Thursday, September 17, 2015

Home Study Visit #1

Wow, I really got behind on my updates... where does the time go?!
I guess for us the past couple of weeks pretty much went to yard sale prep, yard sale, and yard sale recovery (more to come on the sale in a separate post).

I promised that I would do a post regarding our first home study visit, so here it is.

Because our adoption agency is based out of Colorado (and we live in Michigan), we had to contract with another (local) agency to complete our home study.  We were given a list of about 5-10 different agency choices, and noticed a wide variety in pricing.  I found the most cost-friendly agency, did a little bit of research to make sure others who had used them previously were satisfied, and went ahead and sent them my application.  Being a very small agency, it did take quite a while to hear anything back and to get this process going (come to find out I applied just shortly before the whole office shut down for vacation for a week).  However, once we finally got connected with our assigned Social Worker, things began to go very smoothly.

Lucky for us, our assigned social worker has a regular full time job on top of this duty, so her availability for meetings is on nights and weekends (one of the things I worried about was that our social worker would want to meet during daytime/working hours, which doesn't work for us).  She reached out to me on August 24th and we set up our first meeting for the 29th.

Going into this visit, I really had no idea what to expect.  Of course before the visit I scoured all of my adoption Facebook groups for hints and tips from others, and found some people saying their social worker probed into every cupboard and closet in their home and others who said the visit is more about YOU than your house.  Some said that the social worker probed into every nook and cranny of  their personal lives (one said theirs even asked about their "intimacy") and others said it was just a casual "get to know you" conversation.

We tried not to stress out about the visit too much.  We enjoyed some quality time together Friday evening, and then woke up early Saturday morning to get the house cleaned and ready for whatever level of "inspection" might come our way. We moved all the chemicals up to the top shelves of closets and cleaned the rest of the house, but didn't go too crazy (there was no baseboard scrubbing or wall washing). Our social worker arrived around 3:30 in the afternoon.  Before she even asked to see the house, we all sat around the table for a little over an hour.  She spent a lot of time talking about the agency she works for, as well as her own experience with adopting her daughter from China.  She did ask us some basic questions about our lives (marriage, work, pets, etc). and asked about what led us to adoption.
We had some questions about the process, which she also answered for us, and she gave us a binder to help us keep track of the documents we need to gather for our home study.
Overall, it was just a really nice time of sharing stories and making connections.

Before she got ready to leave she did ask for a tour of the house, but she didn't bother going through closets or ask to see the insides of any drawers, etc.  She just wanted to make sure we had a bedroom for our child, our house was generally safe and clean, and that our dogs weren't viscous (that was settled about 2 seconds after she walked through the door).  She asked about if we had any guns in the home, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, but she wasn't worried about a fire escape plan, child safety locks, etc.

This was the first of 4 visits we will have with her. Our next visit is scheduled for this coming Monday evening.   We could have got it in sooner, but needed to take some time to really devote to the big yard sale fundraiser we hosted last weekend.  The one thing I do know that will take place at this next visit is individual interviews with each of us without the other one present.  I'm sure this is just to make sure we are both on the same page about adoption, child-rearing ideas, and so forth, but I guess we'll find out for sure soon!

We appreciate the casual, laid-back nature of our social worker.  She did reveal to us that in her near 20 years of doing home studies, she has only had to deny one applicant,and it was a pretty extreme situation (mental illness, unsuitable housing, etc).  Hearing that definitely put our minds at ease in a huge way!  I had been so worried that maybe even having foster cats in the house at the time, or the fact that our deck rails might not be up to code might create problems for us...oh, the things we worry ourselves with!

Now we need to focus on the paperwork gathering process.  I've already sent in for (and received) copies of our birth certificates, marriage license, and we went and got our police clearance letters- now we need to get/renew our passports and gather a few other letters from our employers and so forth.  Once we get all of the letters and documents together we have to get them notarized, and then send the notarized copies into the state so that they can certify the notaries are valid.  They definitely call it a "paper chase" for a reason!

One of my friends posted this diagram on Facebook a few weeks ago which I thought really summed up the whole process pretty nicely for those who have no connection to it.

As always, we appreciate your comments and would love to hear what questions any of you might have for us! I've really immersed myself into the "adoption culture" these past couple of months and sometimes it's hard for me to remember what the average person does and doesn't know, and what you all might be curious about.

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