Sunday, May 17, 2015

What's in the homestudy report?

     Yesterday we got a copy of our agency's homestudy report in the mail. I'm not entirely sure what this means (that the court has approved the homestudy, or if it is just a copy for our records that has no significance in terms of where we are in the court process-- I've emailed our social worker to ask about that), but I thought I would do a quick post about what information is included in the homestudy report. I have shared what our first and second homestudy visits were like, and what can cause the denial of a homestudy approval.  So, if you are still preparing for your homestudy, those posts might be a good place to start. If you are like us and your homestudy is done and you are sitting and wondering "how are they going summarize everything they have just learned about us?" then keep reading!

    First of all, the homestudy is printed our the agency's official letterhead. If you are going to apply to more than one agency, this is a helpful thing to have, because you can simply copy it and send it in with your application. You have the official paperwork and don't have to wait on anyone else to make copies and get things in the mail in order to send out applications.
     Our written homestudy report was 11 pages, and then there were supplemental attachments that included copies of our background checks and fingerprint clearances. I will give the headings exactly how they appear on the paperwork, and then summarize the information that was included under each heading.

Section 1: Adoptive parents

   This section includes our full names, birthdays, and social security numbers, our contact information (including address and phone number), and our son's full name and birthday.

Section 2: Homestudy dates
     This is simply the dates, locations, and lengths of our social worker's visits with us.

Section 3: Homestudy process and child requested
      This section begins with when and why we first contacted our agency. It then summarizes the adoption situations that we would be open to, as well as what are ideal preferences would be among those situations. This discusses issues of age, race, gender, health issues, substance exposure, prematurity, and "significant circumstances" such as unknown paternity or a pregnancy that is the result of rape.
      I'm going to pause for a second to discuss why this is significant, as our social worker explained it to us. Let's say that we had said "we are not open to a situation where the father is unknown," and our homestudy approval report included a statement that said "they are approved to adopt a child with known paternity." If a situation came up that we wanted to pursue but paternity was unknown, we would legally not be approved for that situation.  We wouldn't be able to just change our minds on a case-by-case basis and say "Everything else about this situation seems like a great fit, so we can deal with the unknown paternity issue." By wording it in such a way that we would be open to considering such situations even though our preference would be known paternity, we avoid that type of limitation and are free to consider situations on a case-by-case basis.
    Okay, moving on. The next paragraph in this section gives a brief summary of the topics that became significant discussions during the homestudy. They aren't recapped in detail (that comes later), but this basically serves as a brief "here is what we spent our time talking about" introduction.
    The final paragraph of this section stated that we had been informed of legal issues and financial considerations surrounding adoption (basically that we understandwhat we are getting ourselves into!). It also ended with a statement that this is our first homestudy: it isn't one that is up for renewal, we have never been rejected as potential adoptive parents before in any circumstance, and we have never been denied a homestudy approval.

Section 4: Description of adoptive applicants
   This section was divided into two subsections: one for my husband and one for me. Then, each of these subsections was divided into specific topics.
  •   Summary of adoptive father/mother: This section begins with age, race, and general appearance (height, weight, eye color, hair color). It then summarizes our strengths and weaknesses, as we had discussed them with our social worker.  The second paragraph of this section discusses significant losses (deaths of loved ones, for example), how we cope with grief, and whether we have a history of any mental illness, substance abuse, sexual or child abuse, or domestic violence. A quick statement is then given that we have had recent medical examinations showing that we are generally healthy and have no signs of substance abuse. Finally, the last paragraph of this section discusses social networks and hobbies. 
  • Family: This section discusses place of birth, moves and relocations, and both past and current relationships with our parents and siblings. It discusses our parents' professions and how we described their personalities. There is a section summarizing how we were disciplined as children, how we were shown affection, which of these things we plan to incorporate into our own parenting style, and which practices we would change.
  • Education: This section is simply degrees obtained, schools attended, and dates of graduations. 
  • Military service: Both of ours just read "none" under this heading. 
  • Employment: This section traced our employment from the time we had graduated from high-school. 
  • Previous marriages: Ours just say "not previously married" under this heading. 
Section 5: Marriage/relationships
      The first paragraph of this section discusses how we met, when we began dating, when we realized we wanted to marry each other, when we were engaged, and when we were married. The second paragraph summaries our marriage, how our personalities complement each other, what we enjoy doing to together, how we handle disagreements, and how we divide up household responsibilities. All of these things are based off of what we told our social worker, and then there is a final paragraph where she summarized her impressions of our marriage based on her time with us. This isn't an in-depth psychoanalysis of any sort, just a few general positive statements.

