This is the second post in a series on the “how to” of adoption, step by step. Post one can be found here.
Starting the adoption process can be intimidating. You hear horror stories of the paperwork that is involved and it is hard to imagine ever making it through it all. Not only is the paperwork challenging, but you have to complete a home study right off the bat. Thinking of a social worker coming into your home evaluating your family can be scary. Thankfully those stories do not have to be yours. Know that it is normal to feel a little nervous starting a process as important and life changing as international adoption.
The adoption process is a wonderful thing and like anything worthwhile it has its ups, downs, and challenges. There are four things listed below that might help ease any nerves you are experiencing about diving into the home study process.
1. Know that your social worker wants to see you succeed and desires to prepare your family for adoption.
The first thing I love to tell families in the home study process is that I am on their side. Social workers are not coming in with white gloves to inspect every detail of your house and they by no means expect you to be perfect. They understand that you are human and it is only natural to have a room or two or three that is a little messy
With that being said it is good to note that the home study process is an approval process. All adoption agencies should be functioning in the best interest of the children so the goal of the home study is to prepare your family for the challenges that come with international adoption. Take to heart the education that you are going through. Your agency is not having you do this education just to keep you busy, but to get you ready for having your new child in your home. It is easy to get excited and want to rush through everything, but really try to apply the education as best you can.
2. Understand that home studies require a good amount of paperwork so communication is important.
The home study is the most paperwork heavy part of the entire process. You will gather documents that you did not even know you had or did not know existed. So while you are in this part of the process it is good to stay organized! One thing that I have found to be helpful for families is to have a running checklist of all the documentation I will need to complete the home study. This allows for everyone to stay on the same page. If your agency or social worker does not provide a checklist for you then make one yourself! After you have drafted up your home study checklist have your social worker look over it to make sure it includes everything and then start keeping up with what you have turned in and what you have left to accomplish. This is a good way to stay organized with your social worker, but it also feels good to check things off that list!
I have included a list of documents that most families will need for their home study below. This is something to just get you started, be sure to check with your home study social worker that you are not missing anything or not gathering something you do not need (all state requirements are different).
Home study documents:
Criminal Background Checks – These normally consist of a state and federal clearance. Your social worker should give you instructions for these. Be sure to get these sent off soon after beginning your home study because the results can sometimes take a while to get back.
Child Abuse and Neglect Clearances (in state and out of state) – Your social worker should give you instructions for these as well. Be sure to get these sent off soon too since it can take a while to get these results.
Tax Return – This can just be the most current tax return you have.
Pay check stubs – You will probably need two recent pay check stubs.
Letters of Profession – I would make sure these include the profession, position, length of time employed, annual salary, and prospect of continued employment. Be sure this is dated and signed!
Health Insurance Verification – Just a copy of your card will be fine.
Guardian Form – You will need to designate a guardian for your child/children.
Medicals – Be sure to get these from your social worker. They will have physicals that will cover all of the country requirements. Make sure that your country does not require a specific medical professional to complete the medical. For example, China will only accept medicals signed by a MD or DO.
Child’s medical – These are usually pretty simple, but get the form from your social worker as well.
Rabies vaccinations – You can get this from your veterinarian if you do not have it.
Passports – Go ahead and apply for passports if you do not have them.
Birth Certificates – You will have to turn in a copy or an original of your birth certificates. Most families just order additional copies for their social worker.
Marriage License – You will have to turn in a copy or original of your marriage license. Most families order an additional copy of this as well for their social worker.
Divorce decree/Death certificate – You should be able to just use a copy for these documents.
Autobiographies – Your social worker will give you some guidance on what you will need to answer in your autobiographies.
Pictures of home – You will probably need to provide photos of your home in addition to your social worker actually visiting your home.
Education – Education is a big part of the home study so be prepared to do a lot of it! Your social worker will explain what you need to complete and when. If you are working with a placing agency and a home study agency be sure everyone has communicated about what education your family will need to complete.
References – Be sure your social worker has sent these out. References are something that can take a while to get back.
Since there is a lot of paperwork in the home study process it is good to keep everyone informed through your entire home study if you are working with multiple social workers. This could happen if you were working with a placing agency and having another agency complete a contract home study for your family. This could also happen if you have a social worker who is taking care of the program requirements (so getting your family through the entire international adoption process) and a social worker in the same agency that is completing your home study.
While everyone will be working together it is good to make sure that you communicate all the important things to both social workers while you are in home study. This helps to make sure that nothing big slips through the cracks.
3. Be familiar with the process and what is coming next.
It is always good to stay a step ahead throughout your process! Your social worker should lead and guide you in this, but if for some reason that does not happen it is okay to ask questions about the next steps. When you feel like you are getting close to the end of one step be sure to ask about how you can be preparing for the next. This often helps make sure that you do not waste time in between phases of the process. So when you are getting close to finishing up your home study ask your social worker what is next. It will most likely be going through Immigration and there is some paperwork involved in that process. While your social worker is typing up your home study it is great to be getting that paperwork ready to send off when the time comes.
Another thing that could be helpful during the home study process is to make sure the documents you are collecting can be used for your dossier. It would not be fun to gather medicals, clearances, employment letters, etc. to only find out that you need new medicals, clearances, etc. for your dossier.
4. Enjoy your adoption journey.
The most important thing would be to enjoy the process. It is natural to get wrapped up in the process, but do not get so wrapped up that you miss out on the joy. Preparing your family for adoption is such an exciting time. If you are able to take advantage of this time you will see the Lord grow your family and your marriage. It will spur on conversations that you most likely have never had. Embrace it and think of how you will work as a couple and a family when you get to celebrate the victories and overcome the challenges together. Allow the Lord to use this process to bring Himself glory!
Adoption is the perfect picture of the gospel and it is amazing to watch Him open doors for sharing the gospel through your adoption. Do not miss out on how the Lord is working in the small and big details of your adoption. It is really easy to do that when you are ready for that precious little one to come home, but know that He is working in the paperwork and the waiting.
So if you are feeling lead to adoption do not let the fear of the home study or paperwork hold you back! Know that there are people who are eagerly waiting to assist you through every step of the way. Have confidence in knowing if the Lord is calling your family to adopt that He will provide in ways that you could never imagine.
Meagan Smith has been working in international adoption since she graduated from Auburn University two years ago. It was during her time at Auburn that the Lord gave her a heart for adoption both personally and professionally. Meagan currently helps families adopt internationally through China. She works with families from the beginning to the end of their process and also does local home studies. Meagan and her husband, Josh, live in Birmingham, Alabama.