The Ins and Outs of an International Adoption Home Study

If you have found this information, then you have probably started the journey of researching international adoption and are possibly looking to adopt abroad or research the topic. We’re here to help you understand one of the first steps of the process, the international adoption home study, which is done with an adoption agency and social worker.

International home study is a part of the adoption process where you must provide documents and information. You must also meet with a social worker in your home who will ask you to answer some personal questions to gather information about your home life to figure out if your household and family are suitable for an international adoption.

The Ins and Outs of an International Adoption Home Study

This helps them to get a sense of what age and type of child would best suit your environment, and to make certain that the child would be safe from harm in your care.

The rules and regulations can be different by state and you must follow the federal laws and laws of the country from where you’re adopting from. Make sure you do your due diligence and remember that some of these agencies and social workers have a lot on their plates and the more on top of things you are the faster and easier the process will be.

When making copies of documents it is always a good practice to make extra copies, so that when dealing with multiple agencies you have all your ducks in a row.

The Ins and Outs of an International Adoption Home Study

To help make this process easier for you we have created an international adoption home study check list for documents and procedures! A lot of the information you receive will be from multiple departments.

Use this checklist to double-check you’ve got some of the important stuff covered.

International Adoption Home Study Check List

✔ Copies of tax returns and financial records
✔ Copies of CPR and first aid certifications
✔ Proof of medical coverage
✔ Proof of life insurance
✔ DMV driving records
✔ Physical exams documentation
✔ Parent information
✔ Medical history
✔ FBI fingerprinting
✔ Birth certificate for each family member
✔ Copy of passports

Copies of Tax Returns and Financial Records

You will need to provide bank statements as well as tax records from both parents for documentation. Some countries will want you to provide net worth and a letter from your employers that document your proof of income. The home study will need to determine that you have the finances and resources to adopt a child.

Copies of CPR and first aid certifications

International adoption home studies will also want you to take a CPR and First Aid class and can help set that up if you have trouble finding one in your area.

Proof of Medical Coverage

You will need to provide documentation and proof of medical coverage for you your family. Make sure and have all of these documents ready to go before the social worker arrives.

Proof of Life Insurance

The process requires that you have life insurance so make sure your policy is up to date and make copies to document it.

DMV Driving Records

International adoption will require you to make visits to the country where you are adopting from. Proof of your driving records will be required as well as a copy of your driver’s license and passports.

Physical Exams Documentation

You will need to get a physical exam and will be expected to provide documentation of that visit. You will also be asked to provide medical history for your entire family.

Parent information

Along with medical history you will also need to show your marriage license if you are a married couple. Make sure to have your main documents like social security card and birth certificates.

Medical history

As mentioned above they will need a full medical history of you and any of your children as well as any other medical related documents. You will also have to show that you had a TB test and provide that documentation.

FBI Fingerprinting and Child Predator Clearance

One of the most important set of procedures is the FBI fingerprinting and being cleared of any child abuse charges. They will run a full background check on you and your family so make sure you have no troubled history if you are considering an international adoption.

Birth Certificate for Each Family Member

If you are a couple or have any children still living at home you will also need to provide copies of their birth certificates. This is part of the information gathering and documenting process.

Copy of Passports for Family Members Who are Traveling Out of Country

If both parents or children will be going overseas to do the visit, then you will all need passports for travel and will need to provide proof of them multiple times.

This is not a complete list of all requirements

Each State has different laws, adoption agencies can have different policies, so double check with your state and the agency that you decided to go with that you are gathering the correct information.

The home study isn’t just a visit to your home and a gathering of documents, it results in a 6 to 15-page statement that gives you the green light to adopt if you pass all the requirements.

This may sound like a stressful step, but it might be the most important part of the adoption process, placing children in the right homes for the right reasons.

The process is straight forward so don’t let any of this intimidate you.

Follow all of the guidelines, rules, and regulations of the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) read here.

Because international adoptions require bringing a child back to the U.S. from the child’s home country you must have all the information for the visa and immigration process. The home study will want to know that you have all the proper paperwork and are adhering to those federal guidelines.

In this process you must acquire U.S. citizenship for your child

The home study itself must be done through a Hague accredited agency whether it’s a Hague adoption or a non-Hague adoption.

The international Hague court put together a convention for the oversight of international adoptions (intercountry adoption) getting many of the largest countries to come together and form standards, to help keep children safe.

Although many countries are on the list of parties involved there are many that are not, however you may still adopt internationally in a country not in the convention if your adoption agency is Hague accredited.

The Role of the Adoption Agency in an International Home Study

The adoption agency helps a lot with the process. They can be the one who provides you with a social worker and they can also help with getting you in touch with the right departments when gathering information for paperwork and documents.

For international adoption you will want to go with a Hague accredited adoption agency as mentioned above.  

The Ins and Outs of an International Adoption Home Study

Prepare some of your own answers to questions you think might be of interest such as:

Why do you want to adopt?

How strong is your relationship with your significant other?

Do you have other children?

How will they react to having a new family member?

Do you think you are emotionally ready to be an adopting parent?

Are you willing to have a relationship with the child’s family?

How would you raise your adopted child?

