What is a home study?
A home study is the first step in the adoption process. Home study is the term used for both the adoption evaluation process and the typed report that is generated from the process. An approved home study is required in order to pursue any type of adoption (embryo, domestic, or international). A home study needs to be completed in the state where you reside by someone licensed in the social service field. The process and report include a training/preparation component along with paperwork that meets state requirements, interviews, and a home visit.
What does a home study require?
The home study process and report format varies based on the type of adoption. For example, international adoption home studies must meet the requirements for Washington along with USCIS (the US government department that oversees international adoption), the placing agency (the agency that has the international program that identifies, matches and places the adoptive child), and the foreign country. For embryo and domestic adoptions paper work and home study report format is fairly standard. Nevertheless, there are some placing programs and out of state requirements that vary and I am familiar with addressing these nuances. In general, a Washington home study requires:
Documentation on adoption training and preparation
Paperwork to assess health, financial stability, background clearance status, etc.
A minimum of two meetings (one needs to include a home inspection)
Original documents (includes birth certificates, government issued ID, US 1040 tax return, insurance cards, and marriage license and divorce/annulment documents if applicable).
Additional documents may also be required such as psychological assessments, counselor letter(s), medical letters from specialists if there is a notable health condition or health history, arrest/legal history documentation.
What are you looking for during the home inspection?
Washington does not require a specific safety checklist. Nevertheless, there are basic safety standards that are considered essential. These include: a working smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector on each level of the home, an accessible fire extinguisher, and securing everything that could be dangerous to a baby or child. Medicine, vitamins, supplements, cleaning supplies, power tools, staircases, fireplace areas, outside bodies of water should be secured. At the time of the visit all guns, weapons, ammunition must be in a locked safe that is inaccessible to children. Pets or animals on the property must also be healthy and safe for children. Washington does not require veterinarian documentation however based on the type of adoption it is often requested. A fire and emergency evacuation plan including a meeting place will be explored during the home inspection and noted in the home study report.
The baby’s nursery or bedroom does not have to be fully furnished and decorated. However, there should be a suitable space available.
How long does it take to complete a home study?
I move forward with the process as quickly as my clients provide me with everything I need to type the home study report. This includes documents I need to view, required paperwork, and the completion of meetings/home visit. It is possible to provide everything in approximately 6-8 weeks. I prefer to type the home study report right away, and my personal goal is to complete the rough draft within a 10 day timeframe. I then provide that draft to my clients and also their placing agency (when appropriate) to review prior to creating a final draft soon after.
How long is a home study valid?
Once completed, a home study is valid for 12 months. There are some exceptions made such as in the case of international adoption (which often extends the time to 15 months). Also, some placing agencies and states request updating time sensitive documents such as background clearances prior to 12 months. If a home study has not been used for an adoption and is nearing the 12 month mark then a home study update can be completed to extend the approval an additional 12 months. Once a home study is used for an adoption then a new home study is required for any subsequent adoptions.
What happens after the home study is done?
After a home study report is completed it is mailed to clients (and to their adoption agency or attorney if clients’ consent). Most of the paperwork used for the home study process is also returned to clients. This paperwork may later be needed for the adoption process so it is ideal that clients have easy access to it throughout the adoption.
The home study is the start of an adoption journey. There are many adoption agencies, attorneys, facilitators, and consultants available to match and place babies/children with home study approved families.