If you’re embarking on the thrilling journey of growing your family through adoption, completing your home study is a vital early step. Virtually all infant adoptions in North Carolina require a home study, so if you plan to bring a new baby home, it’s vital to understand how the process works.
The Purpose of the Home Study: What to Expect
The home study incorporates a third party to assess and learn about your family in order to determine whether your home – and family – is suitable for a child.
The study will involve a series of visits to your home. An evaluator approved by your adoption agency will gather information about your family’s history, health, and makeup. After speaking with each member of your family – together and separately – the evaluator will complete a report that offers an opinion about your suitability as adoptive parents for an infant. The evaluator will submit this document to the court for review.
If you are adopting independently or using a private agency, a North Carolina adoption attorney can help you find your evaluator. Your attorney can also review the evaluator’s report and help you address any portions you dispute (if any).
How to Prepare
Although each home study process differs based on the specifics of your situation, there are a few critical steps that are always involved and as such, provide a guide for how you should prepare your home and family.
Have an Open and Honest Discussion with Your Partner.
The home study is an intimate and searching process. You will offer your evaluator an insider’s view of the inner workings of your home. You will discuss your finances. You will face difficult questions – both together and separately – about your journey in starting a family and your family values. As such, it is vital that you confirm that you and your partner share a unified vision. Because the core consideration in any adoption is the best interests of the child, presenting as a united front will help you and your spouse or partner immensely as the adoption process progresses.
Find Your Home Study Professional.
Each adoptive family in North Carolina must work with a licensed home study provider who will guide you through each requirement of the adoption home study process. Once you find your provider, he or she will require you to complete an application. Then you will be assigned a personal home study social worker who will initiate your home study process.
All home study providers are licensed by the North Carolina Division of Social Services. Each home study must include certain information, but not all home study providers are not alike. Private agencies prepare most home studies. Each agency has the discretion to create requirements in addition to those established by the North Carolina Division of Social Services. Each agency also sets its own fees for the service. So, as always, it pays to shop around.
Gather Your Documents.
When your assigned social worker visits your home for the first time, you will need to produce documentation that demonstrates your physical, mental, and financial fitness to adopt an infant. Depending upon the specifics of your situation, you will likely need to include the following types of documentation:
- Criminal background reports for all adults (aged 18 and older) living in your home
- Your fingerprints
- A list of all adults in your home who may be responsible for the adopted infant’s care
- A physician’s report for each individual living in your home
- A copy of your recent pay stubs or statements from your employer verifying your income
- Your income tax returns
- Reference letters from individuals who have known you for at least two years
- Your marriage certificate, if applicable
- Divorce decrees, if applicable
- Birth certificates for each person living in your home
- A final decree of adoption for any other children you have adopted
Because there are so many different types of documents involved, this tends to be one of the most laborious parts of the adoption process. To adequately prepare, it is advisable to consult your lawyer about which documents you need and to start compiling them before you start the home study process.
Prepare for the In-Home Visit Inspection.
The process involves an in-home inspection. While your home does not need to be spotless and immaculate, it does need to be safe and optimized for infant care. Before scheduling your in-home visit, walk through your home to assess its condition.
Consider the following:
- What is your fire escape plan? If your home has a second or third floor, do you have fire escape ladders located near viable egress points?
- Are there fire extinguishers on each floor? Smoke detectors? Carbon monoxide detectors? How recently have you tested them?
- Has your home recently been inspected to ensure it is up to code? (This is particularly important if you live in an older home.)
- Have you designed a place for your new baby to sleep? Is it safe?
- Is your home reasonably clean?
- Do your windows lock? Do they include screens?
- If you have pets, are they child-friendly? Do they have a history of aggressive behavior? Do you have a reliable means of securing or restraining them?
- Does anyone in your home smoke?
- Do you store any illegal substances in your home?
Speak with your lawyer if you have further questions about how to prepare your home for the inspection.
Prepare for the In-Home Interview.
At some point in the home study process, your evaluator will sit down with each member of your family – together and separately – to discuss topics from your family values to your intentions for adopting an infant. It is advisable to consult with your spouse or partner, as well as your children, if any, to anticipate common questions your social worker may ask you.
Consider the following topics:
- Your infertility journey (if applicable)
- Your motivations for adoption
- Your parenting skills and styles
- Your relationship with your spouse or partner (if applicable)
- How you handle conflict
- Your core beliefs about childcare
- Your family makeup
- Your schedules
- Your family values and culture
- Your financial standing
- What your neighborhood and community are like
Some of these topics may be challenging or triggering, so be sure to take time to reflect on how you can best respond.
How An Adoption Attorney Can Help You
The adoption home study is a critical step in the adoption process. It is vital to engage a partner who can help you navigate it as smoothly as possible. Offering more than 30 years of experience, Bobby Mills can help you prepare for your home visit. He will work with you to handle challenges, from selecting an evaluator to reviewing your report. Having a skilled attorney on your side can help you handle the process as seamlessly as possible, putting you one step closer to preparing to bring home your new baby.