As a potential adoptive parent, does your stomach drop when you think about your upcoming home study? If so, you are not alone! Having a social worker inspect your home is the portion of the adoption process that many potential parents find the most intimidating. Preparing yourself and your home in advance can help keep your nerves at bay as you anticipate this important step toward adopting your child.
Know What They're Looking For
Your social worker has probably already assured you that they will not be performing a white-glove test on your bookcases or looking for dust bunnies under the bed. Wasting your efforts on cleaning tasks that won't matter (like organizing your closet) will just make you feel more stressed out. It will also take energy and time away from doing the things that your social worker is actually looking for.
Some things that you do not need to do in advance of having your home visit include complete babyproofing, setting up a nursery or having a wardrobe of clothing ready for the child. These can all be accomplished later.
Provide a Safe Place for a Child
What your social worker is looking for is a safe and healthy place where a child would thrive and grow. In general, your home should be clean (though not necessarily spotless) and reasonably tidy. You will need to have a room designated for the baby or child, though it does not have to have all of the furnishings and decorations set up yet. Your licensed adoption agency will likely give you a list of items you need to have and things you need to do. Here are a few that you might not have thought of:
- Your pets need to be healthy and vaccinated. Have their veterinary records handy.
- You will need smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed in your home. Make sure they have batteries!
- You will need at least one fire extinguisher.
- Your hot water heater should be set at 120 degrees, as higher water temperatures could scald a child.
- Your medications and cleaning chemicals need to be out of reach of a child.
Note that all of these items are easily fixed if you were to forget to do one of them. Remember that your adoption agency wants you to succeed; they will go over any concerns with you and give you a chance to rectify them. Don't be afraid that you will have to start over from square one if you were to misplace your dog's rabies vaccine certificate!
Prepare for the Interview
It should ease your mind to know that most of the time, if something in an adoptive parent's past or present would prevent an adoption from taking place, it would come up before the home interview. While being interviewed in your home can be a stress-inducing experience, it's not likely to have a negative impact on the adoption process. For example, your adoption agency already knows that you have passed background checks, are not a sex offender and have passed any psychological testing that they've required.
If you have children already, they will be part of the interview if they are old enough. This alone can worry you; children have the uncanny ability to remember every transgression their parents have made, and may be all too eager to share them with the social worker. Try not to be concerned! Remember that your social worker has helped many families adopt, and none of those families were perfect. Many social workers have children of their own and have occasionally yelled at their kids or given them ice cream for dinner.
Preparing for the interview is really about calming yourself down so you can be honest and answer questions accurately. Make sure you have all of the required paperwork filled out ahead of time, and make an effort to listen carefully and answer questions thoroughly.
After your home study is over, you may feel as though the weight of the world has been lifted off of your shoulders. Although the process is stressful, it's a necessary part of making sure that you are matched with the child that will become part of your family forever.