Foster/Foster-Adopt

Everything You Need to Know About the Home Study

For anyone, including gay men, wishing to adopt or foster a child, a home study is a necessary step. Here's what you need to know.

Once you've decided to adopt, a process called the home study is the next step. A home study is a required step for any family wanting to adopt any child. It is used not only for private and public adoptions, but also for foster care, step-parent adoptions, kinship adoptions (when grandparents or other family members are raising a child), second parent adoption following a surrogate birth or sperm donation, and in some states, even frozen embryo transfers require a home study.


What is a home study?

The home study is a document that reflects your social worker's assessment and approval of you as an adoptive family, gathered from documents you've submitted, meetings with your worker, and personal references. It is also a vital tool in preparing your growing family for the questions and realities ahead: race, identity, belonging, grief, curiosity about birth family, answering nosy questions from strangers and teaching your child how to respond to racial bias are some of the common themes addressed during this process.

To accomplish this, you need an experienced, licensed social worker who can gently walk you through the topics you'd rather avoid, alert you to issues you may not even be aware of, and be your cheerleader through the preparation and placement process. To build that type of relationship, gay applicants should carefully screen their home study provider for inclusiveness and support of same-sex headed households or gay single parents.

Find an LGBTQ-friendly agency

There are still families in many parts of the country who struggle to find LGBTQ-affirming and inclusive practices; sometimes families find themselves working with an agency or social worker who is overtly homophobic or simply ignorant of how to appropriately address the unique aspects of being same-sex parents or a single gay parent. When contacting an agency, ask for references and inquire if the organization has experience and success working with the LGBTQ community. For example, The Human Rights Council recently introduced the "All Children – All Families" project, helping those agencies with a commitment to LGBTQ parents stand out in the adoption field.

Be an Active Participant

Once you have identified your home study provider, be prepared to be an active participant! In addition to the documents you will collect, you will be asked to read articles and books, take parent preparation classes at your agency or online, revisit your expectations, and openly discuss your upbringing, relationships, medical, mental health or legal history, employment, hobbies, interests, experience with children at various developmental stages, and even your plans for disciplining your future child. An experienced adoption professional will value this information to inform her or his practice, guide you through any rough patches, and ultimately write a 10- to 12-page document outlining everything she or he has learned about your family. The actual home study document must comply with local, state, federal, and in some cases, international document guidelines. This means your social worker may need to schedule additional visits, training hours, or include very detailed information about certain aspects of your life. It is common for families to feel this process is intrusive and takes too long, which is completely understandable. However, it can be helpful to remember that social workers are not in a position to bypass the legal requirements, nor would they want to, as these regulations are in place to protect the interests of children. Understanding these requirements can be a helpful tool. Most states have their adoption requirements posted for public access; agencies can provide these to families as well.

Through email, office meetings and home visits, you and your social worker will be creating a relationship that can carry you through this adoption. It can also be a post-adoption resource for you and your future child. You will be communicating with your social worker frequently over the three- to five-month time span that it takes to complete most home studies. While it's understandably anxiety-provoking to have a social worker in your home, it's important to keep in mind that adoption social workers should be approaching families from a "strength-based" perspective, meaning they look first for the strengths any family brings to the table, identify areas of growth, and provide education to make sure that your skills and expectations match what your child will need. They are in your home to make sure your child will be in a safe space, to get an idea of what life in your family will be like, and to simply talk in the comfort of your home about anything on your mind as you move forward. They are not there to judge the cleanliness of your closets, your particular decorating style, or how well you vacuum under the bed!

What Would Disqualify You

That being said, families still want to know what would prevent them from being approved for a home study. These issues include a criminal history of abuse or violence, especially against children, an untreated and severe mental illness, financial resources that place families below the federal poverty line, active and untreated use of illegal drugs, or a medical diagnosis that severely impacts the applicants' ability to raise a child to adulthood. In some cases, there may be presenting issues that will not disqualify applicants but may require more discovery and assessment. Examples of this may include a non-violent arrest history (such as DUIs), past mental health or medical history, or what is generally referred to as "readiness", meaning your social worker may have concerns about your expectations, ability to address issues of race or culture with your child, needing more preparation for an open adoption or parenting an older child, needing to make specific changes or upgrades to the home, or generally needing more time to be ready for adoption. These additional themes may add time to your home study, but it's important to remember these rarely occur, and when they do, your social worker only has your future child's best interest in mind. While adoptive parents are often functioning in the "here and now," your social worker's job is to think broadly and long term; she or he is thinking about your future child's needs now, through the teen years, and beyond. There are many adoptee voices in our community that taught all of us we must think long term, and a good social worker will do that for you and your family.

Conclusion

Once you have started your home study, the best thing you can do is approach the entire process with an open heart, patience, flexibility, and the knowledge that in the end (whenever that may be), you will be a parent!

Read this gay dad-to-be's personal experience with the home study.

Stella Gilgur-Cook was the director of the Modern Family Center at Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children in New York City.

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Gay Adoption

Adopting in the United States: A Guide for Gay Couples and Singles

Thinking about adopting in the United States? Check out this overview of domestic adoption for gay men.

Thinking about adoption? Gay men have more opportunities and options than ever before, but to be successful it is vital to know your options and understand the landscape of adoptions today.

