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Is an Adoption Home Study the Best First Step in Your Adoption Process?

By Alan Saunders, Ph.D., LCSW
Posted September 14, 2013

Is an Adoption Home Study the Best First Step in Your Adoption Process?
Adoption is an exciting, emotional and sometimes confusing thing.  Questions that potential adoptive couples ask are good ones and it is important for the couple to have them answered.  Questions are abundant…do I want to adopt a child born within the United States (domestic adoption) or do I want to pursue an international adoption? Do I want to adopt a newborn child or older? Do I want to adopt a child in foster care? Do I want to use a licensed adoption agency, an adoption attorney or an unlicensed adoption facilitator?  Answers to these questions help couples make better decisions throughout each complex turn of the adoption process. 

As couples and families begin the adoption process, many do not know where to begin or where to turn.  Many ask the question, “Is an adoption home study the best first step in the adoption process? Answers to this essential question are found in this article.

A home study completed by a licensed professional will generally be accepted by adoption
agencies and can be utilized in a situation where a family chooses to bypass an agency and use an adoption attorney instead.  Both of these are viable alternatives in adopting. When deciding between an agency or an adoption attorney, a family must do their homework and research the people they are considering hiring.  A family would do the same research when considering employing any other service provider.  As a family examines the alternatives and specific entities, some important steps can be taken to assist them in making a final decision.  Some recommendations are to find a couple who has adopted and ask them about their experiences, whom they used and if they have an agency or attorney they have been satisfied with. Confirm that whomever you are contemplating is licensed by the state. Check with the State licensing agencies, the Better Business Bureau and/or the state bar association to find out if there have been complaints about the attorney or agency being considered.  Get an itemized list of costs and ask when payments will be due. Ask how much experience the attorney or agency has and how many adoptions they handle each year and also how many total placements they have been involved with.

Some ask, if I get a home study done in a particular state, say Utah as an example, can I use that home study to adopt in a different state?  The answer is yes! A family can adopt a child born outside of Utah with a "Utah" home study.  There will need to be an attorney or agency in the placing state involved but they can use the home study completed in Utah.  The same is true with other states.  The reason for this is that even though a family is placed with a child in a different state, they will still finalize the adoption in their home state since they live there.

An adoption home study can also ensure a family or couple that their particular situation is conducive to the type of adoption they are considering and can also help to ensure that they are abiding by the laws in regard to child placement in their state.  For example, in Utah, there is a marriage requirement for adopting.  Here is what the Utah Code reads: (a) A child may be adopted by: (i) adults who are legally married to each other in accordance with the laws of this state, including adoption by a stepparent; or (ii) any single adult, except as provided in Subsection (3)(b).(b) A child may not be adopted by a person who is cohabiting in a relationship that is not a legally valid and binding marriage under the laws of this state.

Part of the home study is to determine the couple’s fitness to adopt and also to find all the reasons a child should be placed in your home. Adoption agencies and adoption attorneys are always looking for good families to place children with.  The home study helps a family explore the issues of how any present children may be impacted by an adoption and the unique effects the adoption will have on the existing milieu.  Adoption may be the right thing for a family but a family must ensure that it is also the right time for their circumstances.  The home study also explores the success of the marriage and existing family and questions how the marriage will be affected by placing a child in the home.  A family with a struggling marriage may likely be impacted negatively with the placement of a child.

The home study also explores individuals’ backgrounds with a reflection on their families of origin, their values, beliefs and how matters of discipline, drugs and alcohol, religion and other significant issues were handled.  This discussion also promotes the consideration of present values, beliefs and how matters of discipline, drugs and alcohol, religion and other significant issues are going to be handled with their children.  Employment stability, financial status, insurance coverage, health and familial support are also explored with an emphasis on the expectation of how the immediate and extended family will receive a child.  Issues surrounding raising adopted children, culture, race and skin color are all significant issues to be addressed when considering adoption.  These are also focused on in the home study. 

Also required are criminal and child abuse clearances. If there were any legal issues earlier in a person’s life, they may require an expungement of their criminal record which is a process by which record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed after a certain length of time.  Any criminal record must be cleared before a family is approved for placement.

The family’s home is also inspected to determine the feasibility of placing a child in the home.  Size, location, neighborhood, functionality and condition of the home are all considered. Family and friend references are written and analyzed to explore whether this family is mature, stable and capable of raising a child.  The family’s openness decision is explored and determined.  This allows a family to make a firm decision on how much interaction they encourage and are comfortable with in regard to contact with the birth parent(s). 

The home study will also explore the characteristics of the child the family has in mind for their family.  It is crucial that the family is clear about the child to be adopted.  This potentially prevents some of the emotionally charged considerations the family will face of various situations that become potentially available to them.  A family should discuss and be very clear about what they wish in regard to gender, age, race, skin color, health, background, including the mother’s use of cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and her health.

Is an Adoption Home Study the Best First Step in Your Adoption Process?  Questions asked in an adoption home study can help the family seriously and comprehensively consider and come to a resolution regarding these vital questions.  A completed home study with a positive recommendation certifies a couple or family as “approved” for adoption and will represent the family well to the attorney and/or adoption agency as serious and prepared to adopt a child. 

Alan Saunders, Ph.D., LCSW

Alan Saunders is an adoption advocate, father of four, l
icensed and registered in Utah as an Adoption Professional.

See more articles:
Adoption, A Family Affair
Is an Adoption Home Study the Best First Step in Your Adoption Process?
Resolving the Loss of Fertility
The Beauty of Adoption
There is Hope
Thinking of Adopting? You can do it!

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