home study process

10 Tips for Completing Your Home Study Documents

Growing your family through adoption is life-changing and wonderful; yet the process can be daunting and it can be difficult to take that first step into the home study process. At Spence-Chapin you will have a team of professionals to hold you through the process and support you through the practical and the emotional aspects of your adoption. Here are some things to expect and some tips to make your home study process smooth.

1. Ask Questions! Building your family is the most important process you can ever undertake and you deserve to be well-informed and have all of your questions answered. There really are no ‘silly questions’ when it comes to home study, so don’t be afraid to ask. Your home study worker is equipped to support you through the documentation so never hesitate to email or call them with a question – documentation can be confusing; your worker is there to help.

2. Set goals – and let us help you set them. We will need to collect quite a few documents as a part of the home study process. It can feel overwhelming to tackle all the documents at once. We can help support you in prioritizing which documents to complete and in what order.

3. Dot your i’s and cross your t’s – Before you submit original documents to your team be sure to look over to assure they are completed! Read over your medical form before you leave your doctor’s office – double check that your physician did not forget to check a box or answer a question. If we receive a document that’s incomplete, we will need to send it back to you for corrections. Feel free to connect with us via email to look over any and all forms before you stick them in the mail, and we can let you know if anything needs to be updated.

4. Honesty is key. It’s important to be forthcoming with your home study team. For example, we understand you might have a previous arrest history - we can work with you to obtain required and standard documentation such as court dispositions. However, if you do not disclose required information to us this will impede your home study process. Although it may feel that certain parts of your history, such as a distant arrest, bare no weight on your ability to be a successful parent, regulations do require that we document personal history in the home study process. When meeting with your home study social worker he or she will open the space for reflection and assess your current strengths that will enable you to parent in light of any complex history.

5. Need a notary? There are a few places you can go to in order to obtain a notary stamp. Try connecting with your local bank or UPS office – they likely have notary services. You could also try your place of employment as some companies have notaries on staff. If you have trouble finding a notary near your home or place of work let your home study team know and we can assist in fining a notary for you. We have notaries on staff so feel free to schedule a time to come into our office to have documents notarized.

6. Before you even begin home study there are things you can obtain - You will need to collect some official documentation such as birth and marriage certificates as a part of the home study process, so while you’re still exploring your options it’s a good time to request these as it can take some time to receive them. While you’re at it, order a few backups. It’s important to have these types of documents on hand throughout your adoption journey as the need may arise for copies of these items at various points in your process. If you lived or were married abroad, we can support you in obtaining foreign certificates.

7. Need a document translated? You might need to have documents translated such as your birth or marriage certificates. We will need a certified English translation of these items. If you do not know of a company that can provide such a translation, connect with our team! One such resource we share with families is www.continentaltranslation.com.

8. Life happens when your busy making adoption plans…and that’s okay. We understand that things come up along the way. If you need to place your home study case with us on hold just let your team know. We’re here to have a conversation about what that looks like and will be happy to move forward with you when the time feels right for your family.

9. Tell us about yourself through the Narrative – The home study is an intimate and personalized process; we want to get to know you so that we can best support you in preparing to grow your family though adoption. We understand the home study narrative that we ask our families to write is robust – but it’s so helpful. Your home study social worker will use your narrative as a way to get to know you before meeting with you for the first time as well as support in collecting some key information for your home study report. We hope that you see the narrative as a helpful exercise as well. The narrative prompts you to start thinking about some of the more practical aspects of becoming a parent such as childcare – maybe you’re not sure what type of parental leave you have through your job now is a good time to start researching that information. The narrative also prompts you to reflect on your journey towards choosing adoption, what you might feel most nervous about and ways in which your social worker can help.

10. How long does it take to complete a home study? That depends, but on average it takes about 3 months from time of application to the completion of your home study report. Each family moves at a different pace so depending on your timeline around submission of documents and your availability for home visits that timeline can be shorter or longer.

If you’d like to learn more about how Spence-Chapin can support you in growing your family, or if you’re ready to begin the process, please give us a call at (212) 400-8150 or email us at info@spence-chapin.org.

Beginning the Domestic Adoption Journey: The First Steps

Adoption can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. For more than 100 years, Spence-Chapin has been supporting families through the adoption process with broad services and a lifetime of support. As you begin the adoption process, you will likely have many questions about the steps involved.

