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Marie Dolfi, LCSW                                            
Specializing in Adoption Counseling, Home Studies and Education            518-281-8884 mdolfi@nycap.rr.com
Home Study Page
No matter how you choose to adopt – foster care, domestic private agency, domestic private independent or international adoption you will need to have a home study completed. Marie can complete a home study for you whether you work with an adoption agency (local or out of town) or adopt privately (non-agency). With the belief that a home study is more than a legal document, Marie encourages applicants to share how a child would fit into their family in addition to discussing adoption issues a family might experience. Marie will help applicants to relax by letting them know the home study does not require applicants to be perfect and that families are being evaluated to see if they can create a warm, supportive home that will meet the emotional, educational, social and medical needs of a child. 

Below is information on home studies in general, questions typically asked in home study interviewscommon questions prospective adoptive parents have on home studies, and reasons why you should have Marie Dolfi do your home study.

Home Study General Information

The purpose of the home study is to document the prospective adoptive parent(s) personal history, their thoughts on parenting and adoption and evaluate their suitability to parent. Topics discussed in a home study include: readiness to parent, physical and mental health, marital and family history, the suitability of the home for a child, ability to financially support a child, history of child abuse or neglect, and criminal record. In addition the home study will include information on any previous home studies. Each state and foreign country have their own regulations as to who can conduct a home study, what needs to be included in the report, and laws on who can and cannot adopt. International adoption home studies for countries that have ratified the Hague Treaty of Intercountry Adoption must be done by a social worker with Hague specific training working with a Hague certified adoption agency. Within these guidelines each social worker is free to develop their own personal style. 

The home study evaluates the prospective parent’s ability to parent a specific type of child --age, sex, multiple children, special needs, medical issues, and race (if you plan to adopt outside of your race). Thus your social worker needs to know from the beginning what situations and the countries you are applying to adopt from. The home study report concludes with a recommendation to adopt a child(ren) with specific characteristics or a non-recommendation to adopt. For example a home study could conclude with the following paragraph “Name has been approved to adopt a child, of either sex, up to the age of 1 year old with or without mild special needs. Should the situation present itself the placement of twins would be appropriate. Due to Name educating herself on the unique issues of being a multiracial family Name is approved to adopt a child of the following races ____”.
Everyone living in the home will need to be a part of the home study process. This means in addition to the prospective adoptive parents any other adults or children living in the home will be interviewed and need to submit background paperwork. Prior to the home study interviews beginning you will probably be asked to submit background information to the agency or social worker. For New York State agency adoption you will most likely be asked to submit the following information: names and addresses for references, verification of income, and statement from your physician stating you are physically fit to raise a child. You will also be asked to be finger printed for a criminal background check and provide addresses for past residences for clearance from the child abuse registry. For independent private (non-agency) adoptions the prospective adoptive parent’s attorney will usually collect the financial documents, criminal and child abuse background checks and submit these documents to the court when the home study is filed. A social worker conducting an independent home study will let the applicant know what information they need (i.e. medical statement, references) prior to the interviews beginning.

A quality home study is conducted over several hours and should be done in more than one meeting. At least one interview will be in the home and include a tour of the home. The tour of the home is to evaluate its suitability and safety for a child. Thus you should have a smoke and carbon monoxide detector, fire extinguisher, fire arms should be locked away, and in ground pools should be fenced in. If your house would not pass a housing code inspection you should fix the problem prior to the home study.

The laws of your state and the country you are applying to adopt from state which conditions allow you to adopt or disqualify you to adopt a child. Most agencies and social workers will allow you to see the home study report prior to submission to court. If you disagree with the recommendation or there is a significant factual error in the report you may be able to attach an addendum to the home study prior to its submission to court. Keep in mind that state laws and US Citizenship & Immigration Services require your home study to be current. In NYS your home study is valid for 18 months. Thus you many not want to start your home study until you are ready to start your adoption application. If anything significant changes: job, financial situation, arrest, home location, or medical condition you are required to inform your social worker so your home study can be updated.

Most social workers are usually sensitive to prospective parents and attempt to make it seem more like a conversation and not an interrogation. The trend since the 1990s is for the social worker to go beyond asking background information and to use the time to educate future parents about the unique issues of adoptive families. For example a social worker might discuss what it would be like to be a multiracial family for a person who is adopting of a different ethnicity or race. The social worker might discuss how to talk about adoption to your child. This is meant to be an informative discussion; prospective parents should not expect to have all the answers. Use the interview time to ask questions you may have about adoption, being an adoptive family, traveling to adopt, adoption resources, what the adjustment period will be like and more. 

