As you get started on the journey of adopting from foster care, you will hear the phrase "home study" countless times. If you are still unsure of what a home study is, we're here to help.
A home study is the official document that demonstrates that a family has completed an evaluation process and is qualified and ready to adopt from foster care. While a home study is technically a final written report, it can be helpful for families to think of completing a home study as a process made up of multiple steps.
Are there different types of home studies?
While the term "home study" technically refers to an assessment document that can be used by the courts for the purpose of adoption, there can be differences in how home studies for private, international, and adoption from foster care are completed. We encourage families to work with agencies that complete home studies and foster licenses using the same standards and training requirements as the local child welfare agency. In Washington, that means working with a local child placing agency, but the terminology can differ from state to state. While it may be possible in some areas to adopt from foster care with an adoption-specific home study completed by a private social worker or an agency that specializes in another type of adoption, it is almost always beneficial for families to complete a home study that also meets local foster care licensing requirements through an agency that primarily works with adoption from foster care.
Is there training required for completing a home study?
In almost all cases, families who want to adopt from foster care can expect to complete required training as part of the home study process. Your home study will go into detail what training your family has completed to show that you have finished all of the necessary licensing steps before adopting.
What can I expect from home study interviews?
A key part of every home study process are the interviews between a family and their social worker. The main point of these discussions is for your social worker to get to know your family. Families can expect to discuss what age children you're interested in fostering or adopting, as well as the level of medical needs and behaviors your family feels prepared to parent. The interviews may cover your parenting style as well as questions about your own experience with loss, trauma, and stress management. While these discussions may feel personal and private at times, many families report that the interview process is a useful tool for exploring their motivation for adopting and envisioning how they plan to parent in the future.
How can I prepare for a home study?
Completing a home study can be an exercise in paperwork and organization. To be really on top of your home study process, talk with your agency and see if they can provide you with a checklist on all the steps and documents you'll need to complete. From background checks to financial statements (paycheck stubs, W-2 forms) and copies of legal forms like marriage and birth certificates, there are lots of materials to gather and tasks to complete. If you have a question about a form or requirement, don't be afraid to ask. Your agency will appreciate your attention to detail in ensuring that your family is completing the right steps.
Can I review my own home study?
We highly recommend you review your home study after it is complete. If you aren't automatically given a copy of your home study through your agency, request a copy to review. In some instances, there may be policies in place that limit your ability to see your home study, but in general, most families have the ability to review a home study before it is finalized. The home study plays an important role in matching process, so it's very important to catch any inaccuracies before your home study is sent out to social workers for youth who you are interested in.
For more information on home studies, Child Welfare Information Gateway has a great, thorough explanation of the various elements and common questions.