A home study is a report about prospective adoptive parents who wish to adopt domestically or internationally. The home study process is used to protect a child by screening a prospective adoptive family. Many families consider the home study process to be educational because it addresses many parenting and adoption issues. In addition, the home study approval provides reassurance to biological parents by confirming that the family can provide a stable, secure, loving home to a child.
In Georgia, there are different types of home studies, depending on the kind of adoption being pursued.
Private adoption agency placement: Before a private licensed adoption agency can place a child with an adoptive family, the family must complete the home study process and be approved as prospective adoptive parents. Georgia families working with a licensed adoption agency in any state must obtain home study services from a Georgia licensed adoption agency. The home study process consists of three visits, generally two in the agency's office and one in the home. There is no set format that all adoption agencies use. Since the home study must comply with the applicable state regulations, there is uniformity in the issues covered and the required documents. In general, the following information is included in the home study:
- Personal autobiographical information, including family relationships, education, previous marriages, and family values
- Marital status and evaluation of family life
- Previous experience with children
- Motivation to adopt
- Feelings about infertility (if applicable)
- Discussing adoption with children
- Expectations for the child
- Parenting attitudes (discipline, religion, education)
- Health history
- Financial information
- Background checks
- Type of child desired
The home study, therefore, consists of in-person meetings and the submission of required documents. For families pursuing international adoptions, there are some additional requirements because the home study must satisfy state regulations as well as federal immigration regulations. Most families can complete the home study process in two months, as long as all documents have been received by the agency.
A subsequent home study is completed if a major change in the family has occurred or if a family moves from another state. Because a home study is only valid for one year from the date of approval, families may have to obtain an update to the home study to keep it current.
Public adoption agency placement: Families seeking to adopt children in state custody, either through foster/adopt or adoption programs, generally need to complete a home study that is more comprehensive than the home study required for a private agency placement. Currently, this type of home study is called IMPACT. Families can contact their county Department of Family and Children Services offices for information about the adoption process and request information about adopting through the state system. In addition, many private agencies have received training and have caseworkers certified to complete the IMPACT study. IMPACT is completed through the submission of documents and by attending group classes to cover a set list of topics. If required, a family can make arrangements to complete the IMPACT study by working individually with an agency caseworker approved to complete such a study.
Independent (private) adoption: If a prospective adoption family identifies a birth matter from another state, a comprehensive agency home study must be completed before a family will receive approval to return home with the child. Georgia families adopting children born in Georgia will also need to complete the home evaluation requirement before the child is placed in the home. Note: As of July 1, 2011, a home study completed by an approved evaluator must be completed prior to the placement of a child into the home of a third party who is neither a stepparent nor a relative and for this home study to recommend placement. An evaluator means the person or agency that conducts a home study and must be a licensed child-placing agency, the Georgia Department of Human Services, or a licensed professional with at least two years of adoption-related experience, including a licensed social worker, licensed master social worker, licensed marriage and family therapist, or licensed professional counselor. If none of these listed evaluators are available, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem or court-appointed special advocate to conduct the home study.
Embryo adoption: Many agencies providing embryo adoption services require that the prospective adoptive parents complete an embryo adoption home study through which they are approved to adopt. Although some medical providers do not require such a home study with embryo donation/adoption, most agencies do have such a requirement and many placing/donating parents will want this reassurance. The home study process for embryo adoption is virtually identical to that required for a private agency adoption. The home study will educate families about how to discuss general issues in parenting a child not genetically related to them and how to discuss any issues related to embryo adoption and how the child was conceived. Contact Rhonda Fishbein.