ADOPTION HOME STUDY INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

The interviews will include questions that are factual in nature such as: how old you are, where you were born, general health information, financial ability to support a child, level of education, interests, name of parents, names of siblings, employment, relationships with family members, religion, experiences with children. For couples, information on how you met, how long you have been married and how infertility was resolved will most likely be asked. Also couples might be asked: What do you think are positive and negative attributes about your spouse? How would you describe your marriage? Be prepared to answer questions about previous marriages and other children. Subjective questions will most likely include: Why do you want to be a parent? What about the family that you grew up in would you want or not want for your own family? Expect questions on the level of post placement openness with the birth family you are comfortable with and if you plan to tell your child they are adopted. You will be asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime or convicted of child abuse. 

Additional Home Study Questions/Discussions

Reasons you want to adopt
Thoughts on characteristics and needs of children available for adoption
Your understanding of child development 
Your understanding of the adoptive parent’s role
Your psychological readiness to assume responsibility for a child
Your self-assessment of your capacity to provide a child with a stable and meaningful relationship
What is your family and friends’ response to your decision to adopt?
What are your child care plans?
How do you plan to discipline your child?
Were you a victim of child abuse or neglect?
Has there been domestic violence in your current or past relationships?
How do you handle stress?
What resources and supports do you have?
What are your thoughts on birth parents? 
Have you ever declared bankruptcy?  

There are social workers who do home studies in one interview and will not ask all of these questions. It is truly in your best interest to have a thorough home study done. For example, if the social worker just asks about your health and doesn't require a statement from your physician and you have a medical condition which impacts your ability to parent your home study will not be accurate. Most medical conditions will not disqualify you to adopt. Not telling the whole truth during a home study can be considered fraud and fraud might disqualify you from being able to adopt or could nullify a completed adoption.

Common Questions Prospective Adoptive Parents Have On Home Studies

Question: Do I need to own a home to adopt a child?

Answer: State and country laws have statues on who can adopt a child. New York State does not require that you own a home. You can rent an apartment or house and adopt a child. Your home needs to be safe and meet the needs of a child. At least one home study interview will need to be in your home. If your home would not pass a health code or housing code inspection you need to fix the problem before the home visit. Your home should have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and a working fire extinguisher. Keep in mind in most domestic infant adoptions the birth parents will choose the adoptive parents. The importance of owning a home or renting an apartment would be more the birth parent’s issue than an adoption agency’s issue.

Question: What is a Hague Country home study?

Answer: The Hague Treaty for Intercountry Adoption has standards and specifications for home studies for countries that have ratified the Hague Treaty for Intercountry Adoption. The home study must be done by a worker who has a contract with or is employed by a Hague certified adoption agency and thus is on an agency's letterhead. The social worker doing the home study needs to have specific Hague Treaty home study training. It is in a prospective parent’s best interest to know which country they hope to adopt from prior to beginning the home study process because each country has their own requirements as to what needs to be included in the home study report. The US State Department website http://adoption.state.gov/ has a tremendous amount of information on the Hague Treaty for Intercountry Adoption and international adoption. The United States is part to the Hague Treaty for Intercountry Adoption. If you need a Hague home study you should start your search for a home study preparer by contacting a adoption agency with Hague certification in your area.

Question: If I have a medical or psychiatric condition does that disqualify me to adopt?

Answer: This depends on where you want to adopt from. Each state and country has their own specifications on who can adopt. Many foreign countries have more stringent criteria on who can adopt and your condition may disqualify you to adopt internationally. If you are applying to adopt in New York and you have a medical or psychiatric condition you may need to demonstrate for the home study that there are enough supports in place that a child’s wellbeing will not be jeopardized by your past or current medical or psychiatric condition. The social worker may ask to speak to your physician or therapist. You may be asked for documentation on length and frequency of hospitalizations. If you have a medical condition that requires hospitalization at times you will most likely be asked who would provide child care for those times you are in the hospital. If you have an infectious disease it will be your responsibility to demonstrate how you manage the disease and what precautions you take so the disease is not transmitted. If you want to do an agency adoption the best thing is to ask the agency before you place an application with them on what is their policy for your condition/history. In the majority of domestic infant adoptions the birth parents chose the adoptive parents so they decide if a medical/psychiatric condition is an obstacle to adopt their child. For example, a birth parent with a family history of alcoholism may want a family that understands alcoholism and how to treat the condition or they may want a family that does not have alcoholism in the family. You can have a positive home study recommendation for adoption but it may take a long time, if at all, for a child to be placed in your home if you have a serious medical or psychiatric condition that profoundly affects your current daily life. There is a difference between having a positive recommendation to adopt in your home study and actually having a child placed with you.

Question: Can I adopt as a single person?

