The home study is a process required by state regulation that must be completed before an individual or couple can adopt a child.
At The Barker Adoption Foundation, the home study is both evaluative and preparatory. The study must be administered by an adoption agency licensed in the prospective parent’s or parents’ state of residence. Barker offers home studies for prospective parents who live in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.. The end result is a document written by a social worker that includes information drawn from a series of interviews with the prospective parent or parents and supporting information provided by third parties.
Generally a home study includes information on the following:
- Family background and references
- Education and employment
- Relationships and social life including strength of marriage, if applicable
- Finances, including net worth and discretionary income
- Results of criminal and child-protection clearances
- Assessment of physical and mental health, as determined by your physician
- Interviews with your adult children, if applicable
- Interviews with any household member
- Parenting experiences
- Details about your home and neighborhood
- Readiness for adopting and your reasons for wanting to adopt
- Approval and recommendation of children whom your family can best parent
The home study process typically takes a few months to complete and is designed to get to know the prospective parent or parents and assist them in preparing to become parents through adoption.
Depending on the specifics of the situation and the family’s directive, the home study results are provided to public child welfare departments, courts, attorneys, licensed partnering adoption agencies, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and/or an overseas social welfare agency.
The Nature of a Home Study
A good home study is a two-way street. Participants bring the concerns and feelings that are uniquely theirs as they contemplate this important step in their lives. The social worker shares information about the experience that the agency has gained from many other adoptions to help prospective parents address issues that they might not have considered on their own.
Prospective parents are asked to think through how it might feel to grow up adopted and to place a child for adoption. They learn about the kinds of children who are in need of families and carefully consider factors—age, race, legal, and medical conditions—that they feel they could handle in a child they hope to adopt. They begin to anticipate the role that they’d ideally wish the child's birth parents to play in their lives , and how they can come to a mutually beneficial agreement with the birth parents on the level of openness in the relationship. Those thinking of transracial and/or transcultural adoption are asked to carefully consider the additional challenges and considerations that come with this type of adoption.
It is the evaluative aspect of the home study that causes many applicants concern. In assessing a potential home, Barker staff need to ensure that several basic elements are present: a stable home environment; the emotional and financial resources to rear a child; realistic expectations about adoption; a strong marital relationship, if married; and a genuine desire to parent.
While assessment is a very real part of every home study, Barker’s approach ensures that education, assistance with decision-making, and preparation for adoptive parenting constitute the central focus of the process.