Home Studies for Parents with Disabilities

One of our many goals for this blog has been to share a bit more about our perspective as parents with disabilities navigating the adoption process. Admittedly, we’ve been nervous. We know to expect adversity and there are moments that we wait with anticipation that someone along the way will question or doubt. So far though, we’ve encountered a long line of helpful, supportive, and even enthusiastic professional partners in our journey. On Friday, we completed the third of four home study meetings and we’re getting closer and closer to that finish line. A few people have asked so we thought we’d answer:

What’s in a home study?

The first step in the home study process is a gigantic set of paperwork. We’ve worked on this from several weeks prior to our first meeting and then each week we check off more items and discuss any revisions, changes, or additions. The paperwork has included a fire inspection (conducted by our local fire station), physicals for everyone in the family, residential history (which is more difficult than you’d think when you were once a nomad college student!), financial forms, tax returns, letters from references,  a 14+ hour adoption training program (conducted online), proof of all sorts of insurances, letters from our local police stations (that we aren’t wanted!), a child profile that lists everything and anything you’d consider accepting in an adopted child, and about a dozen other forms.

In addition to paperwork, there was the safety audit. Even though Eli will be at least 6 when he comes home, we can’t be sure he’s ever lived in a residential setting with typical dangers. Prior to our audit, we installed more child proofing precautions than we’ve even used with Hannah. We know we won’t have the opportunity at first to verbally explain dangers (like plugs or cabinets with cleaners). Other than that, the safety audit didn’t include much more than a good housecleaning. We are now safety approved!

The last and my favorite part of the homestudy process has been interviews with our social worker. After our first meeting together, she’s interviewed each of us separately for the last two sessions. She’s open-minded, easy to talk to, and has brought up so many things to think about. It’s easy to be open with her about questions, concerns, and our excitement. I love the way she also seems to see our perspective on disability as a huge asset to parenting Eli. I’ve appreciated her support in preparing for people’s ignorance around adoption and specifically adopting a child with China. I’ll admit I underestimated the hurtfulness of some comments and am working to prepare myself to better handle these when it matters-when Eli also hears them. Dealing with insensitivity and just plain ignorance is something that our disabilities have given us extensive practice in but it’s a skill I wish I had to use less often!

Entering the home study process, I anticipated that we’d often need to defend our disability and explain our abilities. That hasn’t been the case. We’ve been able to demonstrate our ability through our own history and by pulling together pieces of our lives that every other adoptive parent does at this time. To outsiders, the home study process seems an enormous sacrifice of time, effort, and money. For the most part, I’ve found the process guides you to organize, document, and learn things that are helpful to parenting in general. We’ll have our last meeting on Friday and while I’m ready to finish this step in the process, I’ll be a little sad to see our weekly meetings come to an end.