Answer: Each state and country determines who is eligible to adopt. In New York State singles are able to adopt. Many foreign countries do to not allow singles to adopt. Visit the US State Department to learn about which countries allow singles to adopt http://adoption.state.gov/. 

Question: Can I adopt as a gay or lesbian individual?

Answer: Each state and country has statues as to if a gay or lesbian individual can adopt. New York State does not have any laws barring gays and lesbians to adopt. Most foreign countries and some US states do not allow gays and lesbians to adopt. The social worker doing your home study will probably ask any unmarried individual if they are in a relationship and their sexual orientation. There are numerous agencies in New York that are happy to and are successful with placing children in gay and lesbian families.

Question: If I have been reported to Child Protective Services can I adopt a child?

Answer: Cases of child abuse and neglect are investigated and the results of the investigation end with a determination if the incident is considered to an indicated or unfounded incident of child abuse or neglect. If the incident was considered to be an indicated case of abuse or neglect state laws would most likely disqualify you (but not always) to adopt a child. In New York State when the adoption agency submits your information to the State Central Register (SCR) and an indicated report is present the SCR should notify you before they notify the adoption agency. You should then be allowed to request an administrative hearing before the agency is notified of the existence of the report. For further details on your rights and an adoption agency's options a NYS applicant should look further into the Social Service Law on Fair Hearings. Every state has their own laws and policies on indicated cases of child abuse and neglect and how it relates to an adoption applicant. 

Question: Will I be disqualified to adopt if I have some negative things in my past?

Answer: State and country laws determined criteria for who can and cannot adopt. For anyone with a difficult history (past alcohol or drug addiction, anger management problems, arrests & convictions, poor employment record, etc.) the home study process would most likely be more vigorous. This means that instead of asking only for proof of employment, the social worker might ask to speak to an employer for someone with a poor work record. Someone with a past alcohol or drug addiction may be asked to have their sponsor or counselor speaker to the social worker doing the home study. Instead of just receiving letters of recommendation, the social worker may want to speak to your references by phone.

New York State has a list of mandatory and discretionary disqualifying crimes. For discretionary disqualifying crimes a safety assessment will most likely be done. The list of mandatory and discretionary disqualifying crimes is kept up to date by the Office of Children and Family Services counsel office and a copy can be obtained by contacting one of the OCFS regional offices.

The more time that has passed between the negative history and your home study the better chance you have for a positive recommendation to adopt. In other words, being drug free for 5 or more years is better than being drug free for a year. The best thing to do is to explain to the social worker why you are in a better place now, what you have learned, how it would most likely not happen again and what supports and resources are available to you now that were not available to you in the past. A history of alcoholism, substance abuse, criminal record of a nonviolent crime, unemployment does not automatically disqualify you to adopt a child in New York State. In New York State a very serious incident like a criminal record for a violent crime would most likely result in a negative recommendation for adoption. 

Question: What happens if I move after my home study is completed and before I adopt?

Answer: If you move you will need a home study revision to describe your new home. A home study revision will usually cost much less than the original home study fee.

Question: Will an adoption agency or county department of social services accept a home study from another agency or independent social work in place of their home study requirement?

Answer: This decision is based upon the agency’s policy. Most likely, the agency will not accept the previous home study in place of their home study because they like their social worker (agency or contract worker) to have an ongoing relationship with their client that is established during the home study. In addition each adoption agency will probably have their own specifications of what they want included in a home study. Also, home studies are outdated in New York State after 18 months so it may not be in your best interest to use a home study that would expire before a child is placed in your home.

Reasons Why You Should Have Marie Dolfi Complete Your Home Study

-Marie is very organized and thorough. She individualizes her outline for home study interviews for each applicant.
-Marie has over 20 years’ experience talking to prospective adoptive parents and adoptive parents.  She understands their anxieties about the application process and adoption in general.
-Marie works to make applicants feel at ease during the interviews. She will not ask unnecessary questions just to pry into your past.
-Marie has extensive training on adoption issues. See the About section of the web site for details.
-Marie knows a wide variety of adoption resources --- parents support groups, books, adoption organizations, adoption pediatricians ---that she can share with applicants.
-Marie’s schedule is flexible with day and evening appointments. 
-Marie understands and embraces the individuality of families. She is very accepting of all types of families.
-Marie will allow you to proof read your home study for accuracy prior to it being submitted to court.


Information on this site is intended as general information on the home study process and report.
It is should not be construed as “official and legal” information on home studies. Please consult with an adoption attorney for legal advice on home studies




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Disclaimer: While it is Marie’s hope that you find the information in her website useful and informative please note- the information contained in this website is for general information purposes only. To read the entire disclaimer click here