Q. What is an adoption home study?
A. A home study is a basic overview of your family's life, history and home, which allows courts and our agency to determine if a stable emotional, physical and financial environment exists for an adopted child. Home studies highlight items such as your relationships, interactions with children, childhoods and your home and neighborhood.
Since the home study can be the lengthiest step while getting ready to adopt, we recommend that you begin the process as soon as possible. Collecting documents for a home study can be time consuming. Items such as birth certificates and marriage licenses can be difficult to obtain but are required to confirm your identity; background checks are required to review any criminal records, as well.
The home study process sometimes frightens families, until they actually complete one. American Adoptions’ goal is to make the home study process as easy and relaxing as possible.
Q. Who should complete our home study?
A. If you reside in a state where American Adoptions is licensed to complete home studies (Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, Arkansas and Florida), American Adoptions can complete your home study and ensure that it is completed to the best standards. Currently, American Adoptions can complete your home study in four to six weeks. We offer adoption home study services for domestic adoptions, embryo adoptions and international adoptions, except those between the U.S. and China.
You shouldn’t allow just anyone to complete your home study. We work with families across the United States and continually see the poor service some endure with home studies. They may pay hundreds of dollars more than they should, while others are forced to have their home studies redone because of insufficient information. This is often due to the home study provider's inexperience with requirements for states outside their own. American Adoptions works nationally and has discovered the best format for our home studies to prevent unnecessary complications.
It is important to note that many states, adoption agencies and courts will only accept home studies from licensed adoption agencies. If you use someone other than a licensed adoption agency to complete your home study, you may be required to have a qualified adoption agency perform another home study for you. This often means an increased waiting period to receive a child and could double your costs.
The Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) accepts American Adoptions' home studies across the United States. Through ICPC, each state reviews all adoption paperwork and supporting documents to make sure it is in proper order. It has been our experience that ICPC offices can deny or delay approval of an adoption when a home study is NOT completed by a licensed child-placing agency.
If you need assistance locating a licensed adoption agency in your state to complete your home study please contact 1-800-HOMESTUDY, visit 1-800-HOMESTUDY, or ask your American Adoptions’ Adoption Coordinator for assistance.
Q. When should we start the home study?
A. You should begin your home study process as soon as you are ready to begin the adoption process. If you use American Adoptions for your home study services, your home study will take an average of four to six weeks to complete, depending on your state of residence. You should submit your Preliminary Application to American Adoptions and begin having your criminal and child abuse clearances processed around the same time, as these processes can occur concurrently.
Q. Do you provide home study services for embryo adoption?
A. Yes, American Adoptions has completed home studies for couples pursuing embryo adoption. Although an embryo adoption home study is virtually identical to a traditional domestic adoption home study, some embryo adoption providers require extra steps or paperwork. If you need a home study for an embryo adoption, ask your adoption provider what items they require for their home study process, and American Adoptions will ensure those steps are completed. A typical embryo adoption home study takes approximately four to six weeks to complete.
Q. I am single. Can I get a home study done through your agency?
A. You can have an approved home study as a single adoptive parent. Your home study process will be exactly the same as a married couple. If you reside with someone else, that person will need to be interviewed and have background checks, just as will any other member of the household.
Q. I have a medical condition. Will this prohibit me from getting a home study?
A. Medical conditions are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Most medical conditions are not prohibitive for adoptive families as long as you are under a physician's care. A current physician's health form is a required supporting document. This informs us of any medical conditions that you may have and asks your Doctor if you have any medical or psychiatric problems that could affect your ability to be an adoptive parent. A physician's health form also asks the doctor if, based on his or her knowledge, you have a normal life expectancy. American Adoptions can request additional medical and/or psychiatric information as necessary to complete the home study.
Q. What happens if I have a DUI or other criminal background?
A. If you have ever been arrested, the incident is likely on record. Do not worry that this will automatically prohibit you from getting an approved home study. It will, however, slow the home study process until an assessment of the situation can be made. If we receive a "hit" on you, or another member of your household, the person with the record will be notified. He or she is required to obtain a dissemination report from the arresting city or county; only that person can obtain this information. Due to confidentiality, American Adoptions can only discuss the issue with the person who has the record.
In addition to the dissemination report, additional documentation may be required, depending on the contents of the arrest record. For example, if you have been convicted of a DUI, we would ask for proof of alcohol related counseling or education (often mandated by the court), probation reports/discharge, sponsor letters and Judicial Orders of Compliance. You will also need to record the circumstances surrounding that particular event in your life and the steps you have taken since to ensure that this does not happen again.
American Adoptions "hit" policy is as follows: If during the course of your criminal and child abuse background screening process this office receives a "hit" on an applicant, the applicant will be notified by the main office. The applicant must then obtain a full deposition or full disclosure of the incident by the reporting entity. In addition, probation reports, court documents, counseling reports and evaluations will also be required. The home study procedure will be suspended until the requisite documents are received in our office. Those documents will be forwarded to your home study worker for full assessment.
If an applicant declines to cooperate with this policy, the home study will be terminated and no refund of fees will be granted. American Adoptions has its own discretion and is subject to local, state and federal policies regarding prohibitive offenses, which would keep a couple from adopting.
Q. What are reasons that we would need to update our home study prior to its expiration?
A. A home study update is required in the event of major life changes, such as a change in your employment, a move to a new home, a change in household members, etc. If you are unsure if your home study should be updated, contact your home study provider.
A home study may need to be amended if your adoption plan changes during your wait. For instance, if you decide to open yourself to additional race combinations, your home study will need to be amended to reflect that.
Q. Does a home study expire?
A. Yes, a home study can expire. Every state determines how long its home study is good for. Regardless of your state’s policy on home study updates, your placement agency may have additional requirements. For example, American Adoptions requires home studies be current within one calendar year, meaning that a home study is good for 12 months and then will require an update.
American Adoptions requires yearly updates to adhere to most states’ and countries’ policies. We follow this strict policy on home study updates because an adoptive family residing in a state where their home study is good for 18 months could be matched with a birth mother whose state requires a home study update every 12 months. The adoption would be delayed due to this complication.
In addition to an annual update to your written home study, there are a few supporting documents that require yearly renewal prior to their date of expiration. Your background clearances (child abuse, FBI and criminal clearances), physician health reports and tax return must be updated annually.
Q. What are post-placement/supervision visits?
A. Post-placement visits, or supervision visits, are follow-ups to the home study. They occur after a child has been placed with you and consist of visits from a social worker to assess the current status of the child and adoptive parents. You will discuss a variety of topics with the social worker, such as developmental milestones, information from pediatrician visits and how the child and other family members are adjusting. The number of visits varies state to state; however, most states require three on average. The number of required post-placements for your adoption is based on the state where your adoption will finalize—not necessarily where you live.
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