Monday, March 12, 2007

Home Study & updates tips

If you are a member of a local Haitian adoption chat site or international adoption site- this is the best place to ask for referrals and references for who to do your home study or home study updates/addendums (if needed later in the process). You will find you will get lots of advice! Many will share honestly about agencies that they have trouble with so that you can possibly avoid falling into the wrong one. Others will share their great experiences with you as well. This should give you a great start at choosing an agency. A great money saving tip is to find out if your state allows an independent social worker to do your home study! Make sure they are licensed to do international and not just state adoptions. If your state does allow it then make sure to ask for referrals for this as well. Not sure how much to budget for your Home Study? Ask! I've found people are very willing to share how much they were charged. Again, make sure you are asking a local group as different states have different requirements and can be extremely different in costs as well. For example: When we started the adoption we lived in Texas and was able to use an independent Social Worker we were referred to. She was absolutely wonderful to work with and only charged us around $1000. We had to do a home study update when we moved to CA and from what we understood, did not have the option of using an independent social worker and the agencies costs were an average of around $2,500. We were able to get an update for around $500 ($200 of that is refundable when we send them post adoption papers).

When we moved from TX to CA we were unsure if we needed to have a whole new home study done (since we were in a new state) or if we could just do an update. I posted on many chat sites and got many conflicting answers (these are the times you have to do your own research). I called USCIS (immigration) to find out what I legally needed to do and talked to two different employees who gave me conflicting advice and seemed totally clueless. No help at all. This was honestly one of my most frustrating times in the whole adoption process. I hope sharing what I learned from hours and hours of seeking the truth will help someone else in the same shoes.

Every single Agency I called insisted that we would need to do a whole new home study done because of the change of state. This would be done at the price tag of $2,500. None of them offered me the option of doing just an update. There may be some agencies out there that are very honest and helpful... but my experience was... they are a business and if they can get more money out of you--- they will!!! This is why you need to be informed when you call them. YOU tell them what you need instead of asking them. Their answer will likely be in their best interest not yours. I know this sounds harsh but it's unfortunately very true to the experience I had. I spent hours and hours online until I finally found the legal requirements on the USCIS (immigration) page. Once I read this I knew exactly what I needed and was able to call the agencies. Armed with the knowledge of exactly what I needed I ended up saving over $2000 and possible months of waiting time and lots of extra work! In my next post I will share with you what USCIS requires for home studies, updates, and addendums.

Tips that may save you trouble, time, and money down the road: ask your agency to approve you for more children then you intend to adopt. You may be absolutely convinced that you will not add any more children but it happens very often that during the process you learn about a sibling, or fall in love with another child or children and would like to add them to your adoption. This is easily done if you are already approved for more children. Ask them to make the age range much wider then the specific age range (or have them say children of any age if they are willing) you have in mind for these same reasons. Also ask them to include that you are approved to adopt a special needs child (even if you have no intentions to do so). You never know, something may happen to your child while you wait, or you might fall in love with a special needs child along the way and this is required to be in your home study to bring a special needs child home. If it is not in your original home study you will need to have an update to your home study to bring them home which would be additional cost and time. Having all of these approvals does not mean that you are at all required to adopt more children, or a special needs child but it leaves you options and you may be very glad later in the process that you did it.

Your home study needs to be notarized, authenticate (or State certified) and apostled by the Haitian consulate. I will go into more details about this in another post. USCIS requires your home study to have been completed with in the last six months in order to except it when you file your I-600 (I'll share more about immigration paperwork in another post as well) or you will need to have an update done. So, keep an eye on the date.

No comments: