Adoption: What You Need to Know About Home Studies
When the social worker comes to your home, keep in mind that she or he is a professional who is on the job. This is not the time to invite a friend or family member to stop by. (If they come over unannounced, tell them it's not a good time and arrange to see them later.) Should you offer the social worker any refreshments? Sure, offer something to drink, like coffee or ice water. However, don't spend a great deal of time beforehand creating fancy appetizers or elaborate dessert creations. The social worker is there to do a job.
What can you expect to be asked about? Usually the questions fall into the categories of why you want to adopt (and if you're infertile, the worker will probably want to explore this issue), what you do for a living, what your hobbies are, and any other questions that might give the social worker a picture of who you are. Here are some questions that you may be asked (and not in this order!):
- When did you start thinking about adoption? Why?
- Are you infertile? How do you know?
- How did you and your spouse (if you're married) meet each other? What drew you together then? How has your relationship changed?
- Have you gathered any information about adoption? What have you learned?
- Do you both (if a couple) want to adopt?
- How do you think a child would change your career? Your marriage? Your life in general?
- What do you have to offer a child?
- Do you know anything about birthparents? If so, what do you know?
- How do you feel about birthparents in general?
- Do your parents and other relatives know you want to adopt? Why or why not? If they know, how do they feel about it?
- Do you think adopted children should be told about being adopted? Why or why not?
- How will you afford the adoption fees?
- What is the greatest advantage to adopting a child? What is the greatest disadvantage?
- What are your hobbies and interests? Will you need to adapt them in some way after you adopt? If so, how?
- How will you feel if the adopted child turns out to be very different from you?
- What would be a “perfect” adoption experience for you?
- Do you think you will continue fertility treatments at the same time you seek to adopt? If so, why?
During the social worker's visit, don't assume that any one tiny detail will derail you. Here's one way to look at it. If you were a social worker and you visited a potential adopter, and she had a few dirty dishes in the sink, would you turn her down just because of that? Now, be fair!
Be friendly and polite but remember that this is an evaluation process. Answer questions honestly—many adoption professionals say they hate it when applicants lie to them, and sometimes this can be a reason to turn an applicant down.
This doesn't mean you should bare your most personal secrets (for example, you tried marijuana once when you were 16). You should, however, be forthright about matters that can be checked (for example, if you were arrested and charged with drug use as an adult 10 years ago) or that continue to cause you problems.
The biggest “enemy” in the home study process is probably your own fear. Tracy and Steve, an adoptive couple I know, remember that they didn't have milk in the house when the social worker came over: He thought she had bought milk and she thought he had. But neither did. So when the social worker asked for milk with her tea, oops!
Both were convinced they had failed. Tracy thought that this lapse would be seen as a failure to communicate in her marriage and a lack of competence at running a household. “We actually agonized about this for days and didn't relax until we got the okay weeks later!” says Tracy. “Now we joke about it, and the social worker, who we still know, claims she didn't even remember asking for milk—she prefers lemon!”
Your Other Children
If you already have other children, expect the social worker to ask about them and also to interview them, if they are old enough (usually over age five). If you have adult children, the social worker might want to talk to them, too.
The best way to prepare your children is to tell them that you want to adopt and why you want to adopt. Also assure them that you will still love them and not provide exclusive attention to the adopted child. (Note: Adult children need to know this, too!)
Many pet-owning adoptive parents have told me that their social workers wanted proof that their pets had had their shots. One prospective parent complained that she kept her cats indoors all the time, so she hadn't got them any shots. Too bad, the social worker said; if she wanted to adopt, the cats would get their injections. Not surprisingly, the cats received a quick trip to the vet to be immunized.
I'm not kidding here: The social worker will want to see any pets you have to determine their compatibility with children. This is probably a good time to take a hard look at whether you really want to keep Brutus, your pet pit bull. (I know I am risking the wrath of pit bull lovers everywhere, who swear they are the nicest, kindest creatures on God's green earth. But you'll have to ask yourself: How badly do you want to adopt?)
Don't worry that the social worker is a dog person and you love cats or hamsters or whatever. If your pets look well cared for, relatively clean and happy, that should be enough. Just keep them from jumping all over the social worker when she visits.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Adoption © 2004 by Christine Adamec. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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