Independent, or private adoption, means the adoptive parents work with an attorney to finalize an adoption. The process is complicated and involves a number of different people. The first step is always a home study. In the case of a private adoption, a home study is completed by an adoption agency, even if the adoptive parents will work with an attorney to finalize.
Independent adoption home study
A home study involves jumping through a lot of hoops (some fiery), but it's an important process because a family that has completed a home study has proven that they can provide a safe and loving home environment for a child or children.
During a home study, adoptive parents are required to complete clearance with the FBI to be sure they don't have a criminal record on file, and child abuse clearance through social services. Both can take a while to complete, as once you submit your request, it must go through the proper channels. The agency will also collect a pile of paperwork including things like driving records and medical exams. You must also complete adoption training. In our case, we had to take 19 hours of coursework on the various aspects of adoption. Topics included substance abuse in utero and considerations when adopting a transracial child.
Probably the most common assumption about a home study is that it involves someone coming to your home. And that's absolutely true! A social worker visits your home 2-3 times to counsel you, ask insightful questions, and to do an environment check of your home to be sure you have a separate room for each child and that you are safely considering all aspects of your home before bringing a child into your lives.
Once all your clearances, paperwork, and social worker visits are complete, the social worker writes up a report and sends it to the affiliated agency. The agency then validates all the information and notarizes it. A copy of the approved home study is then sent to the adoptive parents and their adoption attorney of choice.
In our case, we reached out to our previous adoption attorney and told him we want to adopt again. He advised us get our home completed first. The next step is what we're doing now - reaching out to all our friends and family to try and connect with a birth mother who has decided on an adoption plan for her child. I'll explore that process in my next post.