I cannot begin to express how many times I have heard the above phrase from families in the beginning stages of adoption. I do a lot of private adoption home studies who are often facilitated through local attorneys. These adoptions involve a birth parent willing to relinquish his or her rights to a couple of whom they have a current relationship. Families often find themselves in a hurry to finalize an adoption without realizing the amount of time, energy and involvement needed for this future endeavor. The first thing families usually do is meet with an attorney who tells them they need to have a home study done so they can petition the court to adopt. Often times it is thought that a home study is just getting a social worker to “come check out the home real quick.” Think about this, “if you are a mother who is placing your child in a home where his/her needs will need to be met for years to come, are you going to be content with a social worker “checking out a family’s house real quick? “ Wouldn’t you want to know about this family’s background, their values, their finances, their plans for your child, and most importantly… wouldn’t you want them to be educated about what they will be doing with your child for a lifetime?
Adoption Education is perhaps one of the most crucial yet undervalued components of the home study. Most people still believe the home study consists of just a physical “walkthrough of a house” to make sure children have “a bed to sleep in” and a “roof over their head.” I would sincerely hope you and your family already have this. Perhaps the home study should have the name of a “life study” or “adoption preparation study.” For after all, this is really what the home study is all about. It is about preparing families for a major decision and not just about “checking out a home.”
I know most of you have a great home. However, I would ask you, what is your knowledge of attachment theory, reactive attachment disorder and how this correlates with ruling out various typical mental health diagnoses? If the child you are adopting is older, what is your knowledge of the importance his or her first years of life? How would knowing this affect your role in shaping your child’s development? Perhaps you didn’t realize that your child may exhibit behaviors which are not your typical “ADHD” or “just a kid problem.” As an adoptive parent, you might get tired of hearing, “he is just a boy, or he will grow out of it.” These behaviors sometimes are indicative of a poor attachment cycle in adoption or could be related to past trauma and abuse. Did you realize racial and interracial issues are some of the most popular struggles adoptive families have? These and others are so many reasons not to take the education your social worker provides you lightly. I often hear my clients say, “I never realized some of this stuff.” I am sure families probably think, “We just need to get our home study wrapped up before our baby gets here.” I totally understand this as I have been in your shoes. Rest assured, I will work with you, your attorney or your agency to help accomplish this. However, often times, adoptions occur, celebrations begin and then “life hits.” Families sometimes go into “crisis mode” stating, “no one ever told us we would deal with all of this!” Properly prepared adoptive families start to remember some of the educational and resourceful pieces of the home study process. They remember their social worker talking about certain things when they see them “first hand.” Properly prepared adoptive families can then remember this information and take proper action when needed.
I will use this opportunity to promote one of my favorite adoption resources: APAC (Alabama Pre/Post Adoption Connections.) All of my families are asked to utilize these services. My families can probably recite the phrase I tell them, “use this resources, your tax dollars already pay for it!” APAC is a public service designed to empower adoptive families who have or will possibly have adoption challenges along their journey. APAC offers a wide array of services from a free lending adoption library for pre and post placement needs to free counseling/support groups for families in crisis. Check out their link below and GET EDUCATED. The more you know, the more you are impactful to the child that relies on you!