Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Adoption: a homestudy visit...

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{Noah and Lola just before one of our adoption home visits this week...}

I have been a little consumed this week with adoption stuff. As many of you know, we are working steadfastly to meet a deadline to be considered as the adoptive parents for two little girls in foster care. You can read more about that here. We are in the process of completing the final stages of the homestudy process. If you aren't familiar with the adoption homestudy process, here is a great resource to better inform you.

The adoption process consists of initially, a great deal of paperwork. You typically have an orientation with the agency you are going to be working with and then you are given a rather voluminous packet with forms to complete and submit. For us, the paperwork is always the hardest part--it takes so much time and you really have to force yourself to stay on top of it or it will never get done and only prolong your adoption efforts. You are asked to complete financial statements, background/criminal checks, get fingerprinted by the state, write autobiographical statements, and provide interior pictures of every room in your home and exterior pictures (front and back) of your home. You also have to provide a list of 3-5 references and they are then required to fill out a questionnaire about your ability to care and provide for an adopted child. After all the paperwork is finished and reviewed, and once you have completed all the necessary required adoption training classes (e.g. PRIDE, Crisis Prevention, CPR/First Aid, Online Medical Consent training, medication training and Child Safety courses) the agency will then begin coming to your home to conduct what are called homestudy visits.

This is technically our 4th homestudy to go through, so we are pretty familiar and comfortable with the process by now. It still can be a little stressful, but no where near what it was the first time we went through it. You may be wondering why we are working on a 4th homestudy... let me try and explain. We completed our first homestudy back in 2006 when we were working on our first adoption prior to Noah being born. In 2008, we decided we were ready to adopt again and we contacted our adoption agency and began our 2nd homestudy while living in Virginia. In late 2009, Jody's career brought us back to Texas and because of adoption laws when you move out of state, we had start over and have a 3rd homestudy with the same adoption agency now that we lived back in Texas. And then, in January of this year, we decided to begin working with a new adoption agency, and therefore since we switched agencies, they require you to start over with a new homestudy. I think this is the one facet of adoption that is truly frustrating for us with regard to adoption laws ... there aren't universal adoption laws for every state and every agency. Not only universal laws but also universal forms that can transfer from state to state and agency to agency without disruption of the process. Yes, indeed-the adoption "red tape" can be very frustrating for adoptive couples {like ourselves} when you hit road blocks like we have with moving out of state and changing agencies. Sadly, it at times can be so frustrating, you end up feeling like giving up on adoption. But, nevertheless--- it is what it is. We knew early on we were committed to doing everything we could to grow our family through adoption, so we have tried our best to muscle through all the road blocks along the way.

As part of the adoption homestudy process, you will have a social worker come to your home several times to conduct interviews. During these home visits, the primary objective is for the social worker to learn more about the family so they can assess whether or not they are fit to be adoptive parents. They also educate and prepare families for adoption. There is a formal walk through of your home to ensure that it offers a safe environment for a child and meets state licensing requirements (e.g., working smoke alarms, safe storage of firearms, safe water, pools covered/fenced, and adequate space for each child).

On Saturday, both Jody and I were interviewed by our social worker for a little over 3 hours at our home. We were questioned about such things as:

  • our childhood
  • describe parents and siblings who are living
  • our relationship with our parents
  • our relationship with our siblings
  • what our childhood was like
  • any traumatic experiences we had in our youth
  • what our home life was like as children
  • any abuse we may have suffered as children
  • what discipline styles were used on us as children
  • any deaths in our family and how they affected us
  • any divorces we may have suffered prior to marrying one another and circumstances which led to ending the marriages
  • any children from prior marriages
  • how we met and where married
  • how long we have been married
  • what we love about our mate
  • how we work through our differences
  • what qualities in our mate make them a good husband, wife and parent
  • our sex life (yes...i know what you are thinking--and yes, it is a bit awkward)
  • our approach to disciplining a child
  • why we want to adopt
  • our feelings on being able to love a child that isn't ours biologically
  • details on our income, any debts, etc.
  • any past criminal history
  • can we financially support more children
  • any health problems and if so, will they impact our ability to care for more children
  • if both parents work, who will care for the adopted child
  • our neighborhood and what schools we will send the child
  • our religious beliefs/faith and if we were to accept a child who is not of our faith, would we allow them to worship the way they want to
  • would we be willing to accept a child who has been physically and sexually abused--if so, how would we deal with parenting that child

As you can tell, it is a lot. A very detailed process and one that can feel quite invasive. But Jody and I try to remind ourselves that this process is simply to safeguard children. A roadmap and gauge for the adoption agencies and social workers to ensure that they are placing children in the right homes. Homes that are safe, supportive, loving and can meet the child's emotional and physical needs.

I am happy to report that we have finished all the home interviews for our 4th adoption home study. Well almost--Jody has to meet with the social worker one more time individually to answer a few more questions. Typically the way it works, the social worker will initially meet with the couple/family all together and then do a formal walk-through of the home to check for any hazards or concerns. Then they will return to your home for follow up visits to meet with each family member individually. Last night, our social worker returned and met with me individually for about 3 hours and then with Noah individually for about 30 minutes. Jody still has to have his individual interview this week and then it is completed. The social worker will then type up the formal homestudy report and it will be submitted to the adoption committee who is determining the placement of the girls we are hoping to adopt.

It feels good to have this final portion of the homestudy process checked off the to-do list. It has been an emotional roller coaster for me this past several weeks worrying and wondering if we would be able to get everything completed in time.

We did have a comical moment during the visit...something pretty funny and yet a little embarrassing. Like I mentioned, it was a long interview. The social worker had an extensive list of questions for me, so she and I were busy talking for quite some time while Noah tried his best to stay busy and tame. About two hours into it, he began to get restless. I had expected this if it went too long. At one point, he brought all the trucks and cars out of his room and began stacking them on the bench next to the table where I was meeting with the social worker. I noticed that he was getting louder and louder with the banging of his trucks and cars. So I started to get a little distracted as I was answering her questions. And then about this time, he walks over to the social worker, tugs on her shirt and says, "Is it time for you to go yet?"

Argh!!!...I think I turned every shade of red.

That's the thing with these adoption homestudy visits...you never quite know how your kiddos are going to act and what they are going to say. The social worker was sweet about it and just laughed and explained to Noah that he had been such a good, patient boy and she would leave so his Mommy could take him to the park. :-)

And that my friends is a little explanation of our experience with how the adoption {homestudy} process works. I hope it has been somewhat informative for those of you who have never experienced adoption and/or may be considering growing your family through the blessing of adoption.

Jennifer

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