The Home Study Process Is Really All Just Part of the Adoption Journey…

This blog post was written by Brittany, an Adoption STAR adoptive mother.

My husband and I have 11 children.  We have adopted four times and are planning to adopt again.  We frequently are asked for advice about adoption and we’re always more than happy to engage in any conversation about adoption.  It is a passion of ours.  It is a big part of our daily conversation and a big part of our lives and we always love to talk about it.  Having said that, for us, each adoption has been different and it’s really hard to tell someone what to expect or how it will go.  There are many truths, myths and discoveries we have experienced along the way.  Each of our adoptions has been a unique adventure and we’ve learned so much from following our hearts down this path.

If you asked me or my husband how we felt about adoption 15 years ago, we would’ve both said something along the lines of “It’s a wonderful thing”.  If you had asked us 15 years ago if we were going to adopt, we probably would have said something along the lines of “Nope”.  There wasn’t a particular reason for saying this except that we just had not gone ‘down that path’ in our minds.  I think there are some people that had exposure to adoption in their younger years and they grew up always wanting to adopt.  Our experience, however, is that most our our friends were ‘led’ to adoption by some event or experience in their adulthood.  For some of our friends, this was infertility and for some of our friends it was a mission trip to an orphanage that they took with their church.  For us, it was our biological children.  We had 6 biological children before we started to adopt.  The youngest of our first 6 children has special needs and the early years with him were extremely trying.  As he got older and we felt more capable of dealing with his needs and advocating for him, we felt a very strong draw to pursue special needs adoption.

Once we wrapped our minds and hearts around adoption, we dove in.  We googled adoption.  We researched and we talked with friends.  We interviewed agencies.  We read everything we could about adoption.  Then we hit a wall.  All the information out there was so overwhelming.  After taking time to absorb everything, we chose an agency that we felt most comfortable with and we began the home study process.  At first we were excited.  Then we were overwhelmed again.  Everything we had heard about the home study process terrified us and frankly, we dreaded it.  We heard the classes were boring.  We heard that the process would take forever.  We heard that the necessary documentation was unbelievable.  We heard the interviews were nerve wracking.  We heard that we would hit many ‘low points’ in the home study process where we would feel like a baby was so, so far away from joining our family.  In all of the information we received about adoption, to us, this was the most overwhelming and discouraging.  We truly felt it was in our hearts to adopt though so once again, we dove in.

In some ways, all that we had heard was true.  Yes, there were parts of the classes that didn’t apply to us.  We sat through classes that focused on helping us soul search to determine what races, ages and disabilities or situations we might be open to.  Well, we already knew that answer.  All.  But, it was very interesting to hear other people’s thoughts about this.  We sat through classes that talked about bringing new babies home and all that is involved with caring for a newborn.  Well, we had 6 kids at that point.  But, it was enjoyable to share some of our experiences, especially some of the funny ones we’d had in those early days of a baby being home when we were so tired, almost to the point of deliriousness.  We sat through classes that discussed different disabilities.  Well, we already had biological children with disabilities and we knew in our hearts that we would handle whatever came our way with love.  We didn’t feel we needed the ‘warning’.  But, it opened up our eyes to so many possibilities and educated us far beyond the previous experiences we had to that point.  So, all in all, the classes were informative and interesting and although some of the information didn’t apply to us, they were far from boring.

We also heard the process would take forever.  Yes, it takes a while. But, as we’ve done this several times now, it has come to light that the process pretty much moves along as fast as you do.  Really.  Now obviously there will be times when it feels like nothing is happening.  But, there is usually something happening behind the scenes and there is almost always something the potential adoptive parents can be doing to feel like the process is moving along.  Most agencies have support groups which are a fantastic way to not feel all alone and to pass the time.  There are books to read.  There are online groups.  There are journals to write.  There are names to pick.  There are plans to be made.  Talk with friends.  Talk with each other and enjoy this time period.  It will feel like it takes forever but it can be fun.

The necessary documentation can be overwhelming as well.  But, having used several different agencies, we have come to the conclusion that it is truly a good thing when an agency asks for pieces of documentation that you didn’t even know existed.  Guess what?  It actually means they are a thorough agency and they are doing their job.  We learned that the hard way.  But, now we appreciate chasing down every crazy piece of information they ask for.  We expected to provide birth certificates and fingerprints.  We expected to need updated physicals.  But, some of the documentation was completely unexpected.  In one of our adoptions, we needed tuberculosis testing.  We thought “Who needs TB testing?  Didn’t that disease disappear ages ago?  Where do you even get TB testing?”  Talk to your friends.  Consult your case worker.  Ask anybody and everybody.  No question is stupid.  No question has not been heard before.  Our experience has been that most questions have answers and, when they aren’t readily available, the case worker will figure it out and call you back.  Ask as many questions as you need to and the necessary documentation really isn’t that overwhelming.

As much as we dreaded the documentation gathering, the interview brought even more intense feelings to surface.  We wondered what the social worker would think of us.  We questioned if she’d think our family was too busy already and if our house was clean enough.  We talked for weeks before she came about what she was going to ask.  So, yes, it was nerve wracking.  But, it also was really fun.  You’re going to be the expert on you.  She isn’t going to ask you anything you don’t know the answer to with the exception of bringing up something you may possibly need to give more thought to.  For example, we definitely knew we were pursuing a special needs adoption.  But, she asked us what exactly that meant to each of us and we really couldn’t answer.  Her question provoked hours of discussion between us that not only was necessary but it was also enjoyable.  It gave us something to talk about and it helped us feel like we were working towards an adoption together.  She also asked us about our childhood and our experiences with our families and how we met and how we felt about each other.  She asked a million questions but they were really enjoyable to answer in that they were things we normally wouldn’t have given any thought to.

The most difficult part of the home study was feeling that if we could just get the home study done, we’d have a baby.  Occasionally, we felt the  process was going to take forever and we’d never have a baby.  Okay, the first time we had a home study completed, we felt this at several points, not occasionally.  The second time we did it however, we very consciously decided to have fun.  We decided we were going to make the most of the time.  We decided we were going to enjoy the classes and we actually called them our weekly date night.  It felt good to be on this adventure together.  We decided we were going make a game of getting the necessary documentation.  My husband had a list and I had a list and we made a challenge out of it.  Of course I won.  Only because I gave him all the difficult tasks, but I waited months to tell him that.  We made silly name lists.  We spent time with friends who had successfully adopted.  We laughed at the comedies of the process (the fingerprints mysteriously disappearing 4 times). We relaxed, tried to let the process unfold and realized the home study process was not terrible or dreadful.  It was not meant to be overwhelming or terrifying.  It’s really all about the attitude with which you approach it.  I’m not saying it’s easy but, trust me, you will look back and realize it was only part of what brought you the beautiful child whose eyes will tell stories, whose heart you’ll adore and whose life is only tangled with yours because you took that first step in this crazy and wonderful journey.