I have been a licensed social worker practicing in international adoptions for over six years now, and I must confess that I absolutely love paperwork!
I recognize that I am probably in the minority.
I tell families that the beginning of the adoption process might feel like you are trying to sip from a fire hydrant. You know that you need to ask questions, but you don’t even know where to start or what questions to even ask.
Adoption is a beautiful mess; it is ok to feel overwhelmed.
In an effort to normalize the adoption paperwork, and prayerfully help families understand why it is necessary, I want to explore what many call the “adoption paper chase” and what exactly that means.
Let’s start with a question I hear almost every day: What is a home study?
Thankfully, there are more and more people being exposed to adoption, but I believe there are still a lot of questions and misconceptions floating around about the home study.
Why does it take so long?
Why are you asking so many personal questions about our lives?
Why do you care about our pasts?
Are you going to bring white gloves and check for dust?
Will you look in our closets and laundry room?
Are we going to be approved?
Well, a home study is so much more than looking through every room in your home and giving you loads of paperwork to do. We really look at the home study as a time of preparation for post adoption, once the child is actually in your home.
When it comes to international adoption, the children we see coming home are coming from a background of trauma and are bringing all of those challenges with them. These children have likely been abandoned and forced to live in an orphanage, with no real idea of what a family is. They may sleep in a crib most of the day with only two nannies caring for dozens of children. These nannies likely come and go and may not provide any care at night, leaving room for many inconsistencies and developmental delays. Whenever a child is institutionalized, they are likely exposed to all types of abuse and may never know when they will have their next meal.
In light of this (and so much more trauma I could mention), as an adoptive parent, it is imperative to know where your child began. During the home study, parents complete different pieces of education to prepare them for this.
When it comes to adoption there are so many unknowns; it is always wise to prepare for the worst, but hope and pray for the best. Therefore, instead of looking at education as just a requirement to check off the list, I encourage you to look at it as a necessity. We need this!
Though we cannot predict everything that may arise post adoption, we can predict that this child will likely turn your lives upside down. Praise the Lord He has sustained those who have gone before us and has provided them with the knowledge they have to share.
Another component of the home study is actually meeting with your social worker for a series of interviews, and talking about you. So… what about you? Why does your past matter; how is it relevant? What does your marriage have to do with adoption? We all have challenges in life; there is no way to avoid them. If you have not been through something tough, please come talk to me!
We know that adoption can be difficult, and any family that has already experienced difficulty, and processed through it well, is something that your social worker would like to know.
If you still have some open wounds or challenges to work through, that’s ok! The time to work through this is before you bring your child home. If not, your child’s trauma will highlight your own, therefore leaving a lot of room for disappointment, and not providing a healthy environment for both you and your child.
Adoption should be for healthy families knowing they will adopt a child who comes from brokenness, not broken families looking to fill a void by adopting a healthy child.
This may involve putting your adoption process on hold in order to spend time in counseling. Many families start the home study, and with the help of their social worker, realize that they have “stuff” to work through before moving forward. It is our goal to set you, as the adoptive parents, up for success. We would be doing families a disservice if we did not address challenges that need further attention.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4
Lastly, maintaining an open relationship with your social worker is key! No relationship is perfect, no childhood is perfect, no marriage is perfect, and no family is perfect. It is imperative to have full disclosure with your social worker in order for them to care for you best.
In addition, the adoption process is like a game of dominos. When it comes to paperwork, everything builds on itself. If you happen to “forget” about a past arrest, certain medication you are taking, or even something as simple as a legal name change, it can be difficult to backtrack and do things the right way. We are not coming from a place of judgment, but a place of discernment!
Ultimately, we see the home study process as so much more than just the “adoption paper chase”. We are beyond grateful for families who step out in faith and move forward with adoption because the need is there and it is very real. We want to do all we can to make the process as beneficial as possible, not only for you as the adoptive parents, but also the child coming into your home.
This all begins with the home study.
So I encourage you to keep an open mind, be vulnerable, ask for help, and show yourself grace. God uses this process to grow and change your heart – and your child’s heart – for the glory of His name.
Let Him do so!