What is a home study and why do I need one?
A home study is a written assessment that verifies whether a potential family is qualified to adopt or foster. It typically includes education/trainings, home visits with a home study provider, and gathering a variety of supporting documents (i.e., birth certificates, physicals, marriage certificate, financial statements, tax forms, etc.). It is important to know that an adoptive or foster placement cannot occur without a home study, except in very specific circumstances in relative/kinship situations. In almost all circumstances, a home study must be completed prior to any matches or placements. In addition, the home study is meant to prepare you for not only the adoption or foster care process, but also the lifelong process of parenting foster and adoptive children.
What is required for a home study is dependent on your state of residence and the agency completing the assessment. Every state and agency has different requirements. The time it takes for a home study to be completed also varies, depending on many factors, which include length of time to complete background checks and for the family to provide all supporting home study documents. It is typically completed within 3-6 months. The adoption or foster care education assigned by the agency may include watching recorded or live webinars, in-person trainings, reading books or articles, and listening to podcasts.
What do the home visits look like?
Depending on where you live, the number of visits required will vary. Typically it will be between 2-4 visits, with at least 1-2 in your home. The home study provider will need to interview all household members and meet with the potential adoptive/ foster parents jointly as well. The length of the visits will typically last 1-3 hours, and topics discussed will include: personal and childhood history, family values, religious beliefs, marital relationship, finances, adoption/foster care attitudes, and parenting strategies. Many topics are very personal in nature, which can be challenging. It is important to remember that all information is confidential and the home study provider will be professional, kind, and respectful when discussing very sensitive aspects of your life. Adoption and foster care professionals understand that no one is perfect and want to know what families have learned through the challenges they have experienced or mistakes made.
During one of the home visits, the home study provider will also complete a safety walkthrough to check for state and agency requirements as well. Having plans in place for any children in the home is important for the visit to proceed smoothly and timely.
What are some tips to tackle the home study efficiently?
In some format, your agency will likely provide you with a list outlining all of the documents you need to gather and submit. Try to make plans for what to tackle week by week, focusing initially on items that may take some time to complete, such as background checks, education, and health evaluations. Read instructions carefully so that it is done correctly initially to prevent delays later. It may be helpful to mark through items as you complete them so that you can feel encouraged and see progress. Stay in close communication with your agency, as they will with you, to provide updates and ask any questions. Honesty is key during the submission of any questionnaires, agreement, and supporting documents.
Remember that the home study is a lengthy report that can take time to review and finalize. When considering your timeframe, keep in mind that it could take a month after your final visit for your home study to finalize.
If you are interested in Nightlight Christian Adoptions completing your home study, please read about our services on our website here or call us at 502-423-5780.