Section 6: Children
       Since we have one child, there is a brief description of him based both on what we told our social worker and what she observed about him when she was at our house. Since he is so young, this is a very short paragraph. But, if you have any children who are old enough to have a conversation with the social worker, this section will be longer.

Section 7: Others residing in the household
     Since no one else lives with us, this was just "none."

Section 8: Family life and parenting skills
      The first paragraph of this section summarizes our experience with children. The second discusses our hopes for our children and some of the values that are important to instill in them. Next is a discussion on our views on discipline and the techniques we plan to use, as well as how we promote open communication and show affection. This section then transitions a bit to discussing religion and church, how we spend our free time, and any changes we foresee in having a second child (such as in how we spend our time, our family dynamics, and our childcare situation). Next is a rather morbid discussion about how would be the guardian of our children if anything happened to us, and how we made that decision. The final paragraph discusses the changes that we have seen in ourselves as we have matured, as well as how we have learned to interact with those with whom we do not agree. 

Section 9: Criminal records
     Since neither of us have a record, this just states that we have valid background clearances (including clearance number, date obtained, and date of expiration). It also gives a statement that we have clear reports from the child abuse registries that were checked.

Section 10: Financial capabilities
    This summarizes both of our salaries and our recurring monthly expenses (such as mortgage, utilities, gas, groceries, and insurance).  Everything is put together in a format where it is clear how much extra money we have each month that is not already committed to a specific bill or expense. It also gives an approximation of how much money we have in savings.  There is a verification of our car insurance, health insurance, and life insurance. This is summarized with a conclusion that we "live within their means and are financially able to assume responsibility for another child."

Section 11: Home environment
     Our home is described objectively (size, bedrooms, bathrooms, general layout), as well as subjectively ("well kept" "sufficient space for the child"). This is also the section where she talks about our dogs, and verifies that they are current on their vaccinations and county registrations. Finally, community resources and their distance from our home are summarized-- this includes things such as public transportation, schools, libraries, parks, and fire and police stations. There is a statement that our home doesn't have a pool and that we don't own firearms, so obviously if we did, those things would be summarized in this section, as well.

Section 12: References
   All 5 of our references are described. Each one has its own subsection, which summarizes who the reference is, how they know us, and how long they have known us. There is an overall summary of both their letter and the phone call, including some direct quotes.

Section 13: Adoption issues
     This starts off with why we are adopting. There isn't a comprehensive timeline or overly detailed medical information, but just enough to give a general picture of what the reason is that we can't have more biological children. Our ideal preferences are restated, as well as her assessment of our understanding of the adoption process and potential issues. There is a statement given about our friends and family being supportive of our decision to adopt. The second paragraph talks about how we plan to communicate to the child his or her adoption story. It also gives a brief summary of our feelings about semi-open and open adoption situations.

Section 14: Recommendation
    This is the most important part-- a statement that after evaluating our situation, we are recommended as adoptive parents. It gives specifics about the type of child we are approved to adopt in terms of age, gender, race, and special needs.

So that's it! It is kind of odd to see your entire life summarized by another person in 11 pages, but everything was positive and I don't have any concerns about anything that was in the report. Just another baby-step forward!

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