As part of the adoption process, all prospective parents will eventually have to undertake a "home study," which is essentially a thoroughly detailed adoption application. The home study explores the prospective parents' reasons, desire and commitment for adoption; educates them about adoption; and evaluates their suitability as adoptive parents. The specific processes and procedures will vary depending on the agency, state and country from which you're adopting a child.
Home study requirements vary, but may include:
- Training of prospective parents
- Interviews with a social worker
- One or more home visits by the social worker
- Health statements to confirm that prospective parents are generally healthy with a normal life expectancy
- Income statements
- Background investigations, including a review of your local, state and federal criminal record and any previous allegations of child abuse, as well as fingerprint checks against national registries. (These criminal and background checks may be done on all adults living in the home, not just the prospective adoptive or foster parents.)
- Autobiographical statement
- Personal references
It's normal for prospective parents to be nervous while undergoing the home study, and worry that they'll be denied because they aren't perfect. But prospective parents need to remember that adoption is not "one size fits all." All types of people--of different ages, ethnicities, religions and economic backgrounds--are approved for adoption. However, there are some factors--critical to the safety and welfare of adoptive children--that can make you ineligible for adoption.
Laws Affecting Prospective Parents
Several federal laws discuss who is eligible to adopt a child, and steps that must be taken prior to adoption. Those laws include:
The Adoption and Safe Families Act and Title IV-E of the Social Security Act bans potential adoptive and foster parents who have a felony conviction for child abuse or neglect ; spousal abuse; crime against children; or violent crime (excluding felony assault or battery). Potential adoptive and foster parents are also barred if, within the last five years, they've had a felony conviction for physical assault, battery or drug-related offenses.
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act
requires criminal background checks for all adults who live in a residence occupied by potential adoptive parents or foster-care families.
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006
requires potential adoptive and foster-care parents to have their fingerprints checked against national registries, and to have their names checked in child-abuse registries.
Denial of Adoption Following Home Study
In rare circumstances, prospective parents may be denied an adoption after the completion of their home study. A denial may occur because of a criminal record, substance abuse or previous reports of child abuse. There also may be for more subjective reasons for a denial, such as the prospective parents' motivations for adopting, their health or the stability of their marriage. Agencies should explain the reason for your denial, and provide a process for appealing the denial.