The Adoption Home Study
By the time our actual home study phase started, we had already submitted the preliminary application and gone through the entire formal application phase which included an orientation, fingerprinting and background checks, TONS of paperwork, Dr visits, veterinary records, gathering of references, and all other means of information gathered on any and every aspect of our lives! It was full-time job just gathering the info and getting through that part, which was probably my least favorite phase so far.
If you’re anything like us, the home study phase of the adoption process is definitely the most intimidating. We had so many preconceived ideas and fears in our minds about what it was going to be like and what our caseworker would be like.
What I Thought it Would be Like
For some reason, I pictured our case worker as a grouchy old lady with a cane and white gloves. She would show up, unannounced and unexpected at the worst possible moment. The house would be trashed, the kids would be fighting, I’d be unshowered and in yoga pants (of course), there would be piles of dishes in the sink and dust on every visible surface. She would bang on the door and yell “surprise!” Then, she would waltz in and run her fingers along the fireplace mantel, inspect closets and open drawers, interview each child in private and drill us on our use of corporal punishment.
If you’re heading into a home study with some of those same fears, I’m here to put your mind at ease.
it was totally fine!
What it Was Really Like
I can only speak from our experience with a private adoption agency in the state of Michigan, each state’s requirements may differ.
- Two scheduled home visits that lasted about 2 1/2 hours each
- Two separate training sessions at our agency that lasted about 3 hours each
- Thirty hours of independent study (reading books, attending webinars, watching videos)
- Individual interviews at our agency (my husband and I, not the kids)
There may be other little details I am leaving out, but these were the main steps.
The Home Visits
The home visits were scheduled, not surprise! If I were to say one thing, it would be that the home visits were more like a “get to know you” session than an interrogation. Our case worker wanted to find out who we were more than find something wrong. Of course it is their job to look for red flags, but it didn’t feel that way, it felt relaxed. Our case worker was wonderful! She was friendly, personable and laid back.
Our first visit was mostly about going over paperwork, revisiting forms we had filled out weeks before, talking about our expectations, touring our home and introducing our kids.
Our second visit was a more in depth conversation with my husband and I about how we met, what our neighborhood is like, what we fight about, what we love about each other, our strengths and weaknesses.
What she DID want to know:
- Do we have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors?
- Do we have at least one fire extinguisher?
- Do we have enough bedrooms/space for all our family members?
- What do our kids like to do for fun, what is their favorite color, what happens when they get in trouble?
- If firearms are present in the home, are they stored in locked boxes, separated from amo?
What she did NOT need to know/see:
- Inside of drawers or closets
- She wanted to know we HAVE smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detector and fire extinguisher, but did NOT need to inspect them or even see them
- Baby locks or gates
The Individual Interviews
For the individual interviews, my husband and I went to our agency’s office without our kids. I waited in a conference room while my husband went in first for his portion of the interview. We were both given a new survey to fill out, separately, with more in depth questions regarding family relationships, past abuse, criminal records, struggles, family history of mental illness and abuse, etc. Many of these questions we had already addressed during the initial application process, but this time it felt a little bit more real.
They met in a separate room for around 2 hours. When they were done, Jay and I switched places in the conference room and I went in for my interview with our social worker.
I forgot to mention that I was miserably sick the day of our interview! I was on ALL the cold meds and considerably loopy.
The individual interview felt laid back, because at this point we had established a relationship with our case worker and it felt like a lot of the stuff we were going over was stuff we had already talked about at one point. It felt a little more intense only because the whole time, I was wondering, how did Jay answer this question?? What if I give a different answer than what Jay gave?
I think it’s important to remember that a lot of what the caseworker asks and does are things the government regulates. In one sense, she does what she does to ultimately check-off items on a to-do list of things that the government require. All the while, looking for red flags or major reasons she should be questioning your ability to parent responsibly. In the end, she gathers the info that she does to use as content for the lengthy dissertation she must write on the life of your family. Again, all government mandated.
