International Adoption Home Study Completed

A “No Smoking” sign and a new banister qualify us as adoptive parents

By Alan M. Murray

There’s a “No Smoking” sign in our kitchen. It seems out of place hanging near the entrance just over the light switch, something you would ordinarily expect to see in a restaurant or some other public area.

Second-hand smoke isn’t a problem in our home since we don’t use tobacco products. But Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits smoking in nearly all public and work places in the state, and somehow that also includes homes of pre-adoptive parents. And violators could be fined up to $250 and face incarceration – so the sign will stay. Other states are stricter. In Illinois, a home that provides foster care is defined as “both a public place and a place of employment,” and smoking is prohibited within 15 feet of entrances, exits, windows that open, and any ventilation intakes.

Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits smoking in nearly all public and work places in the state, including homes and vehicles of resource parents (foster care or pre-adoptive) when a child, 18 years of age or younger, is present. Violators could be fined $250 or incarcerated. (Photo by Alan M. Murray)

But displaying the silver cardboard sign, that only cost a dollar at Home Depot, is one of the easiest and least expensive tasks we’ve completed during the Home Study, a key legal requirement for approval to adopt children.

Performed by a licensed adoption agency, it delves into our background, personalities, hobbies, financial stability, motivations for adopting children, our marriage, and much, much more. We had previously completed a home study a year earlier and were approved to adopt children domestically, but when we decided to adopt “Alejandro” we had to go through the process again to meet specific requirements for Colombia.

It began with a home inspection from Linda Crowell. She’s an experienced social worker, come out of retirement to work part-time for Madison Adoption Associates, and she’s been a great resource for us, answering our questions, keeping track of dozens of miscellaneous details, as she worked to complete the 25-page booklet detailing our background in preparation for approval. She, along with several other social workers located in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, have been instrumental in helping us avoid unnecessary delays and responding quickly whenever we’ve needed assistance.

Madison Adoption Associates Social Worker, Linda Crowell, inspects our back patio, taking notes in preparation for a 25-page document called the Home Study, that describes our lives, personalities, family connections, and home. (Photo by Alan M. Murray)

Most of the requirements, like the “No Smoking” sign, were already in place from the previous study, including:

  • Child safety locks in each of the lower cabinets,
  • Skid-proof stickers in the bathtub to prevent slipping,
  • A fire extinguisher in the kitchen,
  • Verification that smoke detectors were in each room,
  • Knives and medicine placed on high shelves.

Some of these seemed silly given that “Alejandro” is 4’8” and capable of opening child safety locks. The only thing Crowell asked us to do before her next visit was to install a four-foot section of banister on the center of our stairwell. I’m not sure why this house was built without a complete banister, but the addition of this safety feature has been on our to-do list ever since someone nearly fell down the stairs several years ago.

Clarissa installs a new bannister on the center section of stairs. We had to fill in the four-foot gap on our staircase to comply with safety requirements to be approved to adopt children. (Photo by Alan M. Murray)

And the study doesn’t just include a home inspection. Our adoption agency gave us a binder filled with forms, instructions, and requirements that have occupied most of our spare time over the last three months.

We received detailed physicals, including a test for Tuberculosis. My doctor, feeling sorry that it was the second physical in one year (once for the previous study) skipped the TB test until we discovered that all exams had to be dated within six months, so I had to be tested again anyway.

And we spent a day with Psychologist Toni Hickman in her Delaware office being interviewed and taking the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, the Locke-Wallace Relationship Adjustment Test, and the Adult Adolescent Parenting Inventory. Hickman specializes in the specific testing needed for international adoptions. She understands the nuances that Colombia requires for a thorough and accurate report. Her conclusion – we’re not crazy.

We ordered ten different background checks from various government agencies, asked our friends on two different occasions to provide references, showed evidence of home owner’s insurance, health insurance, life insurance, auto insurance, car titles, and employment.

As part of a psychological evaluation we had to take three different exams, including this one where we used an iPad to answer interesting questions that were used to assess our personality characteristics, psychopathology, and behavioral tendencies. (Photo by Alan M. Murray)

We disclosed our income, debt, and monthly expenses, including tax documents, credit card statements, mortgage statements, bank statements, and a net worth statement.

And we went through over 20 hours of child development training that covered how to help children coming from traumatic circumstances. And we even signed a form promising not to spank any child.

Clarissa has her fingerprints taken at an IdentoGo location. This was the first of three times that fingerprinting is required for international adoption. (Photo by Alan M. Murray)

And, finally today, we drove to Delaware where we reviewed the completed Home Study document and signed a receipt. But before leaving, we discussed the next big step – the I-800A, the form that we just mailed to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to get official approval to adopt a child internationally.

In the meantime, “Alejandro” is somewhere in Colombia, unaware of the growing community of friends who are offering encouragement, sharing his story, and donating to his fundraiser to bring him home.