The Adoption Home Study: What to Expect During the Home Visit

by Laura Christianson

For those who decide to adopt a child, an adoption home
study is a required part of the process in all states. One portion of the home
study is the home visit, during which an adoption social worker visits your
home to ensure its safety and suitability for a child.

According to the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse
(NAIC), some states require an inspection from the local health and fire
departments in addition to the visit by the licensed social worker.

Families who are doing a foster-adopt usually experience
more stringent requirements for the home visit, because they often serve as
licensed foster parents during the time they are waiting to adopt their child. During
pre-service training, potential licensed foster parents receive details about
their state’s requirements for providing a safe home for a foster child.

If you plan to adopt a baby or to adopt internationally, you
will also experience the home visit. The most important thing to remember is to
remain calm about the home visit – the purpose of the social worker’s visit is
not to find ways to turn you down, but rather, to be able to confidently
recommend you (and your home) as a great place to raise a child.

You don’t necessarily have to live in a house in order to pass
with flying colors – many parents who live in apartments or in very small homes
are perfectly acceptable candidates to adopt.

If you’re uncertain about what to expect during the home
visit, ask. Your social worker will be happy to explain exactly what she will
and will not be looking for when she visits. Keep in mind that you will receive
at least one post-adoption visit from your social worker, as well. The social
worker may be looking for different things (such as child proofing and safety
gates) once your child arrives home.

One reader, Julie Foxx (, shared that their social
worker “told us not to worry about drawers or closets as she wouldn’t be
looking in them. They look for a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, smoke
detectors and a clean home.”

If you’re not the perfect housekeeper, don’t worry. The
social worker won’t do the white glove test to see whether you’ve dusted
recently. Just clean up the clutter and arrange things neatly.

In fact, you may want to leave a few things lying around to
give your home that “lived in” look. Social workers may be wary that a home
dressed up for a Better Homes & Gardens photo shoot wouldn’t be the
greatest place to raise a child.

Your social worker will likely want to meet the family pets
(and other children, if there are some). Julie commented that their two cats
crawled all over the social worker, and she didn’t mind.

Here’s a brief checklist for your home visit:

  • Do you have working smoke alarms?
  • If you own firearms, are they stored safely?
  • Do you have a safe source of water in your home?
  • Do you have adequate space for your child to sleep?
  • If you have a yard, is it safe?

During Julie’s home visit, she and her husband discussed
corporal punishment with their social worker. “According to our agency,
[corporal punishment] doesn’t mean that if your child tries to touch a hot
stove, you can’t swat the child’s hand or tush. It means you won’t beat your

Julie’s husband bravely injected a little humor into their
discussion, when he asked the social worker, “How do you feel about duct tape?”

The social worker laughed and said that duct tape was sooo
two years ago. “Masking tape is in now,” she added.

SUSAN GENTRY February 7, 2006 at 1:04 PM


Jessica March 15, 2006 at 11:15 AM

hey there. we might be adopting 3 little girls!!!!! got any good advice?

Shanay May 7, 2006 at 7:26 PM

The only thing I am lacking toward my adoption is the home study. The agency said the wait may be one to three months. As if the entire process has not been long enough already.

Matt February 8, 2009 at 11:50 AM

We have our home study in 3 days and I find my self wanting to clean everything. I do this when people come over anyway! (Thanks Mom) Thanks for the humor of the Duct Tape comment. I helped me put some of my anxiety in check! Wish us luck.
Matt in CT

Danielle June 17, 2009 at 5:32 AM

We had our home study in april of 2009 and are now awaiting our approval letter in the mail. Our home study person said that he would recommend us highly. He was so friendly and funny and nice. I agree the adoption process is taking such a long time but it will be so very worth it. Don’t be afraid of the home study. it is just like having someone come in and do an autobiography of your family. Its your story so they can choose the right child for your family. That’s all.

christy July 12, 2010 at 7:54 AM

The above advice is good for all homes. “They look for a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, smoke detectors and a clean home.” Fire extinguishers are a necessary part of every home, commercial operation, and laboratory. Where safety is concerned, it’s best not to skip out on quality.
christy´s last blog post ..Ensure Fire Protection in Your Cars

Sam July 19, 2016 at 7:35 AM

I like your input on preparation for home visits. Much relevant and everyone can use them as a guide. Safety should always be our priority before anything else.

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