How to prepare for your home assessment
De-mystifying one of the most important steps in the adoption process
By Focus on the Family Canada staff
For families considering adopting a child, one of the most intimidating aspects of the adoption process is the home assessment. Some apprehension is understandable; after all, your continuation on the adoption journey depends on a positive outcome. Often, however, the uneasiness is exacerbated by simply not knowing what to expect.
Here’s an overview of the home assessment process that will help you prepare, both practically and emotionally, and hopefully allow you to relax as you contemplate and participate in your home assessment.
Preparing for your home assessment
- Book your first appointment with the social worker and ask what you need to have ready prior to this visit.
- If the visit is in your home, be prepared for “show and tell.” There is no need to make your home absolutely spotless, but he or she will want to see where and how you live to determine if it is a safe, comfortable environment for a child.
- Relax. The social worker’s goal is to assist you in making adoption a positive experience for your existing family and for the child you hope to add to your family.
- If you already have children, the social worker will want to meet them and speak with them, both with and without you present. Let the children know that they should answer questions honestly and say what they really think and feel. They are also welcome to ask questions.
- Have your calendar and schedule ready to help arrange several subsequent visits. Home studies usually require four to eight meetings. Some may be as individuals, others as a couple or as a family. These meetings may or may not take place in your home; that is worked out with each social worker.
- If you have pets, consider how their presence in the home may impact a child positively or negatively.
- If anyone else lives in your home (for instance, grandparents), they will need to be interviewed as well. Do prepare them for this.
- If you are adopting privately or internationally, you will be required to pay for the home assessment. Your agency or social worker will advise you of the cost and when the fees are due. If you are adopting publically, the only costs to you are usually those incurred in requesting criminal record checks and medical reports. Ask your social worker if you are unsure of your financial responsibilities regarding the home assessment.
S.A.F.E. family assessment
Most areas in Canada are now using a tool in the home assessment process called the Structured Analysis Family Evaluation. More commonly it is referred to as the S.A.F.E. family assessment. You will be asked to complete two questionnaires. No preparation is required; you will know the answers and there are no “right” or “wrong” answers. These documents help the social worker quickly learn which questions may need more detailed discussion with each of you. The questions also help you describe some things about yourself and/or your spouse that are sometimes difficult to put into words. There is a significant focus on the family you grew up in as well.
Questions to expect
To prepare their report, the social worker will ask questions that help describe the following things about you:
- Your physical appearance
- Family background
- Hobbies and interests
- Religious beliefs and practices
- Cultural background
- Marriage (and previous relationships, if any)
- Parenting philosophy and practices
- Understanding of adoption
- Home and community
- Child: What age, gender or special needs can you accommodate? Who would be a good fit with your family?
Facing the hard questions
You will be asked to be quite transparent and vulnerable in this process. You may be asked about topics that include how you were parented, your sex life, your health, your marital satisfaction, previous abuse and/or addictions and other things that can be difficult and embarrassing to discuss with a relative stranger.
The social worker asks these probing questions because he or she needs to be certain that you will be the kind of parent that the child to be placed with you can count on to be fully emotionally and physically prepared to parent this child as they will need to be parented. The purpose of these questions is not to make you uncomfortable, but to ensure that any potentially difficult situations be addressed before you make a commitment to a child. It also helps in discerning together what sort of child would fit best with your unique personal and family situation.
The sooner you can produce all the documentation, the sooner your home study can be completed. Supporting documents will include criminal record checks for anyone over the age of 12 living in your home, a check for any prior contact with child welfare services (to determine if you have ever been reported for putting a child at risk), medical reports on each applicant, several references (your social worker can advise you how many are needed, from whom and in what format), a financial statement and, in some cases, psychological assessments. Home studies can be delayed unnecessarily if the worker has to wait for your documentation to be submitted.
Any issues that become evident as a result of these checks may or may not hinder your adoption application. The social worker will assess with you, for instance, whether a health concern is a barrier or simply needs to be explained, or if a criminal record from many years ago is a current concern or not. Some of this depends on the specific type of adoption you are applying for as different countries have different standards.
Reviewing the home assessment
When your report is complete (or nearly complete), you will have an opportunity to read it and discuss the findings with the social worker. If you find inaccuracies, do feel free to point them out. If you are disappointed in what is said, bring it up for conversation. It is possible that you were misunderstood or that you need to clarify some information or perspective.
Before you sign the finished product, you need to feel that this is a true representation of you. In the possible, but unlikely, situation that your social worker has concluded that you are not suited to adopt, they should be prepared to list the reasons for that determination. Usually this conversation will be brought up during the interview process, so it is rare that a family will be surprised by this result. In most cases home assessments produce reports that families can affirm and that provide matching agencies a good understanding of the family in order to make the best match with a waiting child.
The social worker will make a recommendation based on all the findings of the report. Should you disagree with the recommendations, you can discuss this with the agency with which you have applied.
In the event that your home assessment is approved, you will proceed on to the next step in the adoption process: waiting for a suitable match. Consult your agency/worker about what your next step should be. It will depend on the type of adoption you have decided to pursue.
© 2011 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.