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Just What is a Home Study?

A home study report is required for adoption by your state of residence, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service and by the country from which you adopt. Many families wonder just what is involved in a home study and often worry about their ability to meet home study requirements. We hope that the following information will help you to better understand the process, answer your questions about home study, and eliminate any concerns you may have.

Couples and singles wishing to adopt must receive an approved home study from an agency licensed in their state of residence. This process is done by a social worker who gathers documents from you, interviews you, visits your home at least once, and talks with you about your adoption. The social worker is there to help you and it is important to remember that the primary goal of a good agency is to bring families together, not keep them apart. 
Great families come in "all shapes and sizes", and there is not one right kind of adoptive family to be! Successful adoptive parents often have experienced challenges in their life including mental and physical health issues, individual and couple's counseling, problems in their family of origin, and challenges in parenting children. During the home study process it is not important to or desired that you appear to be perfect in any way! Real people, including agency staff and social workers, are certainly not perfect, nor do they have that expectation for you. If you have experienced challenges, how you faced those challenges is most often an indicator of strength and growth and these are often what is most important in parenting children. Many adoptive families have struggled for years with infertility and have worked so hard to build a family. These families are committed, capable and caring and nearly all who seek to build their family through adoption are able to provide loving and nurturing homes for children.
Although it is called "home" study, your physical home is probably the least important factor in the assessment. It is necessary that you can provide a reasonable physical residence for a child, whether the home is owned or rented. It is fine to live in a house, an apartment, condominium, or a town home. Some states do, however have specific requirements regarding smoke detectors, bedrooms for children, and well water testing etc. Your chosen home study agency can help you to understand what, if any, special requirements there are.
While it is required that you use the services of a home study agency located in your state of residence, it is common to use the services of an international child placing agency outside of your state.
An Overview of the Process

The home study process involves contacting and interviewing home study agencies. You will want to understand the agency's requirements including paperwork, training, the number of in-home visits, and the length of time it will take to complete the process and write the report. Once you have selected an agency you will submit an application and supporting documentation. A summary of typical home study documentation is contained below. The agency will invite you to any required training meetings and arrange scheduled home and or office visit(s) with you. International adoption requires that, if you are married, each spouse be interviewed both jointly and individually. Additionally, each member of the family and household (except very young children) must be interviewed and included in the home study. Occassionally there will be adults living outside of the household who will participate as well.  For example, a live-out nanny who cares for your current child(ren) each day in your home.  The areas that will be explored are as follows:

    Background and interests
    Financial, employment stability
    Physical and mental health
    Marital relationship(s)/other significant relationships
    Philosophy of parenting/experience with children
    Understanding of adoption issues for families and children
    Expectations of the international adoption process
    Motivation and readiness to adopt
    Understanding of child development
    Support systems 
    Role of religion (if any)
    Criminal, child abuse and domestic violence history
    Type of child you desire to parent
    Physical safety and appropriateness of home
    Child care plan
    Plan for post placement services

The sections of the final written home study report are often titled very similarly to the topics above!
Please remember that to receive an approved home study you do not need to have a flawless family, criminal, marital, or health history! If you have chosen an experienced and qualified agency they will have worked with families with many unique histories, will gather the information necessary to understand your circumstances and work with you to reach the goal of adoption.

Typical Home Study Application Documentation

Financial statement/verification
Employment verification
Health report from a physician
Letters of reference
A brief autobiography 
Criminal and child abuse clearance checks

What To Expect From Your Home Study Agency

When you are searching for an agency to conduct a home study for you, it is important that you feel comfortable with the agency. Qualities to look for include a timely response to you, friendly and respectful staff, qualified direct service staff, willingness to take the time needed to answer all of your questions, flexibility, openness, a prompt process, and a willingness to work in partnership with you to meet all requirements for adoption. We suggest that you interview several and ask the following key questions:

Are you licensed and eligible to conduct adoption home studies?

Do you have experience performing international home studies?

What fee do you charge for a home study?

What fee do you charge for post-placement visits?

How long does it take you to complete a home study once all my paperwork has been completed?

What requirements do you have for home study, e.g. training?

How many home/office visits are required?

Do you have any special requirements that I/we should be aware of such as length of marriage requirements, sexual orientation policies, religious requirements, etc?

What are the qualifications of your home study assessors? (some states do not mandate agencies to hire qualified adoption assessors and in these states some agencies do not maintain quality standards when hiring individuals who are given the title social worker)

How do you handle situations in which you are questioning a family's home study approval?

May I have references from families who have used your services?

There are many competent and qualified home study agencies out there and when you have found the right one you will know it! If you live in Pennsylvania, La Vida's state of licensure, we can complete your home study. If you live outside of PA, we can help you to identify an agency in your state of residence.

If you have any questions about your own personal situation, please feel free to e-mail or call us and we will be happy to assist you.

La Vida International
101 Lindenwood Drive, Suite 225, Malvern, PA 19355
Phone: 484-318-8543 Fax: 484-318-8562
e-mail: web: