A Guide to Preparing Your Home for the Adoption Process
As a potential new parent, preparing for adoption is an exciting opportunity to start a family. According to statistics from the National Council for Adoption, approximately 113,589 children are available for adoption as of 2021. Whether you’re planning for adoption right now or it’s something you want to do in the future, it’s essential to make sure you have a safe and happy home ready for your new arrival. This guide will help you determine whether renting or buying is right for you and how to prepare your home before your new adopted child arrives.
Buying a home or renting before adoption
Some people think you must be a homeowner before adopting a child, but that’s not the case. No laws in place state that you must own a home if you want to adopt a child. However, there are some things you’ll want to consider before adoption — whether you’re a renter or a homeowner. Let’s take a closer look at some key things to keep in mind.
Make sure you’re emotionally prepared
Adopting a child is a highly emotional experience, so it’s essential to try and be as mentally and emotionally prepared as possible ahead of time. Learn as much as possible about the adoption process and what’s involved in a home study. You should also be realistic about the timeframe, as it may take longer to complete the process than you realize. Finding a support system with other adoptive parents who can relate to the emotional rollercoaster you’re going through is also crucial. Remember why you’re adopting and know that your goal is to give a child the best and happiest life possible.
Be financially ready for adoption
The cost to adopt depends on a few factors, including where you live and the laws in your state. Some adoption agencies charge several costs for the home study, legal fees, and any birth parent or newborn expenses, when applicable. Make sure you know what your costs will be before you adopt and that you’re financially prepared for the cost of raising a child afterward. Talking to an experienced financial advisor who understands the unique circumstances of adoption is also recommended. Look for fundraisers and financial aid programs that may be able to help cover some of your adoption costs. Adopting a child from foster care should cost no more than $3,000 to $5,000 — but that likely won’t include legal fees and other administrative costs.
Make sure your home is ready
Whether you rent or own, it’s essential to make sure that your house is ready for a new child. If you need help determining what might need attention, consider hiring a home inspector. A professional home inspector can point out potential issues and make a few recommendations for repair when needed. This is especially important if you’re looking to buy or rent a new home before your adoption is complete. Always ensure that your home is in good condition to welcome your new arrival safely. Remove clutter and create a comfortable space, so the child feels safe and included without feeling overwhelmed.
The adoption home study process
Before adopting a child, you’ll need to undergo a home study. This process is usually the first thing you’ll do as part of the adoption process. Once this step is complete, you’re an active adoptive family, and you can start to look for a child to welcome into your home. Before you start, it’s crucial to go over this home study checklist to help you clearly understand what to expect. Next, a home study by a fully-licensed social worker in your city or state will take place. They’ll collect crucial documents and information and then perform an in-home visit. Interviews of both parents and an official home inspection will also be conducted. Look for a home study provider in your state to find out how you can get the process started.
Review necessary documentation
Part of the home study involves reviewing vital documents required to adopt a child. Here are some documents you should have ready for your social worker in advance of the home study.
- Background check: Every state requires adoptive families to get a background check. Currently, 31 states also require families to get a background check at the federal level. The Adam Walsh Act of 2006 states that 38 states must also provide federal child abuse and neglect clearances wherever the family member has lived in the past five years. The home study provider should give you detailed information about submitting the forms needed for background checks and clearances.
- Health Statements: Your physical health is a vital part of the adoption process, and most states require families to provide proof of a recent checkup performed by a licensed physician. You’ll also need to complete a form showing your height, weight, whether you smoke, and any current mental health conditions you may have. Suppose either parent is dealing with depression or another mental health condition. In that case, they’ll typically need a statement from a therapist, psychologist, or doctor stating the person is mentally healthy enough to become a parent.
- Financial Information: Before you adopt, it’s also important to show that you are financially secure. Part of the home study will require you to submit recent pay stubs, tax returns, and any applicable income statements. This process shows that you’re financially able to care for a child. You don’t necessarily need to be rich, but you should be able to prove that you’re financially able to provide for a child’s basic needs.
- References: Your social worker will ask you to give them a list of names, phone numbers, and addresses for references. You’ll be able to choose who you want to use as a reference, whether it’s your boss, family member, friend, coworker, local pastor, or neighbor. Make sure you choose people who know you well and who will vouch for you when the social worker contacts them for information about your character.
- Autobiographical statements: This statement needs to be a detailed story about your life. You should discuss things like your childhood, any struggles you may have had with infertility (if applicable), and stories about your life in high school, college, dating, and marriage.
After the documentation is submitted and reviewed, you’ll get an in-home visit. Two things are part of the visit: a home inspection and an interview.
- Home inspection: The social worker will make sure that your home is a safe, viable place to raise a child. They may talk to you about ensuring your home is safe for your new arrival. They’ll look for things like fire escape routes, ensure all firearms are safely locked away, all windows have screens and locks, and a fence around the pool if applicable. Overall, the goal is simply to ensure your home is safe and prepared for a child to live there. If any issues arise, you’ll be able to correct them before the social worker returns for another visit.
- Interview: Your social worker will perform an interview to get to know each family member better. They’ll ask simple biographical questions about your values, traditions, childhood, career, hobbies, and more. They’ll also ask about your experience with children, your parenting style, and how you handle things like stress or difficulties. Part of the interview will also include your motivations for adoption, including how excited you and your partner are to become parents. The goal is to ensure the mother and father are “on the same page” about this new stage of life as a couple and individually. Finally, the social worker will ask about your knowledge of the adoption process. They may discuss cultural diversity if you’re planning to adopt a child from a different race.
As new parents, it’s essential to do some childproofing to ensure your home is safe. While it’s not completely necessary to have your home 100% childproofed for the home study, you should do so once the adoption is complete. Here are some ways to childproof your home to keep it safe.
- Cover outlets: Use outlet covers throughout your home to prevent little fingers from going inside them, resulting in electrical shock. You can find sliding outlet covers at most home improvement stores and childproof outlets to keep your new child safe. Keep power cords off the floor or secured and tied together behind furniture to prevent a tripping hazard.
- Keep chemicals out of reach: Always store household cleaners, medications, and chemicals in a locked cabinet, preferably high up, so they’re out of reach of curious hands. You can also install child safety locks on cabinets under the sink and other areas where children can access them.
- Check the stairs: If you have stairs in your home, install a baby gate so your child can’t access them without you present. Make sure you have durable handrails installed so that once your child is older, they’ll have a way to support themselves as they learn to walk up and down the staircase. Keep doors locked near stairways to prevent accidental falls.
- Round off sharp corners: Some tables and other pieces of furniture have sharp corners that kids can run into and injure themselves. Protect these corners by adding protective padding or bumpers to each corner, or you can sand them down until they’re smooth and rounded. You can replace furniture with sharp corners with something round or oval, such as coffee tables and countertops.
- Childproof handles on cabinets and doors: Update all handles and knobs on cabinets and doors to a childproof version. This action will prevent your child from opening them without you there so they don’t get into something they shouldn’t.
Once you know more about preparing for adoption, you’ll be ready to start the process and have your own family. Remember to ensure that your home is safe whether you own or rent it and that you’re prepared to provide your social worker with everything they need. Get financially and emotionally ready to adopt, and you’ll reap the benefits of adoption that will last a lifetime.