What Impacts the Home Study: Who May Adopt
Adoption is considered by many as a “gray” area of the law. This is a big myth perpetuated by ignorance. The fact is that statutes in all states strictly regulate the adoption process. Home studies are completed by Licensed Clinical Social Workers and are done to investigate the adoptive family. Adoptions must be approved and finalized by the court. Home studies are utilized for every adoptive family in the United States whether they are adopting a child domestically or internationally. There are several key elements that are thoroughly evaluated in every home study. Adoptive parents may be married or single, childless or already parenting other children. The three most important factors are a financial disclosure, health statement and background records check.
You are not required to own your own home or to have a high income in order to give children what they ‘need’: permanence, stability, a lifetime commitment, and a chance to be part of a family. While there is not necessarily a minimum income that is required to adopt a child, the adoptive family must show they can manage their finances and are able to accept a child into their home without undue financial burden. You will need to provide evidence of employment and salary. Items requested include copies of tax forms, insurance policies, bank statements, mortgage or rent payments, etc. Keep in mind that you don’t need to be rich to adopt, but a history of bankruptcy, high debt, and failure to pay child support may be cause for denial. The home will be inspected by a social worker to ensure it is a safe environment for a child. There will also be assessments of the marital relationship, lifestyle and medical history. Health examinations are required in order to insure the safety of the child being brought into the home and to establish the physical condition of the adoptive parent(s). If there is an existing medical condition you are not necessarily precluded from adopting a child as long as the condition is not a threat to others and the condition is under a doctor’s care and supervision. Having a disability does not automatically disqualify you from adopting a child either. Agencies just want to ensure that you have the capacity to give and receive affection.
Divorce or a history of marital or personal counseling also does not automatically eliminate you as a candidate. A written report from a physician about the health of each member of the household is required. It must state that you are free from contagious and communicable diseases and have no mental health concerns. If you’re in the middle of medical or psychological treatment or have a condition that threatens your life expectancy, you may be prevented from adopting. Most states require that adoptive families undergo some type of criminal and child abuse background records check. When families apply to adopt in New York State, agencies check the Child Abuse and Maltreatment Register to determine whether an applicant, or any person over the age of 18 whom resides in the home, has been the subject of an indicated report of abuse or maltreatment of a child. Then fingerprints will be taken to verify there is no history of criminal activity. Having a criminal record does not necessarily prevent an applicant from adopting. Most misdemeanors that occurred in the past should not have an adverse effect on the outcome of the home study, although they will need to be addressed.
Background checks are used to insure that a child is placed into a secure and loving family. During this portion of the home study, you will be asked many questions, such as: “Have you ever been arrested and for what?” “Was this the result of ‘youth indiscretion’?” “What changes have you made in your life to avoid this from happening again?” “What role do alcohol and drugs currently play in your life?” “Have you ever been treated for a drug dependency?” “Have you ever been seen by a therapist or counselor?” “What was the result and current situation?” The social worker is trying to make sure that every effort is made to ensure that children are placed in a safe environment. Federal and state laws do NOT permit you to adopt if you have been convicted for major felonies against children such as child abuse, neglect, spousal abuse, or a crime involving violence including rape, assault, and homicide.
Certain other convictions also make you ineligible if they occurred within the last five years. Misdemeanors stemming from ‘youthful indiscretions’ usually aren’t held against prospective adopters; although, a social worker will want to know if your past behavior is just that. If you have a DWI on your record, for instance, she’ll ask if you went through a rehabilitation program and what your current drinking habits are. Current abuse of alcohol or other drugs requires the rejection of an applicantIf you have a medical, financial, or prior arrest record that you fear might result in an unfavorable home study, experts advise that you don’t wait to mention it.
If you plan to adopt internationally, your social worker can steer you to a country that is more likely to be accepting, and can address your situation in the home study in a way that’s consistent with the country’s cultural values. In a domestic home study an addendum from the court is attached stating the disposition of the prior charges. Be open and honest, the social worker is there to help you create your forever family. After all of these requirements are met, the social worker will finalize the home study, recommending you for the placement of a child. While each situation is different, these are some general guidelines that apply to the things that can impact a home study and the common concerns prospective adoptive parents have.
By Leslie Zindulka LCSW-R of Adoptiondoctors.com and Adoptioneducationclasses.com
Visit Leslie on the web at Adoptionsocialworkny.com