Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Home Study Tips

When you're thinking about adopting a child, the words "home study" may sound scary and intimidating. But do not be scared or intimidated! (no white gloves - promise!) Current state laws require that before adopting, a person must be approved by a child welfare authority. The home study is one stop along the way. It is an evaluation of the would-be adopter's likely fitness as a parent, as well as a great tool in the matching process.

A home study is bound to make any usually sane person nervous. It feels like you're letting a stranger snoop around your home,
bank account and personal files. So, if you anticipate a home study in your future, please review the following tips as a friendly reminder to set your eye on the prize: the family you want to become.
1. Talk, talk, talk. Explore with your partner the details of your plans to adopt and raise a child together. Take turns role-playing the social worker, quizzing your decision. If you plan to adopt alone, find a friend with whom to confide and fully examine your thoughts and emotions. Become as certain as possible that you do, indeed, want to adopt.

2. Gather your facts. Track down such forgettable items as previous addresses where you've lived. And put your hands on recent years' financial statements. Be prepared to have criminal and child abuse background checks. (Be aware that if you have ever been arrested for a violent crime, your chances of being approved to adopt decrease significantly.)

3. Think about your life. When the Social Worker asks questions, she is simply trying to get an idea of the type of
parent you'll be; how you were raised and what influenced your growing-up years. Tell the truth, and keep it simple. You do not need to divulge the deep dark secrets about your personal life, but you can describe what makes you you.

4. Make your profile. The agency is not looking for a scrapbooking or literary masterpiece. You do not need to include any indentifying information, but stick with an overview of your family in general: holidays, traditions, travel, favorites, etc.

5. Get a physical examination. Being the picture of perfect health is not required, just desired. Life-threatening illness decreases but does not eliminate your adoption odds.

6. Prepare yourself for private questions. The Social worker asked my family and me many questi
ons....among the favorites? My children's favorite: "What does your mom do when you do something wrong?" Now honestly, I know I am a good parent; I try every day to be the best mom I can. I also know I do not have anger management issues, nor do I discipline inappropriately. But for just a second, I felt the sweat on my forehead and my heartbeat quicken. And in my momentary internal panic, I heard my children answer honestly how I handled discipline, and all was well again. One of my favorite questions: What was the most difficult problem you and your spouse ever had to face, and how did you resolve it? This question made me uneasy at best. It isn't fun to talk about the most personal aspects of your life with someone you've just met. But my husband and I answered openly and honestly, and I learned later that the experiences and candid answers add to our 'parental resume', if you will.

During the course of your
home study, you may often feel invaded. I would suggest that you keep your eyes on the prize: You want to create a family. (Remember, too, that after you have your children, they will ask even more personal questions as they grow up! )

7. Make the appointment. Grab the calendar, pick up the phone; get it over with. And while you still have the phone in your hand ...

8. Call a friend. Share your joy, excitement and fears. (Then ask her to write
a letter of reference for you; the agency will want letters of reference from people who vouch for your good character.) And start a journal! It is therapeutic to write feelings on paper, but when your adoption process is through, and you're holding that baby in your arms, your journal will be a treasure to reflect on the miracles that happened to bring that sweet baby into your family.

9. Clean up. Your home does not have to pass the white glove test, but you will feel better and more relaxed if you're not tripping over dirty laundry or trying to find the foul stench in the kitchen while giving your social worker the grand tour.

10. Now, relax. You've already done the hard part: making the decision that adoption is right for you. And if you still feel a little unsure, that's okay too! A home study is designed to clarify any issues, and your social worker can help resolve them. Settle comfortably into your family choice, and try to enjoy the remaining time before your new addition arrives.

You think life is hectic now!? It's only just begun...

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