A home study is an assessment of the family regarding their appropriateness as adoptive parents. A typical home study includes recent medial documentation reflecting that the prospective adoptive parents have a normal life expectancy and have no diseases that could be transmitted to the child; a financial investigation in order to determine whether the prospective adoptive parents are responsible in financial matters and have adequate resources to provide for an additional family member; a criminal records check; references check; completion of a number of forms regarding family history and lifestyle; preparation of a short autobiography of each prospective parent; home visits to confirm that the home is safe, free from health risks, and has sufficient space for an additional family member; and interviews to determine the adoptive parents’ fitness to act as parents, the general stability of the marital relationship if married, their general psychological health and the absence of substance abuse or physical abuse in the home.
In the best circumstances, a home study is also an educational process preparing the adoptive parents for the process of adoption and the stresses inherent in that process, as well as preparing them for parenting generally. The individual conducting the home study may also provide emotional support for the adoptive parents throughout the adoption process.
The adoptive parents may pick any licensed child placing agency authorized by the Department of Children’s Services to conduct home studies. Licensed clinical social workers working independently may conduct home studies as well, but they must go through the agency licensing process first.
The cost of the home study is assessed to the adoptive parents. Costs vary from approximately $1000 to $1500 not including the cost of post-placement supervision, should a child be placed in the prospective adoptive parents’ home.
In Tennessee, all prospective adoptive parents, unless they are closely related, must have an approved home study in order to adopt. A relative is defined as a grandparent, any degree of grandparent, aunts, uncles, or any degree of great-aunts or great-uncles, step parents, or cousins of the first degree or any siblings of the who or half degree. (This is based on the relationship between the adoptive parent and the child.)
A home study is good for one year. If an adoption placement becomes available after a year, your home study agency may be willing to “update” your home study to make it current instead of requiring you to acquire a new study.
Choosing the “right” agency to do your home study varies for each prospective adoptive couple. This is a very personal process and you must feel comfortable with the person performing the home study. If you are seeking to adopt through various methods, you must also ensure that the home study you obtain will be usable for all possible situations. Example: If you decided to work with an agency in the hopes that they would find you a child, some agencies may not release their home study if you were to find an adoptive placement outside their agency.
Note: Home studies obtained through the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services are rarely released for an adoption that does not take place through the Department.