Becoming a parent, no matter how it happens, is never easy. But for those just looking into the possibility of adoption it can seem positively overwhelming. It is our hope to change all that. This 8-post series will go step-by-step through the process to adopt through the special needs program for those of you who are just starting out on the adventure of a lifetime. Join us.
Here are the topics covered:
1. Why China?
2. Special Needs and the Medical Conditions Checklist
3. LID vs. Special Focus
4. Picking an Agency – Part 1
5. Picking an Agency – Part 2
6. The Steps of the China Adoption Process (Acronyms Decoded)
7. Beginning the Paper Chase and Homestudy
8. Things to Read, Do and Study While You Wait
When we first started our adoption journey, I worried that we might fail our home study because our house wasn’t pretty or clean enough. This concern turned out to be completely unfounded, but I think it’s not entirely uncommon to worry about these sorts of things, so I am here today to set your mind at ease. Let’s talk a little about the dreaded home study…
A home study is a report, written by a social worker, to let your agency, your state, and both the US and Chinese governments know that your family is qualified to adopt from China. Please remember what I did not: Your social worker is there to help you through the home study and adoption process — to prepare you, and to be a resource for you as you get ready to meet your child, and after you return home from China.
I remember feeling like our social worker was checking to make sure that we were “good enough to be parents,” and that we were facing some sort of test. I expressed that to her, and she responded that she was there not to test our qualifications, but to ensure that we met all of the basic China program requirements, and then to support us through the process; to answer our questions, to provide us with resources, and to ensure that we were prepared to parent a child who had spent some time in an orphanage.
Don’t be afraid to ask your social worker for help! That’s what s/he is ultimately there for. (That said, your social worker may be busy and overwhelmed, and it may be easier to rely on your fellow adoptive moms for resources.)
During the home study process you’ll be required to gather documents that mostly duplicate those you will be gathering for the dossier. Each state has its own requirements for adoption, so the specifics will look slightly different depending on where you live. Generally though, you’ll provide proof of income, employment verification, a letter from your doctor stating that you’re in good physical health, and criminal background checks.
Your social worker will also be required to obtain child abuse clearances from every state that you’ve lived in since the age of 18. I speak from experience — if you’ve moved a lot, get started on the child abuse clearances ASAP because it is no fun when your home study approval is delayed because the social worker hasn’t received those forms.
In addition to the document gathering, your social worker may ask you to complete a personal narrative that explains the history of your life: your upbringing, your family life, your marriage, and parenting styles. Each spouse will complete this separately, and then the social worker will discuss your answers during your individual interviews later in the process.
Speaking of interviews, you will meet with your social worker several times. Our state (Virginia) required four visits during the course of the home study. (1. an initial meeting with both parents to fill out loads of paperwork 2. an individual interview with me — going over the personal narrative and other questions about our home, marriage, work, parenting style, etc. 3. an individual interview with my spouse and 4. the home visit)
The home visit is so much less intimidating than it might appear to be inside of your anxious brain, I promise. The social worker will come to your home, and walk through it with you. I cannot tell you how much time I spent cleaning out closets and dusting places that our social worker never looked. Honestly, it was a great opportunity for me to get the house super clean. But she will check to make sure that your house is safe, and that you have the proper space for your new child to sleep.
We were given a checklist of items to make sure that we had completed before she came to visit, for example: fire extinguishers, having all the medicine in one place and out of reach, and an exit plan in case of fire or hurricane. She sat down at our table to talk about any remaining questions that she had, and that was it!
Finally, the home study process will prepare you for the adoption process by requiring that you complete some training. The requirements are somewhat state specific, so I won’t go into it too much here, but regardless of what your state requires, part of the training will be a certain number of hours of Hague-certified international adoption training.
If you feel that your home study agency’s training is sparse, please don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations on books to read before you travel to China. In fact, the final post in this Beginner’s Guide series will be devoted to helping you find more resources, and things to read and do while in the long wait for travel approval.