adopting couple going through the adoption home study process

What to Expect During the Adoption Home Study Process

By Anna St. Martin

September 13, 2023

*This is a general guide to the adoption home study process. An individual family's home study process and requirements will vary based on state of residence, type of home study, provider and/or attorney, existing family members, lifestyle, etc.

If you are considering adoption, you have likely experienced some anxiety regarding one of the earliest steps in the adoption process:  the home study.  You might be wondering…

What is an adoption home study? Why do I need to be home study approved? What happens during a home study? Will we pass?

Our providers get questions like these all the time! It is completely normal to have questions and even to feel a little nervous. The adoption process can seem overwhelming, confusing, and many are not sure where to start. As a necessary, important milestone, the home study can add additional stress, but it doesn’t have to be scary.

We have helped thousands of families learn, grow, and succeed throughout this important step, and you can, too.

Step One: Find a Home Study Provider

Your adoption home study must be completed by a licensed social worker or an adoption agency in your state. For those working with an adoption agency licensed and located within their state, many do provide home study services. But if you are working with a national adoption agency that is not licensed in your state, you may need to look elsewhere to complete your home study.

It’s important that your home study agency is known for its timely, experienced home studies. The adoption process can move quickly and you want to be confident and ready to proceed when the time comes.

While looking for a home study professional,  there are some things that you should know to ensure a provider is a good fit for you and your family. Choosing the right adoption professional for your home study can drastically improve your journey, so it’s important to know the right questions to ask before making your decision.

  1. Are you licensed?
  2. Are you familiar with the interstate compact (ICPC) and if yes, how many of your families travel out of state?
  3. Will I own my study once it is completed and will I get copies of my study with all the supporting docs?
  4. How long does it take for you to complete a home study?
  5. Do you charge a travel fee?
  6. Do you offer home study updates once a home study expires?
  7. Do you have testimonials from happy families?

Note: Depending on the type of adoption (domestic, international, foster care, etc.), the home study requirements can vary, and a home study provider may not offer all types. For example, home studies for domestic and international adoptions have different requirements, and international adoption home studies can differ from each other depending on the child’s country of origin.  Be sure to ask a potential provider if they offer international adoption home studies, and if so, what countries they have experience serving.

Step Two: Complete the Home Study Application

To be accepted into a home study provider’s caseload, a family needs to complete the agency’s initial application. This gives a provider basic information such as name, contact information, occupation, current children in the household (if applicable), your spouse’s information (if applicable), etc.

a couple welcomes their home study provider for their adoption home study visit

Step Three: Meet Your Home Study Social Worker

Once you have been accepted to a provider’s caseload, they will guide you through the next steps of the home study process including required documents, reference requests, background checks, etc. This is also when you and your provider can begin discussing and scheduling the home visit.

At this point, you should address any concerns you may have about the home study process with your home study provider.

They are here not just to give you the home study seal of approval, but to be a resource, guide, and mentor throughout the process!

Step Four: Time for Homework

You may have started collecting essential documents and getting appointments scheduled to complete your family’s background checks. Great job…you’re ahead of the game!

Background Check and Clearances

For an adoption home study review, all age-appropriate members of your household will need to complete a background check, which usually includes a state criminal check, an FBI Criminal History Report, and child abuse and neglect clearances.

While state laws vary, you will likely need a child abuse and neglect record check for all states you have lived in for the past five years at the very least.

Please begin the background check process as soon as possible. These checks will require time for the state agency to process, and your home study social worker and/or agency will need to evaluate the results.

Adoption Education

Depending on your agency and state regulations for adoption education, you may also need to complete:

  • Parenting classes
  • A foster care licensing program
  • CPR training
  • First aid training

Education is key to creating a healthy foundation for adoption. That's why we at PairTee provide (free) unlimited certificate-education courses to our families via Creating a Family, the national adoption education and support nonprofit. Discover more benefits about completing your home study with PairTree.

