home study social worker asks questionsDear Mardie,
I don’t think our home study writer understands how stressful this whole process is for us.  We feel like we have to prove ourselves over and over again, and now we have to get letters of recommendation from friends and family members.  
I can’t believe everyone goes through this and feel like we are being judged, and that perhaps our writer just doesn’t like us.  It’s embarrassing to be asked some of these questions. I’m ready to give our writer a piece of my mind and tell her “Enough already!”  Am I over-reacting?

It is common to feel like you are being scrutinized when adopting.  And, even having the thought, “If everyone had to go through this to have a baby, there would be a lot less babies!”  It also can feel unfair, like you are being judged, and you may think about throwing in the towel.
Let’s examine for just a moment why they are doing this:

  1. Safety of the Child. There is no easy way to “prove” that a family will be good parents.  Sure, they could take your word for it, but social workers are charged with compiling evidence that concurs with that.
  2. Preparation of the Parents. An important aspect of the home study is ensuring that people are prepared to love a child not biologically theirs.  Many of the questions they ask and classes they assign give them the evidence they need to certify this.
  3. Liability. When completing a home study, the writer is accepting the liability of certifying that a family is prepared, suitable, and safe for adopting a child.  They may ask one family more than they ask another, depending on the circumstances and situation.

So, is it normal to feel judged or inadequate? Let’s just say it’s a natural reaction to being asked a lot of probing, personal, and invasive questions.  But there are a number of ways you can deal with this:
All adoptive parents go through this.  Home studies requirements vary by state, circumstance, and provider.  For instance, if divorced, you will have to discuss why and provide documentation. If taking medication for depression, you may need a special statement from your doctor. If you have a past conviction, you will provide documentation, what was done and why, and how you dealt with it.  It is common to feel more “judged” when you have more to explain. It doesn’t mean you won’t be approved, there is just more to explore.
The questions are standard.  Trust me, your home study writer probably knows she is on your last nerve.  However her questions aren’t hers, they are to fulfill the requirements she has from the state, organization, or guidelines in order to approve you to adopt.  If it’s not her, it would be someone else asking you.  Think about it, you can’t blame the weatherman for the rain — don’t blame your home study writer for asking personal questions.  It’s a requirement, pure and simple.
Kindness goes a long way. Showing kindness and understanding to your home study writer, even when you are feeling like you don’t want to answer one more question, will likely help both of you.  It’s okay to share your feelings with her too, with something like “I know you have to explore our lives in depth, but it sure feels like we have to prove ourselves.”  I think you will find that your home study writer is understanding and may even have some words of wisdom to help you see things differently.
Above all, be honest. Don’t skip over things, hoping if you don’t mention things that the writer won’t discover them.  Even if it means your home study takes longer because records have to be gathered from another state or other people, be upfront about everything. Failing to mention something up front that is later discovered, such as a conviction, an estranged child from a previous marriage, or unpaid debts are all things that can be easily discovered.  Concealing facts is something that is hard to recover from during the home study process.  Honesty is always the best policy.
Read more about home studies, including a full sample study in Lesson 2.  And if you have other questions or need referrals, ask your coordinator!