Last Updated on October 10, 2023 by Sarah McCubbin
If you need to prepare for a fostering or adoption home study, it helps to know what kind of information you will need to share as you go through the process. From paperwork, the questions and background checks, expect to give your case workers a lot of information!
Table of Contents
What is a Home study?
What is a home study? Imagine you have inherited a valuable treasure….it was given to you to care for and pass on to the next generation. But you…you have to travel abroad for 6-12 months and you must leave your treasure with a perfect stranger….someone you do not know, and you don’t know if you can trust. That seems crazy…who would leave something so valuable with a stranger. You would go to extensive lengths to choose who would care for the treasure best while you were gone. You would probably do background checks, references, financial checks and much more to make sure that whoever was going to care for it was trustworthy, safe, and cared about your interests.
As strange as it seems…this is a bit how I view the home study process. When we went through it, it felt like they dug into every nook and cranny of our lives to assess whether we were a good place to keep a most valuable treasure….children. After all…isn’t that really what we want for any child, for them to be placed in a safe place that is going to be good for them?
When a family wants to become a foster or adoptive parent, they are required to take a series of parenting classes and complete a homestudy. The homestudy is like a snapshot of all areas of your life that the agency considers significant in whether you be allowed to foster or adopt. Included in a homestudy will be financial records, marriage records, housing records, references, employment and income records, interview questions, medical questions and documentation and much more.
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How long does an home study take?
According to childwelfare.gov, it takes approximately 3-6 months to complete a home study. This time is on top of the time it takes for you to complete classes. When we licensed to become foster parents, we had 12 classes we needed to take BEFORE we could start the home study. Our agency offered 2 classes every week so we could complete the classes in 6 weeks.
However, I think we had to miss a week or two…so we ended up going to an agency in another county to complete classes because they offered the same ones on another day. It still took us about 2 months to complete the classes. And in our case, it took about 8 months to do the home study…but that was more our fault than the agency. We had a house full of small children at the time and getting paperwork done was a challenge.
Home Study Checklist
Our home study was completed through a county agency here in Ohio. It has been a number of years since we went through this process, so I pulled out my foster parent manual to refresh my mind on what exactly was required. Here is what was included in our home study. This may vary slightly from state to state but the general overview should be the same.
- Foster care / Adoption Questionnaire
- Application for child placement
- Authorization for Release of Information so they can run background checks & Bureau of Motor Vehicle checks on all adults in the home.
- Medical Statement for all household members – this is basically a physical for every member of the home that states that no one has any physical, mental or emotional problems that would make the home unsafe for the child placed there.
- Fire Inspection Report – this comes directly from the fire department who comes to check your home.
- Tornado Evacuation Plan posted on all floors
- Well Test if you have well water.
- Financial Statements
- Proof of Residency – ours was an Ohio Proof of Residency that we had been Ohio residents for 5 years. We could use tax returns, bank statements or utility bills to show this.
- Alternate Caregiver form
- Copies of current Marriage & All Divorce Decrees from previous marriages
- Signed Copy of General Rule Compliance Form
- Copies of Identification for all adults in the home – 2 per adult (birth certificates, drivers license, passport or social security card)
- Adoption Photo Listing Family Registration Waiver
- Pet License & Shot Records
The Part Completed by the Assessor
- Site & Safety Audit
- Foster Parent ID
- Individual Training Needs Assessment
- Completion of Preservice Training
- All adults in home must be fingerprinted.
What questions are asked in the home study process?
Before I get to the questions, it is helpful to note that the whole home study process…including all the questions….is to ensure that the home is both safe and a stable placement of children. I remember feeling somewhat threatened by the process of answering questions. I didn’t feel like I had anything to hide…but some of the questions were so invasive and surprising that I felt caught off guard.
For example: They might ask questions about finances. Have you every defaulted on a loan or been in bankruptcy? If the answer is “yes” then expect that they will ask more specific questions even if the financial trouble was many years ago.
