker to describe who you are, why you are adopting, a description of the child you hope to adopt and the type of home you will provide for a child. The overall goal is to show you have the physical, mental, emotional, social and financial means to adopt, plus that you have an understanding of general parenting, the adoption process and the complexities of adoption in your and your child's lives.
Some states allow private social workers to conduct the homestudy. Most require the homestudy to be completed by a licenced adoption agency.
Topics included in the homestudy are your biographical history, where you grew up, who was in your family, family relationships, your education, hobbies, interests, employment and future plans to either work or be a stay at home parent. You will also discuss the adoption process, which will include the reason you are adopting, the type of child you are looking to adopt, relationships with expectant and birth parents and issues of adoptive parenting and living as an adoptive family.
You will also be asked to provide documentation to substantiate the information you provide. Most often the documents requested are birth certificates, marriage, divorce or death decrees, medicals for all household members (this may also include pets), adoption decrees, income verification (letters from employers, W2, 1099, investment income or income tax filings), and reference letters. Child abuse and criminal clearances are also conducted.
There will be, at least, one home visit and at least one interview will be conducted with each member of the household. Children will need to be observed and, depending on age, interviewed. Many homestudy processes include a required adoptive parent training course, which is done in person or on-line. Individual states, countries, adoption agencies or social workers may have additional document and visit requirements.
Once all documents, interviews and training have been completed, the social worker will write the adoption homestudy report, which includes the recommendation to adopt and the type of child for which you are approved.
The final report is used at various points in your adoption process. In some states, an agency adoption homestudy is the final step of an adoptive parent's approval. In others, the adoption homestudy and accompanying documents need to be submitted to a local court for state adoption approval. Others require the adoption homestudy to be signed off by a state licensing board. For international adoptions, the adoption homestudy and accompanying documents are submitted through United States Citizenship and Immigration Services/Department of Homeland Security, who give the final approval for the adoptive parent to adopt from overseas.
HOW IS IT USED IN A DOMESTIC ADOPTION?
In a domestic adoption, the adoption homestudy is used by attorneys and adoption agencies to become familiar with adopting parent(s) and families. If permitted to make matches of birth and adopting parents, the report is also reviewed to see the type of child the adopting parent(s) are looking for as well as their view on relationships with birth parents during the adoption process and after the child is living in their new home.
The adoption homestudy may be used by a birth parent's attorney to familiarize themselves with the adopting parent(s) and to prepare court or Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) paperwork to bring the child from the state of birth into the resident state of the adopting parent(s).
The adoption homestudy is rarely shared with birth parents, and would be redacted if done so. Rather the adopting family prepares a "Dear Birth Mother Letter” or "Adoptive Parent(s) Book" - which includes their story, photos and description of the type of family and lifestyle the child would have if adopted by them.
The adoption homestudy along with other documents is also reviewed by the court that has jurisdiction over the adoption finalization.
HOW IS IT USED IN AN INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION?
In an international adoption, the adoption homestudy is reviewed by the attorney or adoption agency assisting with the adoption. It is also reviewed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services/Department of Homeland Security as part of the paperwork submitted for the pre-adoption approval as adoptive parents.
The adoption homestudy is then part of the international dossier that is used in the overseas application to adopt, and reviewed by the in country adoption staff, attorneys or agency representatives.
The adoption homestudy is also presented as part of the paperwork reviewed for the finalization of the adoption process - either in country or in the United States.
While many adopting parents fear or resent having to do the adoption homestudy, it is the responsibility of local organizations, states, countries and the United States government to protect children in need of permanent homes. It is also important for adopting parents to understand the responsibility of adopting and raising children, as well as the differences in living as an adoptive family. The adoption homestudy, if done properly, helps prepare parent(s) for the challenges and joys of adoption and adoptive parenting. In addition, the relationship built with the social worker during the homestudy process offers a source for information and support during the adoption process and in the parenting years to come.
Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and adopted persons, as well as trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series and is currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York. Her blogs and written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including her BLOG and as Head Writer for ADOPTION.NET She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly at EMAIL