The home study is also meant as a primer for you to learn all the ins and outs of an international adoption with the help of the agency and the social worker. After going through the process, you will know considerably more about your own motives, the different options, the country from which you wish to adopt from and more.

Feel confident in knowing that the adoption agency is there to help and give them some slack if things aren’t going as fast as you would like. One of the things to help make the process easier and faster is to really prepare for this in advance.

Things can get emotional so have your wits about you and try to work well with all others involved.

Sometimes you might even get a request for evidence claiming you do not have all the proper information, don’t sweat it, you can correct this. Let the agency and the social worker help find what little thing might be holding you up.

What Role Does the Social Worker Play?

The social worker will want to meet everyone in the family and will have to ask all sorts of questions. These questions aren’t meant to trick you or make you slip up. Some of them may not seem that important but are part of the evaluation.

You will want you and your family to be on their best behavior but don’t be too nervous about it just be yourselves.

The social worker will need to know quite a bit of personal information so don’t be too surprised if you feel like your privacy is being temporarily invaded. This is normal and you will just need to answer all questions truthfully and honestly.

Even though it may seem that the entire process is a lot to handle, people are there to help. The agency as well as the social worker would like to put a healthy child in your arms if you pass the background checks and have the right attitude for this big step in your life.

They will want to meet with each of your existing children if you have any living in the home. They will also want to know about your community and schools as well as friends and references.

The social worker will have to visit your home at least once, but more visits could be needed to get everything accomplished.

How Long Does the Home Study Process Take?

Each agency is different, and each state has it’s own requirements, how long the home study takes differs given your location and situation.

The entire process can take up to 90 days and may take more than one visit from a social worker. Therefore, you will want to work on as many of the documents and tasks beforehand to speed up the process. The more you can do the more smoothly the process will go.

Having already passed the background checks and having verified documents before shows your commitment to wanting to adopt a child internationally and should help to make the evaluation process go in your favor.

How Much Does an International Home Study Cost?

The prices vary by state and by agency, but you should be able to get it done for approximately $2,500. The average is most likely around $1,000. The price can be higher in cases of international adoption because of more filing fees.

If you are thinking of adopting international do keep in mind that having a steady job, a steady home balance and the finances to take care of children will all come into play when you are being evaluated during a home study.

A Clean Background Matters

The reason for the FBI background checks and clearances is to make sure that the process allows security for the children who are being placed into homes.

You may have made some past mistakes, have a criminal history or a history of drug abuse.

Relax, if you haven’t committed any felonies or abuse to children and you are honest and up front about your past history you will be fine. It will be considered as part of the evaluation, but honesty goes a long way.

You Will Be Asked to Provide References

Just like with any important matter you will have to have references from friends’ colleagues and family members. Some people might be contacted by phone by the social worker just to make sure everything checks out.

Make sure you use good references, if you were applying for a high-level job you wouldn’t want to use your wild cousin Todd, so make sure to use references that stand out as good people in the community.

Let your references know that they might be contacted and although it’s a big deal just be truthful and forthright. You can ask them to be helpful, and hopefully, they will have fond stories and details about your character.

Tips For Getting Through the Home Study

  • Work hard, work fast
  • Due Diligence
  • Stay on top of your Social Worker
  • Make multiple copies of documents
  • Be confident
  • Complete tasks before hand

What Causes Someone to Fail a Home Study?

Here are some things that won’t fly and some things to avoid during the process.

Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare documents.

Chances are the amount of work you put into your preadoption will be noted and considered when getting your final approval.

The international adoption home study is no joke and the statement put together will document your entire home life. This is the most important evaluation in the adoption process so don’t take any part of it lightly.

Make sure your house is in order. One of the factors that determine if you are the right type of person to raise a child is the home environment. If your house is a mess when the social worker arrives, then that will most definitely be a point against you.

The Home Study Will Require a Home Inspection

You will have many pictures taken of your home for documentation as well as an actual home inspection by a house inspector. Your home and property must be safe, child-friendly and inviting

Have your house clean and ready for guests.

The Ins and Outs of an International Adoption Home Study

Cut any ties to bad influences, such as drug abusers, violent offenders and the like. Your family and associates are all going to be a key part of the verification process that decides if your home is the right home for a child.

Get your mind right and know that if it is meant to be it will be. It takes a strong person to take a child into their lives and raise them as their own. The home study will be hard but worth it. Keep on trucking. To quote the late great Leonard Cohen:

“Avoid the flourish. Do not be afraid to be weak. Do not be ashamed to be tired. You look good when you’re tired. You look like you could go on forever..”

Leonard Cohen

Make sure that you have the right motives and the right people around you and you will succeed.

Some Related Questions

Is the home study process the same for adopting an infant internationally?

The process is pretty much the same, the only considerations would be the age of the parents, and the conditions at home. They wouldn’t put a 60-year-old couple with an infant, and the home study process is there to find out what kind of child fits well in your home. See related article here.

Do special needs children take extra care and validation with home study?

Absolutely, special needs children are adopted internationally and do also require your home to be special needs friendly, as well as making sure you work well with special needs personalities, behaviors, and requirements.

Chad Kilpatrick

A freelance writer passionate about adoption and helping to find children in need a forever home.

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