The home study process can be long and daunting. But by far what many hopeful adoptive parents stress about the most is the home visit. Welcoming a social worker into your home for several hours strikes fear in the hearts of most couples. The good news is it doesn't have to. As a social worker who's completed hundreds of home studies and a consultant who's coached just as many families from the other side, I can give you insight that might be helpful (and ease your nerves).
First, find a good home study provider
- Find someone licensed by your state to complete your home study. They could work independently or for an adoption agency. (One important note, you'll need to know at this point if you are adopting domestically, through foster care, or internationally since each home study has different requirements.)
- Feel free to call around to find the right home study provider. Ask the right questions. Find out if they service your area, if there are any trainings you need to complete, and how long it will take to finish the home study. Be sure to ask what their fees are for the home study, application, mileage, and post placement visits in the future.
- Ultimately, go with your gut. Choose the social worker that feels like the best fit for your family, even over the most economically priced. This will be someone you invite into your home and who will get to know you well; you want to feel comfortable with them!
Preparing your home
- The home visit is never a white glove test. Although you want your home to be neat and tidy, don't clean until your home is antiseptic and doesn't look lived in. Clean like you would for dinner guests.
- Be prepared to give your social worker a brief house tour. This will simply be a quick walk through of all of the rooms, including your garage, basement, and yard.
- Your nursery doesn't have to be set up, but be prepared to show your social worker the space where baby will sleep.
Address safety issues in your home
- Ensure all smoke detectors and working and have a carbon monoxide detector in your home. You might also need a fire extinguisher in your home (often under the kitchen sink and in the garage).
- Secure any weapons in your home and make sure they are stored safety and out of a child's reach.
- Be prepared to child proof your home. Although most agencies don't require this during your home study process, once you adopt you'll need to ensure that chemicals are stored safely, outlets are covered, and important emergency numbers are easy to access.
*Each state and agency has specific requirements that may vary slightly. Your social worker will inform you of anything additional that may need to be done to your home before the completion of your home study.
During your visit
- Feel free to offer light refreshments like water, coffee or tea, and even a small snack.
- If you have pets, ensure they won't interrupt the visit with barking or being too friendly (put them in another room if necessary). But note that your social worker will want to see them and ask how they are with children.
- Establish a warm and friendly environment, but remember to respect your social worker's time and don't be too chatty.
If you have children
- Make sure they are a part of the process and let them know that a social worker is coming to meet your family and help you prepare for a little brother or sister. Empower them to give the social worker a tour of their room and give them permission to talk to the social worker and answer any questions they might have.
- If your child is old enough, your social worker will probably ask them questions about how they feel about your family's adoption plans. They might also ask things like if they have any chores around the house, what they like to do as a family, etc.
- If you have younger children, make sure you have a quiet activity set up for them to be engaged with during the visit. Don't worry if they interrupt or you need to take a break to care for them; your social worker would love to see your interaction with your children and is used to having kids around!
Throughout the home study process, and during your home visit, it's important to remember that your social worker is not looking for the "picture perfect" home or family. To be honest, if you present that you have it all together, your social worker will have concerns about how you will adjust adding a child into your home! Remember that the key is to be honest and open during the interview. Be yourself. Your social worker wants to get to know you both individually, as a couple, and as a family.
So take a deep breath. Do the prep work. And open the door confidently when your social worker rings the bell. It will be worth it and you'll be one step closer to bringing that little one home.
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