Many agencies require training for prospective parents prior to or during the home study process. This training helps prospective parents understand the needs of the children and helps families decide what type of child or children they could most effectively parent.
You will, most likely, be interviewed multiple times by your social worker, going over the topics addressed in the home study report (see below). In the case of couples, some agency workers conduct all of the interviews with both prospective parents together, while others will conduct both joint and individual interviews. If you have adult children, they may be interviewed, as well.
The home visit’s primary function is to ensure your home meets State licensing standards (e.g., working smoke alarms, safe storage of firearms, adequate space for each child, etc.). The agency will be looking for how you are planning for a new family member by examining all areas of the home, including where the child will sleep, the basement, and the back yard. Some States may require additional inspections from the local health and/or fire departments.
Most agencies require prospective adoptive parents to have some form of a physical examination. Some agencies have very specific requirements; other agencies just want to know the prospective parents are essentially healthy, have a normal life expectancy, and are physically and mentally able to handle the care of a child.
If you have a serious health problem that affects life expectancy, it may prevent approval. If your family has sought counseling or treatment for a mental health condition, you may have to provide reports from those visits. The fact that your family sought such help should not directly prevent you from adopting. Check with the agencies or social workers you are considering, however, if you have concerns.
Prospective parents are usually asked to simply verify their income by showing copies of paycheck stubs, W-4 forms, or income tax forms. Agencies may also ask about savings, insurance policies, other investments and debts. Also note, some countries may have specific income requirements for adoption.
Most States require criminal and child abuse record clearances for all prospective parents. In many States, local, State, and Federal clearances are needed.
Agencies need to comply with State laws about how the findings of these background checks affect eligibility for adoptive parents. Do not hesitate to talk to prospective agencies and social workers about specific situations that might disqualify you from adopting. Agencies are not just looking at your past experiences, but at what you’ve learned from them. Some agencies may be able to work with your family, depending on the State, the charge and its resolution.
Adoption agencies may ask prospective parents to write an autobiographical statement. This statement helps the social worker better understand your family and assists them in writing the home study report (see below).
While writing about yourself can be intimidating, it is intended to provide information about you to the agency, as well as to help you explore issues related to the adoption. Some agencies have a set of questions to guide you through writing your autobiography.
The agency will ask you for the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of three or four individuals to serve as references. They will help the social worker form a more complete picture of your family.
References should be individuals who have known you for several years, have visited your home and know of your interest in and involvement with children.
Most agencies state that references must be people unrelated to you. Some good choices include close friends, an employer, or leader of your faith community.