What Is a Home Study?
I have been a licensed social worker practicing in international adoptions for over 6 years now, and I must confess that I absolutely LOVE paperwork!
However, I recognize that I am probably in the minority.
I tell families that the beginning of the adoption process might feel like you are trying to sip from a fire hydrant. You know that you need to ask questions, but you don’t even know where to start or what questions to even ask.
Adoption is a beautiful mess; it is ok to feel that way.
In an effort to normalize the adoption paperwork, and prayerfully help families understand why it is necessary, I want to explore what many call the “adoption paper chase” and what exactly that means.
I will start with a question that I hear almost every day: What is a home study?
Thankfully, there are more and more people being exposed to adoption. But I believe there are still a lot of questions and misconceptions floating around about the home study.
Why does it take so long?
Why are you asking so many personal questions about our lives?
Should our pasts really matter that much?
Are you going to bring white gloves and check for dust?
Will you look in our closets and laundry room?
Are we going to be approved?
Home Study 101
Well, a home study is so much more than looking through every room in your home and giving you loads of paperwork to do. We really look at the home study as a time of preparation for post-adoption, once the child is actually in your home. When it comes to international adoption, the children we see coming home are coming from a background of trauma and are bringing all of those challenges with them.
These children have likely been abandoned and forced to live in an orphanage, with no real idea of what a family is, certainly not a healthy family. They may sleep in a crib most of the day with only two nannies caring for dozens of children. These nannies likely come and go and may not provide any care at night, leaving room for many inconsistencies and developmental delays. Whenever a child is institutionalized, they are likely exposed to all types of abuse and may never know when they will have their next meal.
The Necessity of Education
In light of this (and so much more trauma I could mention), as an adoptive parent, it is imperative to know where your child began. During the home study, parents complete different pieces of education to prepare them for this. When it comes to adoption there are so many unknowns; it is always wise to prepare for the worst, but hope and pray for the best.
Therefore, instead of looking at education as just a requirement to check off the list, I encourage you to look at it as a necessity! We need this! Though we cannot predict everything that may arise post-adoption, we can predict that this child will likely turn your lives upside down. Praise the Lord He has sustained those who have gone before us and has provided them with the knowledge they have to share.
The Reason for Interviews
Another component of the home study is actually meeting with your social worker for a series of interviews, and talking about YOU! So … what about you? Why does your past matter; how is it relevant? What does your marriage have to do with adoption? We all have challenges in life; there is no way to avoid them.
(If you have not been through something tough, please come talk to me!)
We know that adoption can be difficult. If you’ve experienced difficulty, and processed through it well, your social worker wants to know.
If you still have some open wounds or challenges to work through, that’s ok! The time to work through this is BEFORE you bring your child home. If not, your child’s trauma will highlight your own, therefore leaving a lot of room for disappointment, and not providing a healthy environment for both YOU and your CHILD.
Adoption should be for healthy families knowing they will adopt a child who comes from brokenness. Not broken families looking to fill a void by adopting a healthy child.
This may involve putting your adoption process on hold in order to spend time in counseling. Many families start the home study, and with the help of their social worker, realize that they have “stuff” to work through before moving forward. It is our goal to set you, as athe adoptive parents, up for success. We would be doing families a disservice if we did not address challenges that need further attention.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
The Importance of Relationship
Lastly, maintaining an open relationship with your social worker is key!
No relationship is perfect, no childhood is perfect, no marriage is perfect, and no family is perfect. It is imperative to have full disclosure with your social worker in order for them to best care for you. In addition, the adoption process is like a game of dominos. When it comes to paperwork, everything builds on itself! If you happen to “forget” about a past arrest, certain medication you are taking, or even something as simple as a legal name change, it can be difficult to backtrack and do things the right way. We are not coming from a place of judgment, but a place of discernment!
Ultimately, we see the home study process as so much more than just the “adoption paper chase.” We are beyond grateful for families who step out in faith and move forward with adoption because the need is there and it is very real. We want to do all we can to make the process as beneficial as possible. Not only for you as the adoptive parents, but also the child coming into your home.
This all begins with the home study!
So I encourage you to keep an open mind, be vulnerable, ask for help, and show yourself grace. God uses this process to grow and change your heart—and your child’s heart—for the glory of His name.
Let Him do so!
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Emily graduated from Auburn University in May 2011 with a Bachelors degree in Social Work. She returned home to Birmingham and had the privilege of joining Lifeline Children’s Services, serving families as a part of the China team since December 2012. Emily has always had a heart for vulnerable children and the Lord has expanded her view where she has grown to love the adoption process. She knew Lifeline would be the place for her to spread the Gospel to a population who desperately needs to be reached, both physically and spiritually. She feels incredibly grateful and humbled to have spent time in different orphanages in China as a part of Lifeline’s ministry. Emily knows that the Lord brought her to Lifeline to serve as His adopted child and is excited to fulfill His purpose for her life.