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So What is This Home Study, Anyway? And We Have to Go to Class?!?

Ah, the “dreaded” home study. A process that gets such a bad rap and unfortunately drives many adopting parents into a tizzy. Geek alert… our involvement in the home study just came to an end this week, and we actually enjoyed it. Adjust our pocket protectors: now!

If you remember from our February blog post, our home study agency is a local non-profit called Miriam’s Promise. They’re literally in our neighborhood and have a wonderful staff; notably, our social worker named Tami. We’ve gotten to know them well the last few weeks.

First, what is the home study? According to Wikipedia: a home study or homestudy is a screening of the home and life of prospective adoptive parents prior to allowing an adoption to take place. In some places, and in all international adoptions, a home study is required by law.

In short, the home study is the process of a social worker looking you up and down, from every angle possible (from finances to criminal history to conflict resolution), to ensure you’re fit for adoption. It seems crazy that we, as two mature and consenting adults with an obvious desire to become parents, will have to go through such intense scrutiny and supervision when just about anyone can get pregnant whether wanting to be a parent or not. But, at the end of the day, the home study is a great thing for all involved and it protects what matters most: the child.

While the home study takes a majority of the time early on, the report itself is only a component of the full dossier Sarah mentioned in the previous blog post about paper work. But to get to that one single home study report, a lot goes into it. Before it could really get started, we had a *lot* of work to do on our side. Both Sarah and I had to complete multiple forms, each write a five-page autobiography, then answer some serious questionnaires, including: Views on Parenting, Marriage, Attitudes about Adoption, and Transracial/Transcultural Issues.

… with the best part being, of course, the questions about our sex life in the Marriage questionnaire. What am I going to say, “I’m a minx in the sack.”? How’s that for awkward?

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Moving on...

After our initial “diaries” were submitted, our social worker Tami had to interview each of us individually at the Miriam’s Promise office (Sarah on March 19 and me on March 21). Next, we had to take three extensive classes (one night a week for six hours each for three weeks in a row in late March). Finally, Tami actually came to the house today for the final “inspection” and joint interview. It was far from anything to worry about. While, yes, we had to have our baby locks and fire extinguisher ready (enter first trip to Babies-R-Us), it was not a white-glove-looking-for-dust kind of thing. It was really more of a pleasant visit, just viewing the home and putting a bow on some questions and themes we’d already been discussing.

Class was actually pretty awesome. It just ended Tuesday night, and we have to admit it was a bit sad. Sure, spending six hours each Tuesday is tiring, but the material was super informative: how to overcome challenges with international adoption and racism, parenting techniques for these children with special needs, and in general… a lot of information about the traumas that these children have been through before they even land in America. They brought in a guest speaker family that included a couple of adopted children, one being special needs. And our fellow classmates were a blessing too: the class consisted of 5-6 other couples plus a single gal, with unique adoption journeys ranging from Haiti, to Congo, to Korea, and a couple of China families too. With all the diversity in the room, class ended Tuesday night with an international potluck dinner; each family bringing a dish to represent the country from which we’re adopting. Sarah was, of course, the star pupil and made soup and homemade fortune cookies, filled with a beautiful message for our new friends.

“An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break.” - Ancient Chinese Proverb

One thing we mentioned previously is that the home study doesn’t technically end pre-adoption. Tami, and Miriam’s Promise, will be near-and-dear to us for a few years down the road, with required post-placement visits at 1 month, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years and 5 years. China requires, like a few other countries do, post-placement visits by the social worker to ensure the child is adjusting and that we (as parents) get any sort of advice that might be needed on how to deal with difficult situations. To be clear: once we leave China, our daughter will be ours and there’s no way of legally “taking her away” that’s any different than a biological child. China more requires these visits to monitor the adoption community as a whole; i.e. how things are going in the U.S., if the agencies are making wise placements, etc. Regardless, these post-placement visits have already been paid for as part of the home study fee. So here in about a year when we’re sleep deprived and at wit’s end from the first few weeks at home, a licensed social worker showing up at the door to help… might just be what the doctor ordered. We’ll take it!

What’s next? Now that questionnaires, interviews, classes, and the home visit is complete… we wait. Tami will be busy writing the actual home study report (which will go into the dossier). It will take about six weeks, so this is one of those times when there’s nothing for us to do but be patient. We’re not the best at that, but there’s a lot of fun to be had this summer. Our final summer with just the two of us!

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"I am a lotus flower – delicate, fragile, yet strong... floating, unfolding, and blossoming into the life where I belong.”