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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.