The first big step in any adoption is a home study. There are different requirements for domestic and international home studies so if you are contemplating adoption and want to start a home study you need to make that big decision first. Our agency, Lifeline Children's Services, has an office in South Carolina so we are considered an "in-state" family. This basically means a Lifeline social worker can handle all of our pre and post adoption needs as far as the home study goes (pre adoption) and post placement visits required by our daughter's country.
We started our adoption process in November of 2013 (see the timeline on the right). It was a busy time of year and we kept running into holidays but our social worker worked really hard for us and was able to schedule our visits pretty quickly. The home study isn't just a house inspection. While the social worker did spend time in our home and we did take her on a tour most of our time with her was telling her our entire life story. She interviewed us together as a couple and individually. We talked about every possible thing under the sun related to our marriage, parenting and adoption. We did a marriage assessment and talked over the results with her. Between our visits and phone calls we did a lot of education. Because we are adopting from a country that is part of the Hague Convention we had more education to complete. I found most of it really interesting and helpful. It was encouraging to see how much education is provided to help parents make appropriate decisions as part of the adoption process.
After we finished our meetings we waited for all of our criminal clearances, child abuse registry clearances and reference letters to come back in while she worked on writing up a huge report all about us. When she finished writing it we were able to give feed back to her as well as her supervisor and she made changes based on that. When a final copy was completed she sent it from Columbia (where she lives) to Charleston to be signed by her supervisor. Once it was signed by her supervisor she sent it back to Columbia to the South Carolina DSS (South Carolina has an extra step in the process where our home study has to be approved by the State). Unfortunately, our home study took the longest trip ever from Charleston to Columbia when it got stuck in the "epic snowstorm of 2014". It finally made it . . . just in time for President's Day so it got to sit at the UPS center for another day or so before it was finally delivered to DSS to await approval.
The home study process feels long . . . it is long. There is a lot of document chasing, meeting, reading and watching online videos. I remember feeling like I had done SO much yet I couldn't check a single thing off the "master adoption to do list". Everything I was working toward was just to check of that first thing - home study.
I've tried to take photos along the way of this part of the process because it is the very beginning of the story of our little girl joining our family. I look forward to showing her all of these pictures one day when I tell her that we were pursuing her before we even knew her.