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What is a Home Study?

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One of the first steps in the adoption process is the ‘home study.’ All prospective adoptive parents in Canada must have a home study completed whether they choose to adopt through the public, private or international adoption systems.

The actual home study is a written assessment by a social worker or adoption practitioner who will interview you and your family over the course of several months. During these interviews, which are typically anywhere from 1 to 3 hours each, a variety of topics will be explored. Such topics include:

  • your motivation for adopting and understanding of adoption’s lifelong issues;
  • your relationships with your spouse/partner, family, friends and other sources of support;
  • your financial and employment situation, health status, lifestyle, home and neighbourhood environments, your childhood, interests and hobbies;
  • your understanding of open and closed adoptions and their implications;
  • your parenting styles and attitudes;
  • the age, ethnicity, health status and other characteristics of children that would be the best match for your family;
  • and your understanding of sharing adoption information with your child;

Home studies are conducted to evaluate your desire and commitment to adoption, to explore the reasons why you want to adopt, to evaluate you as a prospective parent, and to provide your family with education about adoption.

Most, if not all, prospective adoptive parents find the home study process to be very stressful and invasive. After all, you’re asked to discuss, often with a complete stranger, some very personal things like your childhood, family relationships, challenges in your life, parenting views and other sensitive topics. Who wouldn’t find this a nerve-wracking experience?
In many areas of Canada, families can have a private home study conducted or wait for a social worker through their government’s adoption agency. A private home study costs on average $2,500 to $3,000 whereas a home study through the Children’s Aid or your province/territory’s Social Services Department is free. Waiting lists to have a home study done through government agencies are long and priority is often given to families who will adopt older children or those with special needs.

Overview of the Home Study Process

The home study process takes approximately 2 to 6 months to complete and its format will vary depending on your province or territory and the type of adoption you pursue.

For a family that adopts internationally, their home study and the topics discussed during the assessment will be different than a family’s home study that adopts domestically through the public or private systems. In a province like Ontario, however, all applicants hoping to adopt (whether it’s domestic or international) must have the standardized SAFE home study and recently mandated PRIDE training. More information about Ontario’s SAFE home study can be found here.

In most provinces/territories, the home study process consists of approximately 4 to 8 visits with a social worker. Each visit lasts a couple of hours and all members in your family should be present to discuss adoption. Your social worker/practitioner will want a tour of your home to ensure there is enough room for a child as well as to complete a home safety inspection.

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Here are a few tips to help prepare you for your practitioner’s visits:

  • Be yourself! Try to relax and not worry about being ‘perfect’. Social workers and adoption professionals are looking for prospective parents who have proven problem-solving abilities and can provide patient, skilled parenting and long-term commitment when considering adoption.
  • Be honest. Do not try to hide anything from your social worker because it will come up. If you have a medical issue or something happened in your past, be up front and tell your social worker about it.
  • Research adoption. Read books, search the Internet and talk to professionals and others who have experience with adoption. It’s important to learn ‘positive adoption language’ and be aware about important issues like ‘openness agreements’ and attachment.
  • Talk to your partner. If you’re adopting with your spouse/partner, it’s important that both of you want to adopt and have discussed such important issues like the age of the child, ethnicity, health issues and from where you hope to adopt.
  • Your house doesn’t have to sparkle! Your social worker is not going to wear his/her white gloves and check for dust when they visit. In fact, some social workers have told us that they’d worry if an applicant’s house was too perfect (they would worry if you could handle the sticky finger prints on your windows and the mess children tend to create). Ensure your house is neat and organized but don’t go overboard!

As part of the home study process, you will also have to submit several complete documents including:

  • Personal History Questionnaire
  • Physician’s Report (for each applicant)
  • Financial Statement (per family)
  • Criminal Records Check for each applicant. Also, if the applicants have lived in another country, a police check must be completed from that country and a copy of the police check must be submitted to your social worker/agency.
  • Child Welfare Checks – must be completed for each applicant for every place they have lived in Canada from the age of 18 years and older.

Once your home study interviews have been completed, your social worker will write the home study report. The home study will include information you provided from the interviews as well as your worker’s assessment and recommendation for adopting. Be sure to review your home study report and proof it for any errors. Don’t hesitate to discuss the report with your social worker and suggest any changes (be reasonable!) as the home study is a reflection of your family and you want the information to be correct. After you’ve approved and signed the home study, your social worker will give you a copy of the report and you can proceed to the next step in the adoption process.


 



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