We often talk with people, who ask us where we are in the process. But we figure that, like us before we got into “the process,” many people probably don’t know much about adoption, and this is just the best way to ask how it’s going.
So, we thought it might be a good idea to write a few blogs to explain parts of the adoption process. First up: The Home Study.
One of the very first steps of any adoption, is a home study. This results in a legal document that confirms one’s ability to parent: physically, mentally, and financially. It is completed by a licensed social worker, and is written after review of legal documents, health reports, financial statements, as well as interviews, reference letters, and yes, an evaluation of the prospective adoptive parents’ home.
Sounds a little intrusive, huh?
As Elisabeth O’Toole put it in In On It: What adoptive parents would like you know about adoption, (a book we highly recommend, by the way):
“Compared to biological parents, the steps to achieving adoptive parenthood are much more . . . documented.”
Before we could even meet with our social worker, we first had to gather documents such as birth certificates, our marriage license, photo identification, income tax returns, residential histories, and pet records. In addition, we each had to have health exams and our doctors fill out a form agreeing we are healthy enough to parent a child. Another requirement was getting both state and federal criminal investigative reports, which involved going to the State Police and FBI locations for finger prints.
Once we had all the documentation, our social worker visited us in our home. While she did look around, it was not a “white glove test.” The main purpose of the home tour was to make sure we have a safe living space, and a plan for where our baby will sleep. This part of the home study visit lasted maybe a total of five minutes. The remaining time of the first home visit was spent discussing our relationship, our life together, work, religious views, our motivation to adopt, as well as talking about adoption in general. Our social worker is an adoptive mother, so she had stories to tell us and encouragement to share. The first home visit lasted more than two hours.
A follow up visit was required so we scheduled it for a few weeks later. The second visit lasted about four hours and included individual interviews discussing our childhood, families, where we were raised, and even things like the primary method of discipline in our childhood homes and our anticipated parenting styles.
The home study process also involves family and friends: we were required to have four to five people write letters of reference on our behalf, only one of which could be a family member. The correspondence was directly between our social worker and the individuals we asked to participate; we have never seen the letters.
Our social worker then took all her notes and our compiled documents, and wrote a report outlining our desire to adopt and why, our background and family information, childcare plans, and our health and abilities, among other personal information. Ultimately, she gave us the legal seal of approval we needed to move forwards with applying to adoption agencies.
All this red tape can be very frustrating and discouraging at times. It’s easy to fall into thoughts that having a baby biologically does not require document gathering and intrusive interviews by practical strangers. But our consultant gently reminded us to view it from the eyes of an expectant mother making an adoption plan – she wants what is best for her child and to be comforted knowing that the adoptive parents she chooses have been thoroughly examined and will provide the loving, stable home she desires for her child.
We constantly remind ourselves that we cannot find our joy in the process. But our joy from this will come when we are finally parents. And just like a woman who experiences the pains of labor and finds it all worth it when her child is placed on her chest, we believe that “the process” will eventually just be a distant memory, overshadowed by the beauty of our child joining our family.