The adoption practitioner will then write a homestudy report and make a recommendation about suitable placement options. The homestudy can be conducted by any Children’s Aid Society or by a private adoption practitioner.
Homestudies in Ontario have been standardized into a format called SAFE (Structured Analysis Family Evaluation). Topics covered in a SAFE homestudy include the motivation to adopt, personality, skills, childhood, and parenting beliefs of the potential adoptive parents. While the adoption practitioner is learning about the applicants during the homestudy, the applicants are also learning about adoption in Ontario. The adoption homestudy process is designed to be completed at the same time as the mandatory adoption training for prospective adoptive parents; in practice, however, applicants often complete their adoption training before having a homestudy done. In either case, the homestudy cannot be finalized until the adoption training is completed. The two elements work together to prepare applicants for adoption as much as possible.
Many families, though intimidated by the process at first, find it to be a positive experience that gives them insight to themselves, their families, and their views on parenting. In any case, the time it takes to complete your homestudy is time well spent. It is important to remember that the homestudy is designed to be a tool for both the applicant and the adoption practitioner to identify strengths and vulnerabilities that will affect both parent and child in the months and years after placement has occurred. Openness and honesty are essential to reach the assessment that is best for everyone in both the short and long run. Because the homestudy deals with fairly personal topics, it is ideal that applicants find a practitioner they are comfortable with in order to keep the process open, honest, and as stress-free as possible.
The homestudy is not a short process, and the time it takes to complete can vary substantially between applicants. Typically, the homestudy consists of 4-6 interviews, taking part over 6-8 months. At least one, but sometimes more, of the interviews will take place in the applicant’s home. During this interview, all people who live in the home must be present and will also be interviewed, including children. This is so that the adoption practitioner can learn more about the home environment, but also to provide an opportunity for others in the home aside from the potential adoptive parents to learn about the adoption process and how the adoption will affect them. All adults in the home will need to provide police clearances.
Along with the interviews, applicants will complete a number of documents including police clearances, child welfare checks, medicals, financial outlines and references.
Many people going into a homestudy worry that a large income, a wholly owned home in a wealthy neighbourhood, a “good” job, a traditional marriage, and perfect health are essential traits that adoption practitioners look for in potential adoptive parents. In truth, these factors are considered in relation to the more important factors of maturity, life skills and parenting philosophy. The homestudy is designed to help the family and adoption practitioner identify strengths of family for matching with specific children and any potential vulnerabilities that may need additional support during placement or after.
In general, the personal qualities that are most predictive of a successful adoption include a sense of humour, flexibility, good coping skills, non-judgmental attitude, and experience with children. People who later feel good about their decision to adopt are usually those who enjoy being with children, like adventure, have a good support system, can use community resources, and have a history of surviving and/or solving life’s problems.
When the homestudy is completed, applicants will be given a chance to review the final report and to retain a copy for themselves.
As with all services provided by the Children’s Aid Society, there is no fee attached to a homestudy performed by the society. A homestudy performed by a private adoption practitioner will have fees attached. The Children’s Aid Society, however, has limited resources for conducting homestudies and will give preference to applicants they feel are likely to match the needs of children currently in care. Fortunately, the homestudy system is entirely standardized and portable and a homestudy completed by a private adoption practitioner can be used for any type of adoption.
An applicant need only complete one homestudy during their life, even if they do not go on to adopt until years later or if their desired type of adoption changes. If a long time has passed or the applicant has seen major lifestyle changes since the homestudy was completed, however, an update interview may be required, which will be added as an appendix to the original homestudy. New medical examinations, child welfare checks, and police clearances may also be required.
Application and Financial Statement: Applicants do not need to be wealthy, but they need to demonstrate that they are able to assume the financial responsibilities of raising a child or additional children.
Letters of Reference: A couple is required to provide 5 references and a single applicant is required to provide 3. Your social worker will provide the forms and tell you more.
Police Clearances: These may include both RCMP and local police background checks. Applicants will often be fingerprinted as part of the background check. If the applicant has lived outside of Canada for any length of time as an adult, an international background check may also be required.
Child Welfare Check: This is to ensure that no previous reports have been made against prospective parents
Medical Examinations: Each applicant will have a medical form completed by their doctor or a nurse practitioner. If is or has been under the care of a specialist (for example, a psychiatrist or an orthopedic surgeon) during the past 5 years, a report from that professional may also be required.
Home Safety Checklist: During the homestudy, the practitioner will complete a home safety checklist to ensure it is safe for children.
Additional Documents: These may include a marriage certificate, divorce certificate, guardianship letter, a letter to the authorities in the child’s country stating the reasons for adopting from there (in the case of international adoptions only), photographs of the applicant and their home, etc. Some international adoptions will also require a psychological/psychiatric assessment.
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