If they ask, Have you ever been divorced and you answer, “Yes,” then expect additional questions. They may want to know why you got divorced. It seems irrelavent but keep in mind…they are looking to make sure this home is both SAFE and STABLE.
Maybe your home is obviously safe…but stable is more subjective. They want to make sure you have enough income to support yourself and all your expenses. They want to make sure that any medical or mental health issues are being taken care of. They don’t want to place a child in a home and have to remove them because a family’s personal issues become too overwhelming.
As such, in general you can expect to answer a lot of questions about
- Your Finances (budget, debt, income, expenses)
- Any abuse in your history – Were you abused as a child?
- Any sexual acting out in your past…this could range from legal charges to pornography
- Your home and transportation situation.
- Your alternative caregivers
- Medical issues that might affect the care given to a child
Best Foster Care and Adoption Books!
How do I pass an adoption home study?
As with anything, preparation becomes essential in passing a homestudy. I highly recommend going through the process without trying to RUSH if at all possible. The reason I say this is that the whole experience is a HUGE learning curve.
First you need to take the classes as mentioned earlier. When we took our classes, I was pregnant with baby #5. And even though we had been parents for 8 years already, I felt like I learned a TON about being a parent in those class….not sure if that is good or bad!! Haha! I had the passing thought that everyone should be required to take these classes. I had never had a child development class in college so I think part of my interest came from learning those kind of basic milestones that had been a source of frustration over the years.
After you take the classes, there is all the paperwork. So many parts of the paperwork require interactions with other people to fill them out. Feeling like you need to rush will only frustrate the process. For example, I COULD NOT find our marriage license when we were gathering paperwork. So I had to pay for and reorder another copy from the county. When it was time to schedule a visit with the Fire Marshal, we had to prepare our house (safety, signage, smoke detectors) and call the city to schedule someone to come out. His visit was an in-home appointment that he then had to sign off on our house.
The biggest piece of time saving advice I could give you though is that if you have something in your past that you think might disqualifty you, then ask to speak to a social worker involved in homestudies early on. I would seek this out before or after you take the classes and before you spend a lot of time gathering documentation. That transparent conversation can tell you a lot about whether you are likely to pass a homestudy. They may want you to go ahead and gather certain records so they can look at them before encouraging you to continue the process.
Unfortunately, it can catch people off guard if they go through the WHOLE process and are disqualified by something in the end. They could have saved a lot of time and frustration by getting input. A friend of mine and her husband once went through all the classes and the whole homestudy process. They had bankrupcy in their past but were currrently stable, paying their bills…their mortgage etc. However, when it was time to analyze their documentation, have the interview etc, they were disqualified because of that bankruptcy. It is possible that a conversation early on could have changed their course.
For example, the person might have said, come back and apply in a few years when the bankruptcy is further in your past. Or come back when your income to debt ratio is improved. They could have given them any number of suggestions. Knowing that information ahead of time could have saved a lot of frustration. These friends have opted not to revisit the idea of foster care after this experience. It was a big disappointment and hugely draining. So now I suggest that if you have something in your past that you try your best to get those scenarios addressed before you go through the whole home study.
If you are interested in foster care and adoption, but the whole process seems overwhelming, I want to give you my “Ten Minute Takeaway.” In 10 minutes, you can schedule yourself for foster training. It costs nothing. In 10 minutes, you can post a Facebook post and see which of your friends have fostered or adopted. Tell them you want to know more. People want to share their stories. In 10 minutes, you can order a book about fostering or adoption from Amazon. I highly recommend, “Adoption in the Rearview Mirror.”
That’s it…in 10 minutes, you can take a step to learn more or do something about your interest in this topic. You aren’t making a lifetime decision. The cool thing is, your interest in fostering or adoption can change a life…or it can lead you to be a support to someone who is already doing this. Three of our children are adopted from foster care. Read our story HERE! If you have fostering or adoption stories, I would love to hear them!