Frequently Asked Adoption Questions
Q. People say a home study is one of the first steps in adoption. When should I get my home study?
A. An adoption home study is one of the first steps in adoption. Home studies differ somewhat depending on the kind of adoption you are doing, so it is important to settle on the type of adoption prior to embarking on your home study. Though all home studies focus on the same main issues, there are important differences in home studies that are prepared for domestic vs. international adoptions. In addition, the agency or country you choose may have specific requirements. We are happy to discuss your particular situation with you by phone or you may wish to schedule an adoption consultation prior to your home study.
Q. I’ve been reading books about adoption and I’ve also been participating on adoption listservs. It seems from what I’ve been reading and hearing, that all home studies must be done by adoption agencies. Is this true?
A. No, this is not necessarily true. If you live in New York State and you are doing a domestic, private placement (independent) adoption, in most cases your home study can be conducted by a social worker on a private practitioner basis. However, because rules for interstate adoptions may be different and because home study requirements in other states vary, you should be sure that the social worker whom you retain to do your home study, is associated with a New York authorized agency.In this way, if your adoption plans change and an agency adoption is required, your social worker will be able to convert your study to an agency home study. Although there may be an additional cost and a few additional requirements, you will not have to redo your whole home study nor will you have to pay a completely new fee. Home studies for international adoptions must be conducted by a social worker associated with a New York State authorized agency. All of our social workers have the flexibility to provide independent or agency home studies.
Q. My aunt told me that when she adopted my cousin, the adoption agency had very strict requirements for her house. She had to have a separate bedroom for each child. The child’s bedroom had to be ready when her home was visited. She also said that the social worker was very concerned because she saw some dust on the coffee table. Are home studies handled the same way now?
A. No they are not. First, “home study” is really a misnomer. If we were being accurate, we would call the process a family study because it focuses on family life and interaction rather than just the physical environment. Of course we want to be sure that there will be adequate room for your new child. Also, we want to see your home because it is a reflection of who you are and of the kind of life you live. But we are not visiting you in order to judge your homemaking skills. We just want to know that a child will be comfortable in your home.
Q. My husband and I are living in a one bedroom apartment in New York City. Our plan is to move to a two bedroom apartment after the adoption. Do we have to make this move before the home study?
A. You do not have to make the move before you have your child. As we said previously, we visit your home because it tells us something about you and how you wish to live. But we have often visited people who are not living in a large apartment or have not yet moved to a house. We always ask about your plans for the future. So the home study report will include a description of what kind of living arrangements you will have after you adopt.
Q. We are in the process of renovating our house, but we’d like to start the home study now? Can we do this?
A. yes you certainly can and you can describe to us what your house will look like when the renovation is complete.
Q. We need to start our home study now because our international adoption process will involve a long wait after we submit our papers. But we will probably be moving to a new home in the interim. How should we handle this?
A. In situations like your’s, we do the home study now in your present home. After you’ve moved to your new home, we will do a home study addendum. We will visit your new home and write a report which describes it and your new financial situation as it has been affected by the move. There will be an extra charge for this, but the fee will be nominal and it will keep your information current.
Q. We’ve heard that some countries will not accept us if we have pets. Is this true?
A. So far, we have never encountered a country that disapproves a family because of pet ownership. We want to know that your pets are well cared for and that you will help them accept your new child.
Q. What happens if we have our home study now and we move to another state in the midst of our adoption process?
A. Adoption requirements vary from state to state. Therefore, you will probably need to have a home study update, done in your new state of residence.
Q. I have a history of depression. However, I have received treatment and I am now taking medication which keeps the depression under control. Will this prevent me from adopting?
A. Many people with conditions similar to your’s, have been able to adopt children. We will want to know the nature of the depression and what kinds of situations seem to trigger it. This is because we want to be sure that your condition will not negatively affect your ability to parent. Whether or not you can adopt will depend upon the adoption resource you use. There are some agencies or countries that might not accept someone who has had a psychiatric condition.
Q. Can people with physical disabilities adopt? How does a physical disability affect the home study approval?
A. When we do a home study, we want to get to know you and how you function. There are many folks with disabilities who have received home study approval. You will need to educate us about how you handle the various limitations that your disability presents. Again, as with psychiatric conditions, the adoption resource that you choose often determines whether or not you can adopt successfully. Some countries are more cautious than others about disabilities.
Q. I am gay and my partner and I very much want to become parents. Will our sexual orientation negatively affect our home study approval?
A. Adopting internationally can be difficult for gay people because most countries will not knowingly place a child with someone who is gay. However, many domestic adoptions are available to you. When we conduct a home study, we are focusing on your values, life style, relationships with others, and parenting abilities. We are not focusing on your sexual orientation. If you are living with a partner, we are concerned about the relationship that you have with each other, just as we are concerned about the relationship of a heterosexual couple. New York State does not permit discrimination in adoption on the basis of sexual orientation.
Q. I have a friend who had a home study done for a domestic, private placement adoption. She said the social worker only visited for an hour and just asked a few questions. Is this typical?
A. We hope not. We believe that the home study process should involve real discussion and interaction. Yes, we ask questions because we need enough information to write a report which accurately describes you. But we also talk with you about your concerns and questions and we try to provide information about adoption in general and about the kind of adoption that you are involved in. The study process should be a relaxed and pleasant experience.
Q. What kind of paper work is involved?
A. This may vary from situation to situation. However, generally, you wil be asked to provide photocopies of birth and marriage certificates and divorce decrees (if relevant), letters of reference from people who are not related to you, completed medical forms, and documentation of your financial situation.