Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Oh No!!! The Homestudy!

You keep hearing that you need a homestudy -- but what is that?  You may have also heard it called a pre-placement interview, report, or study.  It usually starts with the collection of documentation.  There are some differences between types of homestudies.  Some countries have specific requirements.  Each state has difference requirements.  However, most differences come down to things like form and number of visits.  For the purposes of this entry, I am going to be somewhat generic.

First and foremost, the homestudy process, while cumbersome, should not be frightening.  I say that, but when I had my first homestudy, I followed the social worker through my house with a voice screaming in my head "this woman can tell me I can't have a baby -- this woman can tell me I can't have a baby . . . . . ).  Of course, that did not happen. 

Know this, homestudies are not pass/fail.  Instead they are an opportunity for the social worker to get to know you and your circumstances.  At the same time, he or she will be educating you about adoption and helping you to have realistic expectation regarding the process.  This is a wonderful time to ask questions. 

Sometimes, however, you may have something in your past that you are concerned might adversely impact your ability to adopt.  While it might be tempting to hide that issue, by doing so, you could be endangering your adoption.  While each country has specific requirements and certain issues might keep you from adopting from certain countries, there are very few things that will keep you from adopting completely.  However, dishonesty on your application is one of those things.

If you have concerns, talk to the agency before you start the adoption process.  Most agencies will gladly tell you whether a particular issue will keep you from adopting through that agency.  If you are told that you cannot adopt, be sure and ask if the prohibition is a country requirement, state requirement, or agency requirement.

For instance, some agencies restrict the number of divorces while other agencies are more lenient based on explanation of circumstances.  Some agencies will not place children with single people or people with some heath problems, while others will look to the extended family and contingency plan in case of severe illness.  Additionally, you may have a conviction of some type.  Many times the age of the conviction is very important as to whether it will impact your ability to adopt.  So ask.  If you just need to wait a year or so, you can do so.

Most importantly, you do not want a "failed" homestudy.  Each agency must list in the homestudy whether a person/couple has ever failed a homestudy.  If there is going to be a problem find out before hand so you can change agencies, change countries, or wait.

More on the specific process next time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How to Start the Adoption Process

So, you want to adopt.  Maybe you have spent several years trying the old fashioned way.  Maybe you have spend years on infertility treatments.  Or maybe, you are like me, and you just feel that God intends you to find your child through adoption.  Whatever your path, once you decide to adopt, the questions becomes . . . Now What?

Initially there are several questions to consider.  Private vs Foster, Domestic vs International, Infant vs Older Child?  There will be so many opinions out there regarding which is "best."  The answer -- none of them and all of them.  There is no one size fits all.  There is no "right" answer.  There is only the answer that is right for you. 

You may have started on the internet and gone into information/opinion overload.  While getting familiar with the different process online is useful, I strongly suggest you call and/or visit several agencies.  Talk to the agencies.  See which agency and which program feels like a good "fit." 

Do not be shy about asking every single questions you have.  A reputable agency will understand and will be prepared with answers.  However there are very few objective standards upon which to rely in making your decision.  So much of the decision will be a function of simple preference and "fit."  However, there are several places to start:

1.  Check the licensing status of the agency.  Many states now provide the license status of agencies online.  Others will require a call to the licensing body.  Ask about the status of the license and whether any adverse action has been taken against the license in the past five years.  Specifically ask if the agency is on probation and/or has a plan of corrective action in place.

2.Check with the Attorney General and/or Consumer Protection agency of your state for complaints.  Know that a reputable agency may have complaints.  However, you are looking for a pattern or large number of complaints in relation to the size of the agency. 

3.  Check with the Better Business Bureau (see above)

4.  Ask for references and then actually call the references. 

5.  Be wary of any agency that requires a large portion of funds paid at the beginning of the process, particularly in a domestic adoption.  Most states do not permit an agency to charge a large portion of the fee before you have an approved homestudy (more about the homestudy in a later post).

6.  Once you have decided to adopt, you want your child home yesterday!  However, if an agency is telling you that they can process your adoption and bring your child home significantly faster or easier than most other agencies are advertising -- there is likely a problem. 
7.  Finally, read your contract.  Know what your contract says and if it is different from your understanding -- talk to the agency -- ask questions -- ask for revisions to the contract.

Adoption may be the hardest thing you will ever do.  But, if you see it through, it will be the best thing you will ever do.  Good Luck with your process!