1. Learn about the different adoption pathways

Domestically, there are three ways to adopt - through an accredited organization or adoption agency, an adoption attorney, or adoption from foster care. Families interested in the adoption of an infant typically pursue an attorney or agency adoption. Both adoption pathways will take you to the same place – the child who will be joining your family, but the pathways are different and it’s important to do your homework in order to determine the best pathway for your family. Attending an Adoption 101 webinar is a great way to learn more about the landscape of adoption and these pathways.

2. Ask questions – of yourself and of the professionals.

Different people are drawn to one pathway or another for different, important reasons.

Regardless of the pathway you choose, it’s important that you find a provider that fully supports you. Adoption professionals tend so set rules for their services based upon their own philosophies and personal beliefs, or because they may have experienced longer wait times for certain applicants. Information gathering (speaking to people, learning, and taking time to absorb and listen to how you feel) is an important early step. Adoption is a very intimate endeavor and you owe it to yourself to find the team that is the right fit for you.

If you are interested in pursuing an infant domestic adoption with an adoption attorney, Spence-Chapin can provide recommendations for reputable adoption attorneys in the NYC area. For families who pursue this adoption pathway, Spence-Chapin can provide home study and support services as you work closely with the attorney to navigate the legal process of adoption. The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys may also serve as a helpful resource, as they have a directory of members by state.

Questions to ask when interviewing an adoption professional:

  • What types of adoptions do you do? Do you do domestic infant adoptions? Or adoptions from foster care? Are most of the adoptions transracial adoptions? Open adoptions?

  • What states do you do adoptions in? Do you operate only in our state, or multiple states? Or not in our state at all?

  • How many placements did you have last year, and what is your average number of placements a year?

  • What is the average wait time for families that look like mine in terms of marital status, age, race, sexual orientation, and risk factors, open vs. closed adoption, and race/ethnicity we are open to?

  • What is your total fee and what does it go towards? Are there potential extra fees we should be aware of? Do your fees include living, medical and legal expenses?

  • How do you find expectant mothers that may be considering an adoption plan for their child? Do you search for birth mothers nationally or locally and how is this done? Why do you think birth mothers choose to work with your program over others?

  • What type of support do you provide to expectant mothers? What counseling options are provided both pre and post adoption?

  • What other adoption professionals will I need and how do I find and integrate them into our adoption plan?

  • Why should I work with your organization over any others? How will it benefit me?

3. Attend a webinar or begin the home study

Depending on the pathway you choose, families will either submit an adoption application to your adoption agency or schedule a meeting with your adoption attorney.

For families who would like to join Spence-Chapin’s full-service domestic adoption program, the first official step in the process is to attend a Domestic Adoption Webinar. You can register for an upcoming webinar directly on the events calendar of our website. This webinar is dedicated to exploring the nuances of Spence-Chapin’s domestic adoption program. Our team will share details about the adoption program, the application process, options counseling for birth parents, and more. Unlike other agencies that may accept an unlimited number of families, we make efforts to balance the number of adoptive families with birth mothers in our full-service program. By limiting the number of families, we reduce wait times to be matched with a baby.

Attendance at the Domestic Adoption webinar is a requirement for families pursuing Spence-Chapin’s domestic adoption program as all attendees of the webinar will receive the Domestic Adoption Application.

All families adopting will need a home study. For families working with an adoption attorney to navigate the legal process of adoption, or an adoption agency out of state, our social workers are able to provide home study services, pre-adoption counseling and support. If you are ready to begin the home study process, you can download the application from our website today.

4. Submit an Application

Our team reviews any new applications we receive every week. Through the application, we are able to get to know your family better and learn about who the child is you feel can thrive in your family. In addition to assessing your family for eligibility for the program, our team is also assessing program fit – that our domestic adoption program aligns with who the child is you envision joining your family. We want to know that the children we see in need of adoption align with your family’s openness around factors such as age, gender, race and ethnicity, common medical risks and open adoption. We want to be confident that we (your family and our team) are on the same page when beginning the adoption process. Check out our Domestic Adoption FAQ to learn more about Spence-Chapin’s Domestic Adoption Program.

Still have questions? Schedule a phone call or pre-adoption consultation with one of our adoption experts! Call: 212-400-8150 or Email: info@spence-chapin.org.