by Deepali Kulkarni
Importance of a home study:
The home study is an integral and important aspect of the adoption procedure. It is the screening of the home and life of PAPs before the adoption takes place. The ultimate purpose of a home study is to ensure that the child has a secure and better future.
This is done in depth, with each couple / single parent who has registered for adoption, on a one-on-one basis so as to be able to provide an individualized counselling session while assessing the suitability of the PAPs.
Thus, a home study is used to the advantage of both sides. The adoption agency gets to know the prospective parent(s) in detail – as individuals as well as, as a couple (in the case of couples) and this helps them in approving the PAPs. Through the home study, the agency also shares a lot of details and aspects regarding the background of the children who come into their care, the limitations of institutional care, the adoption process and different post-adoption issues, thus providing the PAPs with a better understanding of the whole adoption process.
What is the difference between a home study and a home visit?
The home study is the interview conducted by the social worker, appointed by the adoption agency – in its office. This is done to understand the family as a whole with special emphasis being on aspects such as their attitude towards and opinion of adoption.
The home visit is when the representative of the adoption agency actually visits the home of the PAPs. The home visit report includes a physical description of the home, the accommodation which will be available for the adopted child, the type of neighbourhood, amenities in the house and the neighbourhood such as accessibility to market places, clinics/ hospitals, banks, schools, etc. and the standard of living of the couple as reflected by their home.
When and where is the home study conducted?
The home study is planned, organised and conducted by the adoption agency within a few months after the PAP registers for adoption. It is conducted in the office of the adoption agency itself.
How is a home study conducted?
A home study is conducted with every PAP (irrespective of whether the PAPs will be single parents or a couple) on a one-to-one basis, by a qualified social worker, appointed by the adoption agency. The home study takes about four hours and it is completed in a single sitting – at a stretch. Although it is a part of the formalities of the adoption procedure, the home study is conducted in an informal way so as to help the PAPs be comfortable enough to open up to the social worker and discuss different aspects to be covered, in a relaxed manner.
What is covered in the home study?
The home study has two sections, namely the individual interview and the joint interview (for couples).
During the individual interview, the social worker takes down the details about each of the prospective parents ranging from their family background, details about their growing years, the value system they come from and the ethics they believe in. Their academic growth, career choice, professional life, emotional health, their capacity to understand others and the way they express their emotions like anger, irritability, happiness, concerns, anxieties, pleasures and beliefs are also discussed. In addition, talking about the quality of their marital relationship, current family relationships, details of the children in the home (including biological and adopted children), attitude towards childlessness (where suitable), motivation for and attitude towards adoption and evaluating their strengths and weaknesses are also a part of the process.
During the joint interview, an in-depth discussion is carried out on the different aspects of adoption. Topics like the capacity for parenthood and thoughts on different parenting issues including their ideas and concept of disciplining and punishment (especially in the case of an uncontrollable child), expectations of a child, attitude of significant others and post-adoption issues like plans to tell the child of his/ her adoption, are discussed. The challenges that may arise resulting from the fact that ‘a child who is not born to them and coming from a completely different and an unrelated background, is going to be placed into a completely new home and environment’, are also discussed, so as to prepare the PAPs to make the transition easier.
The in-depth home study procedure aims at making the adoption process smoother, by preparing the couple for the different aspects of their adoption. The PAPs normally tend to have different queries, doubts or questions regarding the different aspects of adoption and these can be addressed during the home study. The PAPs may have also seen/ heard/ read about adoption in the different forms of media. At times, the information that the PAPs have may only be misconceptions / myths regarding adoption or adoptees. This may sometimes trigger uncertainties in a few PAPs and these aspects are also discussed so as to free the PAPs of all wrong notions and inhibitions about adoption and the child that would be placed with them through adoption. The home study also prepares them to deal with different post-adoption issues in a better way.
In addition to these points, the PAPs considered for the adoption of older children are spoken to in-depth about the possible reasons and backgrounds of the children that come into their care at an older age. The challenges that revolve around their specific needs and the couple’s need to understand and be open to the different aspects of adopting older children are also discussed at length.
If the PAPs seem to be uncertain or confused, further counselling may be advised to ensure that the PAPs are completely ready for the adoption before a child is placed with them.