Finding an Adoption Home Study Professional
Who Does Home Studies for Adoption?
As many families who have already adopted can attest, the home study can be one of the most stressful parts of the adoption process. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
With the right preparation and education from a trusted home study professional, any family can complete the home study with minimal stress and move onto the exciting next steps of the adoption process. If you are a family considering adoption, you probably have a lot of questions about this: What is the home study like, and who can help me through it? How can I find the best home study agencies near me?
We’ll answer all of those questions and more in this guide to choosing an adoption home study professional. We want you to be prepared and equipped for a successful adoption. If you have more specific questions at any time while you’re reading, you can always call 1-800-ADOPTION to speak with an adoption specialist.
What is the adoption home study?
The home study is a review of the adoptive family’s home, lifestyle and adoption readiness. It is required in every form of adoption (including domestic infant adoption, foster care adoption and international adoption) to ensure that any placement is in the best interests of the child. While the home study can sometimes feel invasive to adoptive families, it is important to be completely open and honest during this process. Ultimately, the home study exists to protect children, which is a cause we can all support.
Who does home studies for adoption?
Adoption home study services are provided by licensed social workers. Typically, these social workers work for a larger agency of some kind. There are some adoption agencies that specialize in home studies specifically. There are other agencies, like American Adoptions, that are full-service adoption agencies and can provide home studies and adoption placement services, along with all of the other necessary support for the adoption process. Note that your adoption home study provider must be licensed to complete home studies in your state. American Adoptions is licensed to complete home studies only in certain states; contact your adoption specialist for more information.
How can I find home study agencies near me?
Since the home study can be a lengthy process, we recommend that you find an adoption home study professional and begin as soon as possible. Choosing an agency who does home studies for adoption can feel overwhelming. There are so many choices, and finding the right one matters. Families who work with American Adoptions can cut out all of this stress by working with our agency or a trusted home study office referred by an adoption specialist. As a full-service agency, we take the burden of this choice off families’ hands.
However, you do also have the option of finding an adoption home study services provider on your own. You could look at larger, national adoption agencies or smaller, local ones. Wherever you are looking, there are some important things to look for that will help you figure out which professional to work with.
Before we get into this guide on finding home study adoption agencies, a quick note: many state governments, adoption agencies and courts will only accept home studies from licensed adoption agencies. In our experience, the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) offices can deny or delay approval of an adoption when a home study is not completed by a licensed adoption home study professional. In that case, you may be required to have another home study performed. This could lengthen your wait and double your costs. While many professionals may claim to offer adoption home study services, it is important to keep this note in mind.
If you need assistance locating a licensed adoption home study professional in your state, please call or visit 1-800-HOMESTUDY, or ask your adoption coordinator for assistance.
What are some common adoption home study services to look for?
If you decide to look for a home study provider yourself, then you should check on how that provider performs each of the steps of the home study. When asking about these steps, also ask if timeliness is important to the home study professional. A fast home study is a top priority for many adoptive families, but not all providers operate at the same speed. Some adoption home study services are conducted slower than others, depending on who the agency is.
As you consider potential home study agencies for adoption, ask about each of the following aspects of the process:
Interview(s): The social worker who does your home study for adoption will interview all members of the family who live at home, as well as potentially other family members for character references. These interviews are a way of getting to know you and assessing your adoption readiness. When you’re talking with an adoption home study office, ask how quickly they can send someone to begin the interview process. Additionally, ask if they count your start date as the day you submit your application or the day of your interview. This will affect the speed of the entire process. Home study professionals who are unable to provide a specific response could work slowly.
Background checks: Although states vary on the required background checks for a home study, most require police records and child abuse registry checks. A home study cannot be completed until background checks are returned. Ask local home study professionals how long it typically takes for background checks to be returned and if this time is factored into their time estimate.
Writing of the home study: The end result of the home study is a written report that is sent to the adoption agency, state government and court. The process of creating this report varies significantly among home study professionals. Background checks might be returned and interviews completed, but some professionals may delay writing the home study weeks or months. Ask for references from adoption home study professionals to learn how quickly they will write your home study.
The cost of the home study: The cost of an adoption home study varies depending on the state where you live and the adoption home study agencies near you. It is important to inquire about the cost for the adoption home study, including post-placement visits and home study updates down the road (if needed). The type of adoption can also impact the cost of the adoption home study. For example, international home studies can have a higher cost due to a country’s additional requirements. Although it is important to inquire about cost, it should not be the only factor in choosing a home study professional. Consider the professional's ability to complete the home study in a timely fashion, as well as their credentials, licensing and expertise.
Post-placement services: There is a period of about six months after a baby is placed with a family before the adoption is finalized in court. During this time, a series of post-placement visits are required. These are essentially the same as the in-home visits during the home study process, except now the social worker can observe the new child in their new home. Typically, the same organization that provided adoption home study services before placement will conduct these visits, which is why it is important to ask about post-placement services.
Home study updates: In most states, a home study is only good for 12 months before it needs to be updated. Updates may also be necessary if a family moves to a new home, changes jobs or adds family members during the adoption process. Updating a home study is less intensive unless new issues are a cause for concern. Adoption home study agencies treat updates differently, which makes it a good thing to ask about.
Domestic vs. international home studies: Home studies for domestic and international adoptions are different, and international adoption home studies can differ from each other depending on the country the child was born in. Each country has different requirements, with some being stricter than others. There are plenty of adoption home study service providers who are only equipped for domestic home studies. If you are adopting internationally, ask if the home study organization has helped with international adoptions before, and ask about which countries those adoptions were from.
Is there anything I can do that could slow down or speed up my home study process?
The home study is all about flexibility on the part of the adoptive family. While families should be prepared for a long, time-consuming home study process, there are a few things you can do to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible:
If you can, make yourselves available for an interview as soon as the adoption home study professional can make an appointment.
Prepare ahead of time by looking over an adoption home study checklist and gathering all the necessary documents.
If your home study requires references from friends and family members, tell them in advance.
If a physician reference is necessary, obtain an appointment as soon as possible.
Working ahead like this can make a big difference for your family. You can also ask your home study office for additional ways to expedite your home study process. Ultimately, your preparation has to be matched by excellent work from someone who does home studies for adoption. If you’d like to learn more about working with American Adoptions for your home study, or if you’d like to ask more questions, you can call 1-800-ADOPTION at any time. If we are unable to complete your home study, our adoption specialists would also be happy to provide referrals to local home study professionals in your state.
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