Intercountry adoption can seem overwhelming to the newcomer. (If you are looking for a basic description of adoption options, click here). The vocabulary alone is enough to send you packing: Hague, home study, dossier, I-800, placements, matches. After the initial application, if your experience is anything like mine, your social worker started dividing your assignments into 2 groups. 1. the Home study and 2. the Dossier. What is the adoption home study?
I have had the pleasure of reading many adoption home study reports as an attorney. But, I have also lived the process. I have been the person responsible for answering the application questions, submitting the financial reports, making appointments for finger prints, etc. The home study is a real pain but so very important.
For the person who will be placing with you, your adoption home study is the image describing you and your family. Knowing what you might expect, what the home study actually is, and what actually matters might help you plan the image you want to create.
What does your home study say about you?
If you are anything like me, you focused on the “home” of home study. You might even try to convince yourself that a perfect home = perfect match. Cleanliness or perfection probably don’t somehow expedite and improve your match. Although the word (home study) conjures images of Mary Poppins scrutinizing every corner of your house with a white glove searching for sharp edges, dust, and child locks, the word should instead conjure images of a CIA vetting process for congressional candidates. Financial information, personal information, psychological reports, profiles, and yes, the actual study of your home. (But, if you are looking for some cleaning tips, click here.)
The home study really refers to a magnified view of your life. You will be required to answer questions about your profession, your family, your feelings, your history, your interests, and even your pets! Then, after 4, 6, 8, 10 weeks of fingerprints, essays, reports, and references a person actually visits your home. Before that visit you drive yourself nuts overturning furniture, scrubbing baseboards, and organizing your children’s toys. You make sure that the educational toys are visible and the dangerous ones –aka the fun ones—aren’t! Or, if you do not have kids in your home already, maybe you spend time babyproofing, purchasing equipment, and covering every sharp object in the house.
(If you want to know the completely embarrassing thing that happened at my home study, subscribe for my emails on the “About Me” page)
Here’s a hint about the totally embarrassing thing that happened during my home study!
And, your social worker tells you over and over that this is not a test of your cleaning skills and that not everything has to be ready for the new child. But, she still sends you a mile long list of requirements for the study: fire extinguishers, locks, safes… And you pray. You pray that, for once, your other children don’t argue or hit each other. That your social worker does not find the lost sippy cup that you just know has old milk in it. That your husband does not make that joke. That your life somehow looks like the Pinterest moms (to follow my chaos on Pinterest, click here) that seem to have it all together.
Then, 30 days later, you find that you passed the home study. Your home study is recommended for approval. When you see the report however, you notice that your social worker did not highlight the tidiness of the home, the matching coded bins of toys, the padded corners of every single edge of furniture. Instead she discusses the love you have for your children or spouse, how your references glowed over your parenting skills, and yes, even how the FBI confirmed that you are not on the most wanted list.
Your report does not focus on the perfection and cleanliness of your home.
SO, What’s the point?
Therefore, focus on the whole picture. Focus on the image that you are creating for your life. The image that allows someone or some committee to know how your home and your life will be the perfect fit for a certain special boy or girl. Don’t try to manufacture it; you want to highlight the unique characteristics about your heritage, your history, or your home.
That image does not have to be Pinterest perfect. Instead it must be the real picture. The one where you sometimes lay on the couch in your jammies watching cartoons with your kids, but other days you hike all together to the top of an exotic mountain. The image that acknowledges that even though you have no idea what you are doing, you get up and try every single day. The picture that is truly you will be the best description to fit your placement.
Your new son or daughter won’t notice the dust and baseboards, instead, he or she will feel the love and warmth that you have in your home. Instead he or she will know the fun, the patience, and the time that you spend with your children. That is the point of the home study. The point is not only to ensure that, yes, your home is safe and reasonably clean, but to be absolutely certain that your home and, more importantly your hearts, are open and ready for a new child. Your home study and profile helps your matching agency, your placement board, or the placing mother to determine what child is absolutely perfect for you.
What is your focus?
So, as you embark or consider embarking on this crazy journey of adoption, don’t only focus on the actual home visit. Take a step back and refocus on the entire home study including the stacks of paperwork, your personal profile, and references leading up to the home visit. Be honest with yourself and your family about who you are.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
After you move through the home study process comes the dossier (if you are pursuing an international placement), and then the waiting. For more about dossiers and finding peace in the waiting, stay tuned for more!