I just sent off the paperwork for the home study.....YAY! It seems like it was a long time coming, but I'm hoping that since I have the first step behind me, the rest will be a downhill stroll. It took me awhile to find a social worker that I felt comfortable with, but I finally found an adoption expert that definitely knows her stuff and isn't afraid to tell you about it! A little hint for those prespective adoptive parents that are on the verge of finding someone to conduct their home study and isn't provided one by their agency; it can be a little difficult to find a reputable social worker that can do all the services needed for the adoption process. Believing that I can find everything I need on the internet, I began my search there. Not very much comes up when you Google 'Home Study Austin, TX', but I did look into a Houston based law firm. I never was able to talk directly to the lawyer and the secretary constantly called me by the wrong name and made the process very confusing. With that in mind, I scratched them off my list and started again. I looked into a Dallas based law firm and was pleased with them; I talked directly to the person that would be conducting the home study and she seemed very nice, but they wanted to charge me for the travel to Austin. I figured I'd try to find someone more local. My next step, I contacted a family friend that actually conducts home studies and she was able to refer me to a law firm that would charge an incredibly low price, but unfortunately, they were unable to provide all the services I needed. Frustrated, I went back to the list of local agencies sent to me by my adoption case worker with AdoptHelp. I then began researching which agencies were reputable and called the one with the most positive feedback. I asked them point blank, "Can you refer me to the person that does your home studies?" And they gave me the information to Janie Cravens. She was a Godsend! She took the time to talk to me about the adoption process, she strictly laid out her opinion on who I should adopt from, and that, along with the fact that she has been doing home studies for 30 years, convinced me that she was the person I was looking for. Another great thing about Janie, everyone else was wanting to charge me $1000; Janie's fee $850. I know its not a huge saving, but when you're spending $30,000 for an adoption, every penny counts!
Anyway, perspective adoption parents, make this process easier than I did! Here is a link to a website that lists all the adoption agencies according to states: http://www.myadoptionagencies.com/
Click on your state in the left hand column and you will get a list of agencies in your area. Next, you should look into which agencies have a good reputation. Here is a website I like to use: http://www.adoptionagencyratings.com/adoption-agency-most-reviews.htm
Once you find an agency you feel comfortable with, give them a call and ask them who to use for your home study. They should be able to lead you in the right direction.
Just so you're prepared, you will need to gather quite a bit of information before you can even get started with the home study process. Janie required us to send her a very personal questionnaire, three reference letters, a copy of our drives licenses, a copy of our marriage certificate, proof of health insurance, proof of employment and income, a request for child abuse registry (notarized and sent to her), criminal history reports, and a sketch and picture of our home. The questionnaire requires you to delve into some pretty extreme issues (childhood, how you will handle discipline, use of drugs and alcohol past and present, and a lot of questions about how you will handle certain situations unique to adopted children). When she told me she would send me the paperwork, I actually thought, "Great! I will get these sent back tonight." Little did I know that it would take me three weeks to finally send in the documents. I'm not sure if all social workers require you to provide this information up front, but you will need to provide it eventually.
As always, I hope this helps!