Adoption Home Study Documents

You will be required to turn in your home study documents either prior to or during your first home study visit. These documents may include:

  • Potential adoptive parents' autobiographies
  • Financial information
  • Disciplinary statement
  • Copy of the birth certificate of each member of the family
  • Copy of marriage license
  • Copy of divorce decrees(s) if applicable
  • Military discharge(s) (if applicable)
  • Most recent income tax return
  • Employment verifications (letter from employer or most recent pay stub) or non-working spouse statement (if applicable)
  • Physician health statements (link to requirements page)
  • Copies of drivers' licenses
  • Reference letters (link to requirements page)
  • Pet vaccination records
  • Proof of insurance: home, health, auto, life
  • Passport(s)
  • Green card(s)

Additional documents your state or agency may require for your home study. View Requirements of an Adoption Home Study for more information on the documents required for a home study.

family interviews for adoption home study visit

Step Five: Complete Your Adoption Home Study Visit

The home study provider will visit your home to interview everyone currently residing in the home, including age-appropriate children (usually over 5 years old). Members of the family not currently residing in the home may also need to be contacted by the home study provider for an in-person or phone interview. The home study visit will usually take 2 to 4 hours. During the visit, your provider may ask about:

  • Why you’ve made the decision to pursue adoption
  • Your views and philosophies on parenting
  • Your current lifestyle and how a new child would be accommodated
  • Your marriage or current relationships
  • Your religious affiliations

Your home study provider will also observe your family interactions, your home, and your local neighborhood. Be prepared to answer questions about where the child's bedroom would be and where the child would go to daycare or school if applicable.

Your social worker is there to ensure that your home is a safe and comfortable environment for a child. Here are 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

At this point, you and your social worker will go over the forms, documents, and information your home study provider and agency requested. Learn more about the required documents you’ll need to become home study approved.

Like many families, you might feel a little nervous about the home visit. You are not alone and we are here to help!  Learn how to prepare for your home study visit with tips from our nationwide team of providers.

If required, the social worker will schedule your second home visit in order to conduct another interview session with your family.

Step Six: Home Study Review

You are almost there! Your home study provider will finish the written report and send a copy of the document to you.

Confirm and Approve Your Adoption Home Study Document

Confirm with your home study provider that all factual information contained in your home study review is correct. Once you have completed your review, the adoption home study specialist or supervisor must approve the home study, sign it, and have the document notarized if necessary.

Your Agency and the Home Study

Finally, your home study will need to be approved by your placing agency/agent. This may be your last step before going active with your placing agency. Your agency may begin showing your potential adoptive parent profile to potential birth mothers.

Step Seven: Stay Aware of Possible Adoption Home Study Updates

An update to your home study is required if you undergo any significant lifestyle changes that significantly alter the factual information in your home study review. Such events might include a change in your employment status, moving to a new home, or the addition of a new member to your household. You might also need an update if your home study or background clearances expire before the finalization of your adoption.

If your home study is set to expire soon, do not delay your adoption journey…find a home study provider near you to get an update!

post-placement reports of adopted baby during the home study process

Step Eight: Yay for Post-Placement Visits

After a child is placed with your family, post-placement visits will begin. Generally, your home study provider will want to visit your family within the first month of placement. State and country regulations vary on the number of post-placement visits as well as the amount of time before your adoption finalization hearing.

At the post-placement visits, your home study provider will observe the child in your home and assess how the family is adjusting to the recent placement of the child. The post-placement reports are then submitted to the court for the finalization hearing, and visits will continue until your adoption is finalized which is usually around six months after the child is placed with the adoptive family.

Post-placement regulations are determined by either the state in which you live or the state in which your child was born, as well as the status of parental rights relinquishment/termination, and the licensing requirements of your agency.

We hope this provides a deeper understanding of adoption home studies and find peace of mind as you begin the home study process. Our team is here to help you answer questions, find a top-notch provider in your state, and provide you with resources along the way!

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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.

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