Home Study for LGBT Couples:
Everything You Need to Know

by Katharine Swan

For most would-be adoptive parents, the most stressful part of the adoption process is the home study. Because the home study can slow the adoption process or even halt it altogether, many adoptive parents see the social worker as the enemy and the home study as something to fear. This interpretation is especially true in gay and lesbian adoptive parents, who may fear that discrimination will affect the results of their home study.

In reality, however, the home study is intended to help, not hurt, the adoption process. Adoption agencies, social workers, and the courts want to place children in as many homes as possible – there are simply too many children up for adoption to be nitpicking over the cleanliness of your kitchen floor or the fact that you dropped out of college your sophomore year. Although the purpose of the home study is to verify that the adopting parents will provide a safe, stable environment for a child, your social worker isn’t going to be sniffing out your dirty laundry like Sherlock Holmes – it simply would not be in her best interests to do so.

Bi-Racial Adoption

What is the Home Study?

The “home study” is nothing more than a report that the social worker puts together to illustrate to the courts what an adopting family’s home life is like. In order to write this report, the social worker must gather a great deal of information about the adoptive family, as well as make a formal recommendation as to whether the family should be allowed to adopt.

No one likes being under the microscope, and because most people at this stage have usually staked a lot on being able to adopt a child, the tendency is to feel like you’re on trial. Don’t worry, though – most home studies look for the obvious red flags, like drug use or a history of child abuse, and not the minor transgressions most people find themselves worrying about.

To try to form a complete picture of the home life you have to offer, the social worker will:

  • Ask you for autobiographical information. Because parenting has so much to do with your feelings of how you were raised, your social worker will want to know about your own childhood. He or she will also want to know about your life now – your interests and hobbies, your daily routines, religious beliefs, etc. – and how you anticipate bringing a child into your life will impact your current situation. Your sexual orientation may come up at this point, but if you have chosen your agency carefully it should be a point of discussion, rather than a source of discrimination.
  • Request education and employment information. Your social worker doesn’t necessarily expect you to have a doctorate and make a six-figure income (although it certainly won’t hurt if you do). He or she just wants to make sure you have a stable work history and the ability to provide for your child.
  • Investigate your financial stability. Again, you don’t have to have a six-figure income to adopt a child. You do, however, need to show a certain degree of financial responsibility. To determine this, your social worker will ask for proof of income such as pay stubs and tax returns, as well as information about your debts, monthly bills, and savings.
  • Check your criminal record. Although this is an important step of the information-gathering process, small infractions are likely to be overlooked. The agency is primarily looking for serious crimes that indicate an inability to provide a good home for a child, such as a history of child abuse. If you are concerned about this step, your best bet is to be honest and direct with your social worker: Be willing to discuss your record, and demonstrate how you have grown beyond the mistakes that you made in the past.
  • Request a medical exam. Although it may seem silly, the last thing the agency wants is an adoptive parent who won’t live to raise their child. In order to adopt, then, you will need a clean bill of health. This doesn’t mean that someone with a health condition cannot adopt – but you will need to be able to demonstrate that your condition is under good control.
  • Request references. References give the social worker a more balanced picture of your home life by getting the opinion of someone who knows you well. The best reference is someone who has known you for at least several years.
  • Visit your home. The visit to your home is not as major a step as you would think. The social worker needs to make sure that your home meets state licensing regulations, such as the number of fire alarms or the minimum amount of living space per child. In other words, don’t go overboard cleaning – as long as your house doesn’t pose a health threat, your social worker isn’t going to care.
  • Interview you, your partner, and anyone else in the home. It is the social worker’s job to find out how all members of the family are going to handle having the new addition. Your social worker will therefore request multiple meetings with everyone living in the household. Some of these sessions might be one-on-one, while others include you and your partner. If you have other children in the home, the social worker will interview them too.

Once the social worker has gathered all of the above information, he or she will use it to put together a report. The goal is to give the courts a good idea of what growing up in your home will be like for a child. The social worker will also include his or her recommendations for the court.

During this process, honesty is paramount. If you are found to have lied to the agency about anything, your social worker can recommend that you not be allowed to adopt. In order for you to be comfortable discussing your sexual orientation with the agency, it is important that you find an agency that is willing to work with gay or lesbian parents.

What Else Should I Know About the Home Study?

On average, the information required for the home study report takes three to six months to collect. You can speed this process by hiring a private agency to do the home study, but you should also try to schedule appointments and provide requested information with as little delay as possible.

Although a public agency often takes longer to complete the home study, the advantage for many would-be adoptive parents is the difference in cost. Whereas private agencies typically charge $1,000 to $3,000 for the home study, most public agencies charge a few hundred dollars or less. Many public agencies charge nothing at all, but some require you to try to adopt a child within the state before you can take your home study results and look elsewhere.

How Can I Make This Easier?

The best way for you to handle the home study is to be prepared for it. When you already have all of the information that your social worker asks for, you will save yourself the stress of scrambling for it at the last minute. The stress of not being prepared will also heighten your anxiety, making the home study process more painful than it needs to be. The more you learn about the home study beforehand, the more comfortable you will feel during the process, and the easier it will be for you and your family.

Information published on The Rainbow Babies website is not a substitute for proper medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or care. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Disclaimer: The Rainbow Babies provides sample contracts and legal/social health articles for informational purposes only—please do not consider it as legally-binding advice of any kind.