Every adoptive parent needs a current, accurate home study to adopt. But, what if something big in your life changes? How do you make sure you’re still eligible to adopt?
It’s the responsibility of the adoptive parents to keep their home study valid and up-to-date with current information. Your home study provider will be your main source of help when it comes to updates — they’ll be able to answer any questions you may have and can help walk you through their process.
In the meantime, this step-by-step guide will help you prepare for home study updates and learn what to expect.
Completing the home study in full for the first time is undoubtedly tough. Fortunately, updates are much easier and quicker. In three steps, here’s how updates work for most waiting adoptive families:
Step One: Be Prepared by Knowing When and Why You’d Need to Update
Home studies need to be updated periodically, and they have an expiration date. A few of the documents that you submitted for your home study also have individual expiration dates. Different states, types of adoption and different home study providers may have varying regulations about when things will need to be updated, so work closely with your social worker and take notes so you know when things expire in your situation.
Having to update your home study may be a little frustrating, but in the months since you first began the home study process, you and your family have likely had a few changes. Because the purpose of home studies are to verify that you’re able to provide a safe and loving home for a child, your professional (and potential birth mothers) need to be confident that this is still the case, regardless of any changes in your life.
These are the most common scenarios for needing to update a home study:
- Some of your documents within the home study (various background clearances, health reports from your physicians, tax returns, etc.) are reaching their annual expiration dates and need updated versions.
- The home study itself is reaching its expiration date (usually every 12 months, but in some states or in situations of international adoption, it may be every 18 months).
- Your family has recently experienced a relatively major change, like a new job, home, change in household members, or anything you think might need to be reflected in your home study.
If you’re unsure if something might warrant updating your home study, or if you’re uncertain of expiration deadlines, check with your home study provider to be safe. When it comes to home studies, it’s generally best to be over-prepared and ahead of schedule, if only to save yourself future headaches!
Promptness is especially important for expiration deadlines. It can be tough to keep track of everything that’s going on, so try setting calendar reminders or alerts in your phone to remind you of approaching expiration deadlines for pieces of documentation. You’ll need to renew anything that’s expiring before it reaches its expiration date — not at that date!
Failing to update your home study before deadlines means that you risk having your home study placed on hold, which would also stop your family’s profile from being shown to potential birth mothers.
Step Two: Submit New Documentation and Complete Any In-Home Visits
This will depend on what needs to be updated. Yearly updates require new background clearances (FBI clearance, child abuse and criminal background checks, etc.), as well as your newest tax information and new health statements from your physicians. Your social worker will also often ask for another short in-home visit for your yearly update.
If you’re updating your home study because there have been changes in your life, you’ll submit the corresponding documentation to reflect those changes. So, any changes in your career will need a new letter of employment. If you added a new member to your family, you’ll need to submit their birth certificate and adoption decree, if applicable. Changes in health insurance would also need to be updated. If you changed addresses, your social worker will need a visit of that new home.
For small updates to information, a home visit is rarely necessary. But in more extensive updates, your social worker will likely request to visit your home again and may ask a couple questions about how the process is going.
Step Three: Pay the Update Fee
The cost to update your home study will vary depending on the amount of work involved, the state you live in and who you’re working with to complete your home study. The cost of an update usually ranges between $400 and $2,000.
All in all, updates sound more intimidating than they actually are. Especially now that you’ve already gone through the full home study process, an annual renewal will feel like a breeze. Many home study providers have made things even easier by offering online portals where you can sign in and upload your new documentation instantly. Take advantage of any of these types of tools to stay ahead of deadlines.
And if you’re ever unsure of something or have questions about updates — call your home study worker! Together, your adoption process can stay on track without interruptions.