Question: I am very anxious about the homestudy. My husband has diabetes. As a college student 20 years ago, I did some things that may come back to haunt me. I was, for example, arrested for shoplifting. Can chronic medical conditions or skeletons in the closet keep us from adopting?
My wife and I adopted our son as a newborn domestically, through an agency, about a year ago. I was particularly anxious about the homestudy. My concern was the degree to which my friends and I partied back then. I have been out of that mode for so very long now that I would just deep-sixed the whole thing and never mentioned it to our social worker. Unfortunately, a little matter of a police record for a DUI made it unavoidable. It was 15 years behind me but it was haunting me. I couldn't shake the nagging thought that my wife and I would "fail" the homestudy and destroy our chances of ever having a family. Well, obviously, we got through the process just fine, and I learned two very important things.
First, my fears were not unfounded. The social worker took everything my wife and I had ever done-both good and bad-into consideration. We went under the microscope, and so will you. Be ready. Drinking is a particularly serious issue when it comes to parenting, as it should be, and we spent a good deal of time talking about it. It was humiliating and frustrating. After all, I was just a 20-year-old kid who liked to chug a few beers before Rush concerts, like everyone else I knew at the time. That part of my life was long over. Why were we even talking about this? But to the social worker, I was potentially an addict, and he had to dispel that possibility before he could endorse us as acceptable parents.
The second thing I learned is that a social worker will not punish a responsible adult for the actions of a stupid kid. The most important thing (at least to our social worker) is determining who you are today. Just be honest. Far worse than confronting your past is to get caught in a lie. For that, they show you the door. Keep your chin up and acknowledge that you know you acted foolishly. You should come through the process just fine. Best of luck.
Homestudy is Intended to Identify Qualified Parents
An adoption homestudy is not intended to get skeletons out of the closet. It is a time to explore a future with children. A couple with health issues will need physical exams to show that they are capable of taking care of an active child. As for a shoplifting violation as a college student, it shows that you understand how a child could come to do such a thing. The more experience you have, the better.
The homestudy is not meant to intimidate. Dust in your house is all right. Providing an abundance of material things is not necessary. Social workers are looking for people who will truly advocate for their child, parents who are up to the task. Adoption is not for wimps.
Experienced Agencies Can Make a Difference
Regarding health concerns: if there is an unusual health situation, our agency policy is to submit the family's home study for approval to the officials of the country where the family wishes to adopt before we agree to provide adoption services. A physician's letter, along with the standard medical form for the country, may be required. Important phrases to include are "normal life expectancy" and "This poses no limitations on the applicant's ability to parent an adopted child."
Dellory Matthews, Focus on Children
Allow Access to People Who Know You
We all have things in our past and present that make our ability to parent suspect. In my case I was recovering from the grief and loss of five miscarriages, my husband is 11 years younger than I am, I've been divorced twice, have a history of clinical depression, and have, in the distant past, used alcohol and drugs inappropriately. Not a good bunch of information for a homestudy!
I did not withhold any information from the social workers who did our homestudies. We worked with an experienced social worker who discussed everything with both of us and obtained releases so she could contact counselors and others in my past as well as people who could vouch that I'm able to parent effectively today. We now have two wonderful children, ages four and three. My advice is to find an experienced social worker, be open and honest about your past and present, have references from all stages of your life, and be willing to sign releases of information. After all, someone who once had a DUI is in the White House. The past only limits us if we let it rule the present.
Choose Adoption Professionals Who Accept You
My husband interviewed social workers and adoption agencies before we chose one. He asked how they would treat a drunk driving conviction fifteen years earlier with no subsequent alcohol issues. Once he identified the ones that were comfortable with us and vice versa, it was a very painless process.
It's Okay to Be Nervous: A Social Worker's Perspective
Almost every prospective adoptiver is nervous about the homestudy. There is the feeling of unfairness that they have to be "inspected and evaluated,"and there are anxieties about questions that will be asked. The homestudy is a history of your life: how you decided to adopt, hopes for parenting, history of chronic or medical illness, and financial stability. Medical and criminal issues will be discussed and cleared--with written statements from doctors or disposition of arrests--to show that you can care for a child.
Find an agency or social worker familiar with adoption. Professionals want you to have a positive experience, and they encourage discussion about adoption. While they gather information for the written report, use the time to gain additional information about adoption and adoptive parenting.
Kathy Brodsky, CSW, LCSW, and Susan Kupferberg, CSW, help hundreds of New York and New Jersey families adopt through the Jewish Child Care Association in New York City.
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