Adoption Home Study

 The Adoption Home Study                 

Every state and the District of Columbia requires that all prospective adoptive parents undergo a "home study" when adopting an unmarried minor.  The home study insures that the adoptive parents can provide a safe, adequate home for the child.  The home study also provides the prospective parents education about adoption related issues and preparation for the adoption process and procedures.  Although the process may seem daunting, most prospective parents complete their home study without issue.  Most agencies will try to work with you to approve your home study, rather than look for reasons to reject you.

The Adoption Home Study Process in a Nutshell

The home study process varies greatly from state to state and agency to agency. Although each agency must follow the general regulations of their state, they have the flexibility to develop their own policies and procedures within those regulations. However, almost all home studies will involve adoption coursework, detailed questionnaires or autobiographical statement, references, a medical report, a criminal background check (fingerprints), a child abuse index clearance, meetings with a social worker and an examination of the home.  If there are other people living in the home, they also may need to be fingerprinted and interviewed by the social worker.

The home study process results in a written home study report, indicating whether the prospective parents have been approved for adoption.  Often the report will limit the approval to a particular age range, number of children and/or special needs of the child(ren).  The time it takes to complete a home study varies from State to State and from agency to agency.   Once the report is finished, it will generally include the following information:

  • Personal and family background for each applicant, including their relationship with their own parents and siblings
  • What types of discipline the applicants received as a child and their current attitudes about discipline
  • Their marriage or partnership, their children in the home and/or out of the home
  • Their motivation to adopt
  • Their health history and current physical condition; whether they have any medical conditions that shorten their life expectancy or impact upon their daily activities
  • Their education and finances, including employment histories, current income, insurance coverage and child care plans if needed
  • References and criminal background clearances
  • Summary and social worker's recommendation, including limitations on the number, age and physical condition of children approved for adoption.

Questionnaires/Autobiographical Statement

Agencies differ regarding whether they have the prospective parents fill out detailed questionnaires or provide an autobiographical statement covering detailed information about their life and your upbringing.   Typical questions include whether you were close to your parents and siblings when you were a child; whether you are close now; how much contact do you have with your extended family; what are some of your successes and failures in life; what is your educational level and what do you think about education for a child; what is your employment status; do you have plans to change employment; do you like your current job, etc.

If you are married, there will be questions about your marriage. These may cover how you met, how long you dated before you married, how long you have been married, what attracted you to each other, what your spouse's strengths and weaknesses are, and the issues on which you agree and disagree in your marriage. Others may ask how you make decisions, solve problems, settle arguments, communicate, express feelings, and show affection. If you were married before, there will be questions about that marriage. If you are single, there will be questions about your social life and how you anticipate integrating a child into it, as well as questions about your network of supportive relatives and friends.

There will likely be a section on specific adoption-related issues, including questions about your motivation to adopt; how and when you will tell the child he or she is adopted; your feelings about birthparents and about choosing to place a child for adoption and how you will handle your relatives' and friends' attitudes about adoption.

Certified Copies of Documents

You will need to provide certified copies of your birth certificate, your marriage license or certificate, and any divorce decree.  If you are not a US Citizen, you will need to prove your immigration status, whether permanent resident or temporary visa.

An international adoption requires the prospective parents to compile a dossier including certified and apostil copies of documents.  You will need to check with your agency whether you need to compile the dossier prior to completion of the home study.

Medical Report

Your agency will require a medical report filled out by your physician.  You will need a recent physical exam and a current tuberculosis test. It is rare that a medical condition will preclude you from adopting, so long as it is managed and under the care of a physician.  Prospective parents with cancer, diabetes and HIV have been approved for adoption.  But a serious health problem that affects life expectancy or impacts daily activity may prevent approval.  If you have a chronic or serious medical condition, you should consult with a few different agencies before beginning the home study process.

Income & Finances

You will asked to verify your income as part of the home study.  Employees may provide copies of their paycheck stubs or a copy of a W-4 form.  Self employed applicants will likely have to provide copies of their income tax returns for a series of years. You will be asked to provide information regarding your bank and investment accounts, insurance policies, other assets as well as your debts and expenses.  You do not have to be wealthy or own your own home, but you must show that you can provide for a child and manage your finances responsibly.


You will be asked to provide the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of three or four individuals to serve as references. These might be close personal friends, an employer, a former teacher, a co-worker, a neighbor, or your clergy.  You should pick as references people who have known you for several years, who have seen you in various kinds of situations, who have visited your home and know of your experiences with children and who are also able to comment on your character, your relationship, your hobbies and your interests. 

The agency will likely send a questionnaire for your references to complete and return.  You should encourage your references to return the forms promptly, as your home study cannot be competed without them.  

Child Abuse and Criminal Clearances

All States require that criminal record and child abuse record clearances be conducted on all prospective adoptive parents. This usually involves fingerprinting.  Adoptions that cross state lines also require an FBI clearance.  Be prepared to discuss any criminal background openly and candidly.  Minor crimes, particularly those in the distant past, will not likely pose a problem.  If you have a history of serious or violent crimes, crimes involving fraud or a history of child abuse or neglect, you likely will not be approved for adoption.

Meetings with the Social Worker

Your agency will require that you meet with an adoption social worker, both individually and as a couple.  You will discuss the topics addressed in your questionnaires/autobiographical statement and other aspects of your home study.  The social worker will ask any questions necessary to clarify what you have written and will try to resolve any inconsistencies.

At least one meeting will take place in your home.  The social worker will inspect your home to verify that you can provide a child with a safe and healthy environment and that you have adequate room to accommodate the new family member. The social worker will inspect the entire house or apartment, including the basement and back yard, for safety issues.  You do not need to have prepared a room for the child unless the child is living with you or will be placed imminently. 

Your home does not need to be baby proofed, but you should have a good understanding of what will be necessary to make your home safe for your child.  Be prepared to discuss stair gates, socket covers and other safety measures.  Most states will require that you fence any pools or ponds and that you have working smoke detectors prior to approving a home study. 

Although the home visit often creates the greatest anxiety in the home study process, for most prospective parents it is the least problematic.  Your social worker is unlikely to disapprove your home, but instead will identify any issues and provide information on how to remedy the situation. 

Concerns about Approval

You do not need to be a perfect person or have a perfect home in order to be approved to adopt.  A good home study agency is going try to work with you to resolve any issues before disapproving you for adoption.  If you anticipate problems in your home study, it is best to consult with an experienced adoption attorney in your area before contacting any adoption agencies.