The first step in any adoption is for the prospective adoptive parents to have a home study conducted. In most states, a home study requires that a licensed social worker meet the prospective adoptive family to gather information to submit to the court once an adoption takes place. The social worker also will prepare prospective adoptive families for the adoption process.
The social worker most likely will conduct several interviews and will visit the home of the prospective adoptive family at least once to examine the living arrangements, other family members and pets as well as to determine whether the home meets state licensing standards (such as functioning smoke alarms, adequate space for the prospective adoptive child and proper storage of legal firearms). The number of interviews or “contacts” depends on the requirements of the state in which the prospective adoptive parents reside. A home study can take between four and eight weeks to complete.
Some states also require the following: criminal and child abuse history checks, health statements from each prospective adoptive parent’s physician, income statements for the prospective adoptive family, an autobiographical statement from each prospective adoptive parent and personal references.
The social worker then will prepare a written home study report that contains all of his or her findings and recommendations for the prospective adoptive family, including the following:
- family background of each prospective adoptive parent, including current relationships with family members
- education level of each prospective adoptive parent and, if applicable, the desire of each to attain a higher education level
- income and employment history of each prospective adoptive parent
- details about the relationship between the prospective adoptive parents, including how they communicate and spend time together
- daily life of each prospective adoptive parent, including their routines, hobbies and interests
- how each prospective adoptive parent intends to handle parental issues, such as discipline, for any prospective adoptive child, or if the parents currently have children, how they parent those children
- religious or spiritual values of each prospective adoptive parent and under what religion the parents collectively intend to raise any prospective adopted child
- individual feelings from each prospective adoptive parent regarding adoption, including why the couple chose to adopt and what kind of child the couple thinks is best suited for their home
The social worker also will include his or her recommendation of the age, race and temperament (if applicable) of any potential adoptive child to be placed with the prospective adoptive family.
After the birth parents’ rights are terminated and the child is placed with the prospective adoptive family, a social worker will return to conduct another round of interviews similar to the home study that will examine how the child is adjusting to the adoptive family and the household. This is sometimes referred to as the post-placement report. Once all the visits and “contacts” are complete, the social worker will give his or her recommendation as to whether it is in the best interest of the child to be adopted by the prospective adoptive family.
Most states require that the post-placement visits and contacts be conducted within six months of the child being placed with the prospective adoptive family. After the post-placement report has been filed with the court, the prospective adoptive family may finalize the adoption in a court.
Last updated: Sept. 26, 2008