Once an agency or facilitator has been chosen, it will be necessary to begin the application and home study process. The written part of the application involves the completion of a long and comprehensive document asking questions about the employment, education, family background, medical history, and financial history of the adoptive parents. They will be required to provide contact information for family members and friends who can serve as character references. The agency will interview those references to help evaluate the adoptive parents' appropriateness to adopt. An application fee of several hundred dollars is generally required to be submitted along with the paperwork. The adoption agency will also need to complete a criminal background check, which will involve additional fees. Only when all paperwork, interviews, and background checks are complete will the adoption agency decide whether they will accept the adoptive parents as a client in their program.
Profile/Autobiography for Domestic Adoptions
Upon acceptance as a client by an adoption agency for a domestic adoption (or after a facilitator has been hired), the adoptive parents will need to start preparing their autobiographical profile, which will be offered to birth parents for their review. The profile needs to include information about the adoptive parents' background, including where and when each parent was born, what their family circumstances were, information about their childhoods and adulthoods, educational information, extended family information, hobbies and activities, information on any existing children in the family, etc. A letter to the birth parents will also usually be required as part of this profile in order to convey the adoptive parents' desires and thoughts concerning having a child to the birth parents. In addition to other materials, the agency will also want photographs of the adoptive parents, any existing children, pets, the home, neighborhood, etc. Though the preparation of this profile can seem like just another hurdle in the long process of the adoption application, it is actually the best opportunity the adoptive parents will have to describe to birth parents in their own words who they are and what they can offer to a child. The profile can be difficult to write, especially because it will be evaluated by birth parents. While care should be taken in the writing of the profile, it is also important that the adoptive parents not over-think the process and instead simply describe themselves honestly and accurately without trying too hard to impress.
The next step will be the home study process. The mandatory home study must be conducted by a licensed social worker, and will generally cost between $500 and $2500 depending on the agency providing the service. At the start of the home study, the adoptive parents fill out additional paperwork. They describe their views on parenting and their relationship with each other (if a couple is making the application) and with their extended family. They describe their medical history and schedule medical examinations, which must be documented by their doctors. They also provide additional references. All of this paperwork is provided to the social worker conducting the home visit.
As the name implies, the social worker conducting the home visit does actually visit the adoptive parents’ home to verify that the environment is reasonable and that the set-up of the home is appropriate for raising a child. While the social worker will be looking to see that there is enough space for the child to live well within the home, it is not necessary to provide a mansion in order to adopt. What is necessary is enough space to provide for the child’s safety and comfort needs.
The home study also includes extensive interviews covering information such as why the adoptive parents wish to adopt, their history together, their background, financial information, religious or spiritual beliefs, how they plan to raise the child, how family and friends feel about the adoption and what support they will be providing, the amount of contact with the birth parents that is desired, etc. The social worker and the adoptive parents also talk about the process of adoption and issues the adoptive parents will need to be prepared to deal with after the adoption takes place, including child care, home safety, and discipline.
Upon completion of the visit and interviews, the social worker will prepare a home study report that includes all the information gathered, as well as an integrated assessment of whether the adoptive parents are appropriate and ready for adoption. Once adoptive parents have received a "passing grade" on the home study report, it is time for the agency or lawyer/facilitator to start showing their profile to potential birth parents and making connections.