Once your caseworker writes her report, she submits it for approval and your homestudy is officially “finalized.” At this point, you may or may not have created a family web profile, youtube video and profile book. All these things are created to help your caseworker match you with a birth mother. The birth mother will use these tools, along with the report your caseworker writes, and the criteria you have laid out, in choosing a family for her baby.
Here’s how our process has gone so far:
- October 2013: I write my first post about our desire to adopt. We’ve been thinking and praying about what direction to head. Read that post HERE
- July 2015: I write my second post to update everyone on the process so far. We spent several years praying and searching for an agency, pursuing foster care, pursuing international adoption and trying to figure out what option was best for our family. We decide to start officially saving money for an adoption and I open an online shop to raise funds. Read that post HERE
- Lost Time AKA the Dark Ages: This is the time that feels like a blur of emotions and confusion. Our lives got busy, we were confused as to how to start and where to go. We were told we didn’t meet the income requirements to adopt internationally (based on our size family of 5). We attended orientation and submitted the application to become licensed for foster care adoption, but were told not to pursue this as a viable option since we were hoping to adopt, not foster. Because we wanted to adopt within our birth order, the oldest a child could be was 4. We were told it would be a waste of our agency’s time to license us, just to wait for a child under the age of 5 to come available.
- January 2016: Jay attends a pastor’s conference and once again talks with a representative from Bethany Christian Services. We felt lost and disheartened at this point, because of spending so much time and energy pursuing foster care adoption and international adoption, only to hit a wall. The Bethany representative tells Jay of a huge need within domestic adoption, specifically for babies with special needs, babies from minority groups and from families with extensive medical histories. There is need everywhere, foster care, international, and yes, even domestic.
- June 2016: We submit our preliminary application for domestic adoption online.
- July 2016: We schedule our orientation for August. We request that Bethany send us the packet of information we will need to submit for our formal application, so that we can hand it in at our orientation, rather than wait to get started on it then.
- July 2016: We go in for an appointment to have our fingerprints done for our background check. They are digitally taken and submitted to the state capital. We are told results can take a while…
- August 2016: We attend our informational meeting on domestic adoption and hand-in our packet of info for our formal application. Application fee paid.
- October 2016: Our fingerprints have finally been processed, formal application is complete and our caseworker is assigned.
- November 17 2016: We attend “EAP 2” to fulfill one of the two training sessions with our agency.
- November 28 2016: Our first home visit!
- December 14 2016: We decide to publicly fundraise for our adoption.
- December 15 2016: Second home visit.
- January 4 2017: Visit our agency for individual interviews and wait for our caseworker to write our report.
- January 19 2017: Attend “EAP 1”
- The Next Steps: Once our report has been written, we wait to be matched with a birthmother! Home study fee is due at this point which is the largest chunk of change – close to $15,000. The remaining amount is due once a child is placed in our home, for a grand total of $24,000.
I hope this helps answer some of your questions and takes away a little of the mystery that surrounds this whole process! It can be so intimidating not knowing how it is going to go. I’d love to answer questions you may have!
Overall, I can’t say enough about Bethany Christian Services. Everyone has been so caring and considerate. It is A LOT to process and can very easily get overwhelming. I can’t imagine having gone this far with anyone else. They walk you through each step of the process, and hold your hand when you need it. It does take a considerable amount of patience, but so did the process of getting pregnant! That wasn’t easy or quick for us, and neither has this been.
After 3 years of infertility, my Dr. would remind me, “God knows the future of your baby, He already has the birthdate figured out, just trust Him.” It was hard to be patient when I felt so helpless, which is how this adoption process has felt at times. If you’re considering adoption, my advice is this:
Starting is the hardest part. If you look ahead, it can seem overwhelming and scary. Take the first step, allow your agency to guide you and trust God to supply your needs as you go!
Find other posts about our adoption: HERE
Follow our journey on Instagram using #LEMPFAMILYADOPTION