If you’re anything like me, you clean your house from top to bottom when you’re expecting company. So naturally, when my husband and I adopted, and we had our home study visit with our social worker I did the same thing. Even though I knew exactly what to expect (since this is my job!). I still organized all my closets, dusted the cobwebs off the ceiling, cleaned the baseboards and under the beds in preparation for the visit. Just as I expected though, the social worker was not interested in my neatly organized closets I so eagerly invited her to look through.
To many families the home visit can be the most dreaded part of the adoption process, especially if you don’t know what to expect. As a social worker who has completed many home visits with families over the past 7 years I want to calm your fears and let you know what to expect.
What a home visit is NOT
The goal of the home visit is not for the social worker to find a reason to reject you as adoptive parents. Your social worker won’t perform a white glove test to judge whether your cleaning standards are up to par. You do not need to prepare a meal for your social worker. You will not fail your home visit if your house has clutter, toys, dirty dishes in the sink or looks “lived in.” You will not be required to have your child’s room completely set up stocked with clothes and toys, since many times in adoption the family does not know the gender, age or specific needs of the child they’re adopting until much later on in their process. You are not expected to know all the answers and know everything there is to know about adoption.
What a home visit WILL entail
Your home visit will include interviews with all household members, including children. The purpose of the interview is to gain background information such as family history, values, activities, employment, education, and parenting practices. Children will be asked about their understanding of adoption and their thoughts about adding another child to their family. Your social worker will also use the interview time as an opportunity to provide education and prepare your family for adoption. The interview is a great time to ask questions and learn more about the adoption process.
Specific requirements vary from state to state and agency to agency so before your social worker comes out for their visit ask what to expect and if there are specific state/agency requirements. During your home visit your social worker will complete a safety checklist to ensure that your home is safe for a child. You can expect to give a tour of your home. If you have a pool, body of water, firearms or any other potential safety concerns in the home you will be expected to have a safety plan in place for your child(ren). Your social worker will also check to ensure that other safety measures are in place such as fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
You should have a plan for where your child will sleep and a place for his or her toys, clothes and personal items. Many states have space requirements. For example, in Indiana there must be 50 square feet per child in a bedroom. A social worker would not have approved of child living in the cupboard under the stairs like Harry Potter did in the Dursley’s home.
The home visit is just a small part of the home study process and it doesn’t need to be the most dreaded part. Your social worker is there to help you adopt and is on your side. The goal of the home study process is to determine the safety and suitability of the family and to write the most positive report possible. If you have any questions or concerns about your home visit please reach out to your social worker, they are there to help and guide you through the process.