our adoption story (part 3): the home study process

Dog sitting next to a baby outfit with the text "The Smiths are Adopting."

This is the third installment of our adoption story. You can read part 1 about our decision to adopt and part 2 about how we decided on an adoption agency here and here.

In today’s post, I’m discussing the application and home study process. These were the two most involved and, for the time being, nerve-wracking parts of the process. I think some of those feelings had a lot to do with the general lack of information out there about how it all works together. Hopefully, I can shed some light on it and maybe at least one person will feel less worried or stressed about it all.

Once we decided on an agency, the next step was for us to fill out and submit the application. This is a basic screening process where the agency determines if your family is a good fit for them. The application includes questions about our marriage, where we live, assets and liabilities, basic information (names, addresses, etc.) for our family members, and about our infertility. It was all fairly straightforward. After a couple of weeks, we got an email saying that we had been assigned to a caseworker for the completion of our home study. We were also mailed an epic packet of paperwork that needed to be completed. Our caseworker reached out to us soon after and set our first appointment. During that first meeting, she explained to us that the home study process would consist of four meetings in total. The first meeting, that we were at with her, went over the general process and some preliminary questions about who we are as people and as a couple. The second meeting was actually two individual back-to-back meetings (more about this below because this was the most intensive part of the process). The third meeting was at our home. Finally, the fourth meeting was for wrapping up and answering any lingering questions that she had.

As I mentioned, the second set of meetings were the most intense part of the entire process. Before the meeting, we each needed to fill out a questionnaire about our life both past and present. The questions about the past addressed all phases of our upbringing, including who raised us, the types of discipline used, our past and current relationships with our parents, and many others. The questions about the present included drug and alcohol use and/or abuse for us and our families, our description of our partner/spouse, and our relationship. The most difficult part of the questionnaire was that there wasn’t room to explain why you answered the way that you did.
With the questionnaire in hand, our caseworker proceeded to interview each of us individually. While I won’t go into the specifics, my interview took about two hours, while Justin’s only took one hour. I have a complicated past and a large family. Our caseworker almost needed a set of pushpins and sticky notes to keep it all straight. Justin, on the other hand, is an only child and things were more straightforward for him. Either way, our 10+ years together and consistent stability now far outweighed what may have happened before.

The third meeting took place at our apartment. Our caseworker needed to see that we have room in our home for a child and that our home was safe. Of course, I freaked out and spent the day before and day of cleaning our home from top to bottom. While it wasn’t a white glove inspection, I was ready. After giving her the tour, that took 15 minutes at most because we live in a two-bedroom apartment, we had a chat about what we thought our parenting style might look like, our day-to-day childcare plans, and who would raise our child if we weren’t able to (i.e., if we died).

Finally, we met with our caseworker to go over any remaining questions that she had and to review our adoptive family checklist. On the upside, our caseworker had only a few questions and these were primarily to clarify her notes. Nothing new came up at this point. An adoptive family checklist is a form where we say what we would be open to in our adoption. This form goes over A LOT! While most of it is pretty straightforward in terms of post-adoption communication — we very much want an open adoption. Some of the form was tough because we had to say whether we would be comfortable with an array of medical conditions, drug use, and circumstances surrounding conception. Completing the form was an emotional process as we had to ask each other a lot of “what ifs.” Our caseworker is a very supportive person and she helped us out when we weren’t sure of the answer.

About two weeks after that last meeting, we met with the director of the adoption agency to over our completed home study. Overall, it was a positive outcome. At the end of the meeting, she told us that the agency had accepted us as an adoptive family. As such, they consider us to be psychologically pregnant (their words, not mine) and told us to go celebrate. Of course, we chose to celebrate with tacos!

Coming up in the series: the costs of adoption, adoptive family training, and the wait.

What questions do you have about the adoption process?

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