The last time I wrote about the Home Study, Michael and I were still in the middle of completing the requirements. Now that we’re finished, I wanted to take some time to write out how this step in the adoption process happened.
Gathering and notarizing our documents (within the first twenty days)
Because our Placement Agency doesn’t have an affiliate office in Texas, we had to use a separate agency for our Home Study. When we received the email from our Home Study agency that we were officially in the Home Study process (we had signed preliminary forms and paid our U.S. Processing Fee 1), we immediately got to work on completing the paperwork. At times, the paperwork was complex, but mostly because certain things required notarization, appointments, and waiting on different entities to deliver vital records. Here’s a snapshot of the documents we gathered:
- Signed Adoption Contract
- Signed Explanation of Fees
- Signed Home Study Agreement
- Signed Grievance and Appeal Policy
- Qualifications for Adoptive Parents
- Employment Letter — Wife
- Employment Letter — Husband
- Medication Letter
- TX Criminal Record Check
- Birth Certificate — Wife
- Birth Certificate — Husband
- Reference Letter 1
- Reference Letter 2
- Reference Letter 3
- Autobiography (21 pages)
- Signed Release of Information
- Signed Education and Training Form
- Signed Education and Training Checklist
- SignedEducation and Training Worksheet
- Signed Parent Handbook Receipt
- Signed Statement of Adoptive Parent Rights
- Completed Home Study Worksheet
- Program Criteria
- Completed Financial Information Form
- Bank References/Bank Statements
- Marriage Certificate
- Mortgage Statement
- Passport Copies — Both
- Driver’s License Copies — Both
- Floor Plan of Home
- Photos of Home (Front and Back of Home)
- Copy of most recent 1040
- 10 Year Residential History for all household members including street address, month/year began living there, and month/year stopped living there
- Pet Records — Angus, Emily, and Ruthie
- Physical Exam Forms — Both
- Parent Education Course Certificates (All)
All in all, our birth certificates, medical exams, and completing the parenting training took the longest time. I mentioned this in a previous blog post I wrote, but your birth certificates can take up to 20-25 days to be delivered, depending on the state you live in. My recommendation would be to make your appointments with your doctor, and do an online request for your Vital Records first — then move on to the paperwork that’s easy to complete.
Completing our parenting training (within the first twenty days)
I truly enjoyed the parenting training portion of this process. Depending on the country you’re adopting from and the agency you choose, they’ll have a combination of country-specific and agency required training for you to complete. At Holt, we had to complete all of our parenting training before our Home Study could be approved. We were thankful to have this done before we even had the Home Visit (more on why this is important if you’re able to do it in the next section). We completed our Haque Required Training through Adoption Learning Partners, and it took a few weekends and evenings of our time.
If you’re someone who can buckle down and get this done, you could do it in about a week if you prioritized 1-2 course per evening. Keep in mind, you want to make sure you’re absorbing the information, so don’t try to breeze through it just to check the box.
What I liked about the ALP training is that the courses all had open-ended test questions at the end of each course, which is graded by a live person. I think this really helped to retain the information, but keep in mind it asks very specific questions. Make sure to take notes, so that you’re not duplicating your training efforts.
Preparing for the Home Visit and interviews
Our social worker clearly has a passion for the work that she does, because she managed to be a guiding presence for us even while she was assessing our ability to parent a child. I feel very fortunate for the woman we were assigned to because she’ll continue to be our social worker through our post-placement visits. During the Home Visit, she interviewed as a unit, and then again separately. She also assessed the features of our home, including the different safety elements (cabinets, locks, smoke detectors, etc.)
I, of course, over-prepared for our Home Visit by putting out way too many breakfast foods, coffee, and tea. Our Social Worker didn’t eat or drink anything, but I still think this was an important touch. As others often mention when they talk about this stage of the process, the Home Visit is a great chance to completely scrub your home from top to bottom.
Even after our Home Visit and interviews, our social worker continued to speak with us, ask us more questions about who we are, and help us to understand the next steps of the process.
Waiting for the Home Study report
Now that everything directly in our control was finished, we were in a transitional period of waiting. Once you finish all of the paperwork, visits, and interviews your social worker will begin to write your official Home Study report. Depending on the person, this could take a long time, and it’s incredibly important to be patient. It’s entirely acceptable to ask for an estimated timeline of when they think this will be completed, but then it’s important to honor that timeline.
For us, this took roughly 3 1/2 weeks for her to complete and send to the Home Study agency. This is incredibly fast, and we could not be happier about the care she took in prioritizing our case.
Going back and forth (and back and forth)
At the same time that our Home Study report had been sent to the Home Study agency, there was a little boy that we desperately wanted to be matched with through our Placement Agency. It’s not entirely typical for people to be matched at Home Study; however, we were one of those families.
While we were waiting for our Home Study agency to approve our Home Study report on their end, we were going through the process of being preliminarily matched with our future son. Though we were not allowed to be match assigned (meaning, the child’s file is held specifically for us) until our Home Study was approved by both agencies, we completed all of the necessary steps to ensure that the second we received that approval, we could also be assigned to him. This included filling out the Child-Specific Questionnaire, sending the Letter of Intent, and nervously waiting.
This was — by all accounts — the most difficult part of the process. This is where you might not know, on any given day, who has your Home Study report, or what the status of it is. Our Home Study was approved by our Home Study agency and sent to our Placement agency just in time for the child-selection committee meeting, and then it took another two weeks to officially get an official approval, Match assigned status, and the LOI approval.
Realistically, this timeline is short; however, when you’re in the middle of it, especially when you’re attempting to be matched to a child, it seems like an eternity. In these moments, patience is key and so is understanding that emotions are real, valid, and acceptable.
If you’re required to use two different agencies, your Home Study will go from your Placement agency back to your Home Study agency to officially be signed and notarized after its approved. This process takes about another week to mail to them, and then another 1-2 week for the notarized copies to be sent to you.
We just received these in the mail on Friday, November 9, 2018 which means we can officially send off our USCIS I800-A paperwork.
Because we’re match assigned at Home Study, that means that we have an official milestone for when our Dossier must be logged in, in China. For this reason, the rest of our paperwork becomes incredibly time sensitive. All in all, my biggest piece of advice at this point is:
- Take note of which parts of your paperwork are almost identical for your Dossier — order enough copies of your Vital Records, marriage certificate, and only make one doctor’s appointment, so that you’re not taking more time than necessary when it’s Dossier time
- Pay attention to all of the instructions and read everything twice. We did not have to redo any of our paperwork because we were thorough the first time, and I believe this was one reason why we had everything finished so quickly
- Attempt to have your paperwork and training done before your first Home Visit, so that your social worker can firmly begin to write your Home Study report
- Find an outlet to manage your stress. There are a lot of moving parts and a lot of things outside of your control. It will be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be debilitating
All in all, we officially began the Home Study process on August 21, 2018 and we had an official Home Study approval and match assigned on October 24, 2018. That means it took us 65 days to have a completed and approved Home Study and to be matched to a child.
It absolutely can be done, so long as you’re diligent, flexible, detail-oriented, and open-minded. And if you have any questions, need help or guidance, let me know — you’re not alone.