Home studies are a pretty big deal in the adoption process. A home study is an assessment of a prospective adoptive family’s life, history and home, and, if all goes well, it ends with a recommendation that the family be able to adopt.

It’s natural, then, that the process can seem scary. It’s tough to have your lives under a microscope, but everyone has to go through it before adopting — even celebrities! To make the process as educational and stress-free as possible, it’s important to choose the right professional to complete your home study.

For Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, Arkansas and Florida residents, American Adoptions can provide home study services in a span of four to six weeks. (These are the states in which we are licensed.) If you don’t reside in one of these states, though, there are important questions to ask any home study professional before you begin the process.

Who can perform a home study?

A home study must be performed by a social worker licensed in your state. Some states, as well as other countries, require that social worker to be from a licensed adoption agency. To avoid any issues with the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC), we recommend working with a licensed adoption home study professional. You don’t want to travel to another state to meet your child only to realize your home study has been denied.

How much does a home study cost?

The ultimate price tag varies based on each adoptive family’s individual situation. It’s common for international home studies to cost more, because the requirements of the other country have to be met as well. Before selecting a professional to complete your home study, be sure to ask about prices — not only for the present time, but for post-placements and other updates after your child has joined your family.

Remember, cost is not the only factor. You need a timely, experienced professional to help you ready your family for its newest member.

How long will the home study take?

Some professionals move faster than others. You should ask any agency you’re considering this question, as well as a few follow-ups:

  • Does the home study time frame start the day you apply or the day your interview takes place? Some estimated time frames can be very skewed if the clock doesn’t start until the day your interviews begin. You want to make sure the agency you choose can get the ball rolling relatively quickly.
  • How soon can the agency send a professional to begin the interview process?
  • How long does it generally take for background checks to be returned? Is that factored into the agency’s time frame estimate?
  • How quickly will the professional actually write your home study after the interviews and background checks? Ask for references.

Other factors to consider

It’s helpful to think beyond the day your child joins your family when choosing a home study professional. He or she will also be responsible for post-placement supervision visits, which will entail coming to your home to assess how everyone is adjusting with the newest family member. The number of these visits depends on the state (or by country in an international adoption).

You may need an updated home study down the line if you move, switch careers or add new family members to your home. Otherwise, the original is good for 12 months before it has to be updated.

If you’re pursuing an international adoption, be sure the home study professional you choose is well-versed in the different demands associated with the country or countries you are considering. It’s important that your professional know what those countries are looking for in adoptive families.

Remember that it’s normal to be anxious about your home study. It is, after all, a very big step on the way to growing your family — and the right home study professional will help to guide you along the way.