couple cleaning to get ready for the home study

6 Reasons Why a Home Study is Necessary

By Anna St. Martin

August 30, 2023

The home study process, which can take anywhere from one and six months to complete, may seem invasive or lengthy, however, more often than not, providers are looking for ways to rule families in rather than rule them out.

A home study is not as scary or intimidating as you think, and in truth, it is a very important part of the adoption process for everyone involved.

Here are six reasons why a home study is necessary and important for you as an adopting family, for your adopted baby or child, and for your child’s birth parents.

Why is a Home Study Necessary and Important?

To Protect the Child

In any adoption, the child is the most important person. Your home study provider will want to be certain that you and/or your spouse/family can provide a safe, loving home.

This means inspecting your home for potential dangers and performing background checks to to ensure the child is placed in a safe home environment where they will be cared for and protected. Here a few common things a home study provider will inspect in your house:

  • General cleanliness and an adequate space for a child
  • Working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Gates on stairs
  • Covered electrical outlets
  • Secure, locked windows with screens
  • A first-aid kit on hand
  • A safe yard, with proper guardrails around any decks or pools
  • Safe, functioning appliances

Understanding that the whole adoption home study process exists to protect children is crucial. This extensive stage can leave some families feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, but this process is necessary. It ultimately protects children and ensures safe placement.

To Make Sure You’re Ready

The motivation to pursue adoption varies from family to family.  Many couples struggle with infertility, decide to build a family later in life, or simply feel called to adopt and provide a home for a child in need.  Whatever the reason, each family and each adoption journey is unique and thus worthy of deep thought and consideration.  Deciding to grow your family through adoption is a BIG decision, so we encourage you to consider the following:

  • Give yourself time: No one can tell you how much time is the right amount before you’re ready to pursue adoption (though some adoption agencies and home study providers won’t work with you until a certain amount of time has passed). If infertility is part of your journey, give yourself permission to mourn and heal at your own pace. Avoid rushing into adoption before you have had the opportunity to process your grief and make informed decisions.
  • Acknowledge your feelings: Recognize and accept the emotions you're experiencing. It's 100% normal to feel sadness, excitement, anger, frustration, guilt, jealousy, or a sense of loss. Allow yourself to fully experience these emotions without judgment.
  • Talk with your spouse (if applicable), mentors, and others on the same journey: This can be a stressful and uncertain stage in life, and it is immensely helpful and comforting to have an understanding and empathetic support team.

Once you have decided to pursue adoption with an open mind and an open heart, your home study provider is there to ask the ever-important questions:

  • Are you physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to raise a child?
  • Are you financially prepared for the adoption process as well as raising a child?
  • Are you clear on your adoption expectations moving forward?
  • Do you have a support system in place?
  • Does your home have all the required supplies and furnishings?
  • Do you have a fire escape plan?  Is your home equipped and a safe space to raise a child?

Throughout your home study, your home study provider will not only assess your readiness to become a parent but will also make sure you are fully prepared to take on the lifelong responsibility. They will work together with you to prepare your home and heart for a healthy adoption.

moms preparing for their home study

To Begin Adoption Education

The time between when you’re ready (home study approved) to adopt and when you’re holding your baby in your arms is an essential time to continue educating yourself. However, it’s important to note that education never ends! Adoptees and adopting families may have new questions arise far beyond finalization, and education is crucial to understanding how to navigate those questions together.

The home study is a great opportunity to learn more about adoption and ask your home study provider questions. They will provide useful reading material and resources, as well as explain exactly how adoption works. For example, by partnering with a home study provider at PairTree, every family receives discounted lifetime education through Creating A Family with every home study package.

Think of your home study provider as an adoption teacher. These home study specialists are most likely trained counselors, so use their expertise and take time to ask questions and learn more about the process from someone who has walked the journey personally or alongside several, sometimes hundreds, of adoptive families.

Adoption education should strengthen adopting families’ awareness and understanding through the use of expert-based, trauma-informed resources, lived experiences, community support, and training. Ultimately, every adopted child deserves a family who understands their unique strengths and challenges and is equipped to help them thrive.

To Be Legally Compliant

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, or what type of adoption (domestic, international, or foster care) you are planning to pursue, an adoption home study is a legal requirement. In many states and countries, the home study provider who conducts the home study must also be associated with a licensed adoption agency. And, if you plan to adopt through an attorney, you’ll still need an adoption agency or independent home study provider to perform a home study.

Your home study provider will help you to complete all the necessary forms and ensure all legal requirements are met. They will submit documents to the court on your behalf and will follow-up with you throughout the process.

The home study process varies by state, but all include a comprehensive background check, financial assessment, referrals, education, autobiographical details, and at least one home visit. Common documents needed to perform a thorough background check include:

  • ID (such as a driver’s license)
  • Birth certificates
  • Social security cards
  • Proof of citizenship or proof of legal immigration
  • Proof of income and employment
  • References

To Ensure a Good Fit

An experienced home study provider can offer insight into what types of situations would be a good fit for your family. They will instruct you on how to handle meetings with expectant parents, write an honest profile, and help you decide what type of child you are willing and able to parent.

The home study process is when you answer some very important questions. For example:

  • Am I open to special needs?
  • Am I open to drug/alcohol exposure during pregnancy?
  • What degree of “openness” do I want with the birth family?
  • Am I open to a transracial adoption?

As you think about your answers to these questions, strongly consider “why” and “what’s underneath” your view. These questions will be covered during your home study interview and these deeper conversations can be facilitated by your home study provider to provide further insight and education on each topic.

researching the home study process

It’s Not Just Check-the-Box

We think it’s best to view the home study as a bonding exercise for you and your partner (if relevant). There are so many important questions to discuss and answer (so you really get to learn more about each other). You get to choose a home study provider through PairTree who will be your mentor and advocate for the entirety of your adoption journey (arguably the important relationship on your team), and you get to feel a strong sense of accomplishment by completing this extensive assessment of your life.

It’s not a “check-the-box” activity! It’s your opportunity to explore, learn, and prepare. The process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months – driven by your pace.

If an adoption home study still sounds scary or overwhelming, we assure you, you’re not alone. Many potential adoptive parents feel the same way.

At PairTree, we strive to make every family's adoption experience a positive one. Connect with a PairTree adoption expert today and find the support you need to make your adoption dreams come true.

Anna St. Martin Anna's professional history is primarily in education where she worked as a middle school English/Language Arts teacher and later as a school counselor. After having their son, Oliver, and later adopting their daughter, Charlotte, Anna chose to spend a few years at home as a stay-at-home-mom. It was during their adoption journey that she met their amazing home study evaluator who inspired her to pursue a career as a home study provider and help others grow their families through adoption.