“You’ll need a completed home study.”
They’re going to study this home? The one with baseboards that haven’t seen a damp paper towel in oh, 7 years? The one with full strength, non-organic, whole gallon chocolate milk in the fridge. There’s a dead plant on our back porch. Two on the front porch. In fact, flowers make the sign of the cross when I load them in my buggy at Lowes. There’s still a Christmas candle in one of the windows. And after the social worker enters “crayon decorated walls” as Exhibit Q in her little book, she’s going to ask us a bunch of ultra personal questions?
Well, that’s not awkward at all.
We recently had to renew our homestudy for the adoption. Renew as in, we’ve already done this. We’ve been waiting a year. A whole year. Sigh.
A home study is standard for every domestic, international, foster or private adoption. It sounds at the very least nerve wracking. We did one last year but since we haven’t been placed with a child yet, we had to do it again. The most daunting part actually, is the document gathering. Federal background clearances, fingerprints, state background clearances, tax returns, marriage certificates, birth certificates, medical releases, bloodwork results, notarized reference letters, child abuse clearances.
Once you gather the encyclopedia of forms, there begins a series of home study visits. The visit is conducted by a social worker who is tasked with understanding as much about us and our family as possible.
“Tell me about your parents. How did they meet? What do they do? Where do they live? How old are they? How long have they been married? How often do you see them? Tell me about your childhood. What were your hobbies? Where did you go to school? How were you disciplined? What kind of kid were you? Did you get into trouble? How do you discipline Tucker? How do you handle conflict with each other? How did you meet? Tell me about Darrin. Tell me about Heather.”
And so on. And so on. For about an hour each visit. It wasn’t that bad, really. Our social worker was amazing.
The toughest part of the study if I truly search around in my heart, is like all the pre-work for adoption, it just doesn’t feel natural. The story doesn’t go this way right? About 4% of American families include an adopted child. For the other 96%, the two lines on a stick are all that’s required to bring a child into a family. So the paperwork, the inquisition, the scrutiny-it just feels so darn obtrusive. We must justify our worth and capability as parents. And that just feels icky.
Adoption is hard that way. For many couples adoption is where they were led after years and years and years of ruthless, heart shredding, physically draining infertility battles. To then start the adoption process off with a bang by registering your fingerprints…yikes. True story: when Darrin went for his prints, the guy doing them actually said, “So what’d you do?” As in, what crime did you commit that you have to get fingerprints registered. Whoa.
I get it though. Even knowing how unnatural and intrusive it feels , I totally get it. The process has to work this way. A perfect little human life is the beautiful culprit. These babies and children have rights and needs that absolutely must be represented with the most meticulous care. Their well-being matters more than a slightly uncomfortable and awkward inquisition. The details of the process matter. Every precaution should be considered before placing a baby with a family-it’s paramount.
So I’ll get papercuts and fill out as many forms as needed. We’ll answer questions til the cows come home if that’s what it takes. In the scheme of this process, it’s not a big deal. And it’s that important. The dead plant has been replaced by a bigger, deader plant on the backporch and I didn’t clean the baseboards. I did take the Christmas candle out of window. And a strategically placed candle was burning in the hopes it would overpower the burnt okra odor. She wrote a lot in that little notebook for our home study report, hopefully less about the pitiful demise of our foliage and more about the joyfulness of our 3 year old.
I prayed a lot before the home study and felt at peace after the social worker left. Mostly because God answered this prayer:
“Dear Lord in heaven, if ever there was a honest plea from my soul, please for the love of all things holy, don’t let her look in our closets.”