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Gay Adoption

How Much Does Adoption Cost Gay Dads?

Gays With Kids answers financial questions for gay dads and dads-to-be: How much does an adoption cost?

In the United States, there are two most common types of adoption: independent or private adoption, and agency adoption. Both come with different price tags.

Independent or private adoption is when the birth parents place the child directly with the adoptive parent or parents without an agency or intermediary. Parents who pursue independent adoption must still enlist the help of adoption lawyers and other professionals to help with the process. Three states do not allow independent adoption - Colorado, Connecticut and Delaware.

An agency adoption is more or less what it sounds like: you will select and work with a state-certified adoption agency throughout your entire adoption journey. It is legal in all 50 states.

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Gay Adoption

10 Tips for Saving for Adoption

For gay men, creating our families can be expensive. Here are some ideas to help you save for your adoption.

There's little argument that having a family in the U.S is expensive. But for gay men, creating a family can be even more complicated and expensive than it is for our straight counterparts. An adoption process can set you back anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000. You might find yourself asking, “How can anyone afford that?" The answer is: The majority of us don't. Those of us that do are forced to find the necessary funds by making savvy financial decisions. Here are some of our suggestions for doing so:

1. Create a Budget (and Stick to it!)

Perhaps the most obvious tip (and we'll break it down further) but don't underestimate the power of saving money where you can. Start paying attention to where your dollars are going – from that morning cup of joe when you're on the run to the bought lunches everyday at work. All of those small purchases add up!

Are you used to eating out regularly? Don't! Cut eating out or date nights to once a month and make it extra special. And extra special doesn't have to mean extra expensive. Think local delicious restaurant, preferably BYOB, and turn your phones off – make it count.

"It is so important to cut any unnecessary spending," shared Edward (not his real name), father of a 1-year-old daughter through adoption. "Keep your goals in sight and plan for the future."

Helpful hint 1: Make your coffee in a to-go cup before you leave the house; take a packed lunch with you to work. Sound simple? That's because it is!

Helpful hint 2: Set aside a change jar and put all your coins in it. At the end of every month, you'll get to hear the sweet sound of "ka-ching" as you put them through the coin machine.

Helpful hint 3: Plan your meals and stick to a grocery budget. Make a list (check it twice) and then don't go off it at the grocery store. Also, use coupons to further cut down on your grocery expenses.

Helpful hint 4: Cut home expenses: Get a less expensive data plan for your mobile phone. Stop wasting electricity. Turn down your A/C. Don't buy the newest phone model. Choose a basic cable package or cut the cord completely and use one online streaming service instead. You probably don't need Amazon Prime Video, HBO, Hulu AND Netflix. I mean, how much free time do you have? Amiright?

"It's crazy how much you can save by not eating out, not going out with friends, couponing and sticking to a grocery list," said Ben, dad of two boys through adoption.

​2. Open a Savings Account (and Put Money in it)

Start getting into the habit of transferring money into a separate (preferably hard to touch) savings account every payday. Figure out how much you can afford to save and transfer it as soon as you can.

"We set up a budget where we saved and automatically deducted money from our paychecks into a savings account," explained Ben.

3. Apply for an Adoption Grant

Did you know that there are nonprofits ready and waiting to help couples and singles create their family through adoption? Well, they really do exist! Check out Helpusadopt.org, an organization that offers up to $15,000 for families regardless of martial status, sexual orientation, race, religion, gender or ethnicity. Grants are awarded three times a year. So what are you waiting for? Fill out your application today!

​4. Refinance your Mortgage

Did you buy a house when the interest rates were higher than they are now? Refinance and pocket the difference into your savings account. The same goes for student loans. Shop around folks, shop around.

5. Save your Tax Refund

Ben and his husband used their tax refund as a starting-off point for their savings. But make sure that you're paying the correct tax rate so you don't get a nasty surprise in April. And the adoption tax credit?

"Tax benefits for adoption include both a tax credit for qualified adoption expenses paid to adopt an eligible child and an exclusion from income for employer-provided adoption assistance. The credit is nonrefundable, which means it's limited to your tax liability for the year. However, any credit in excess of your tax liability may be carried forward for up to five years." – IRS

6. Rent Out a Room (or your Entire House)

If you have a spare room in your home, consider renting it out for a year. Or sign up for AirBnB and play host to vacationers.

​7. Raise Money

From Kickstarter to IndieGoGo to GoFundMe, there are lots of options to put it all out there and ask others for financial donations. Read the Gays With Kids article on crowdfunding.

8. Find your Talent; Get Creative!

We're not all blessed with talents that result in piles of money, but we all have personal interests. These dads turned their passion for renovating and flipping homes into their key ingredient for saving for adoption. Time to start thinking how to turn your skill into a paid resource.

No untapped talent to speak of? Get a second job or try selling some of your things that you no longer need in a yard sale or on Craigslist.

"Get a second job, budget and start living as if you have that child," advised Ben, whose two adoptions cost $71,000 in total. "Children cost money once they get here. Change [your lifestyle] now and save that money!"

9. Check your Employee Benefits

See if your employer provides any financial assistant to families who adopt, and if they don't already, consider speaking with your HR department. For example, active duty military personnel may be eligible for a $2000 reimbursement.

​10. Ask your Relatives

This isn't possible for everyone but for those who can, consider asking your family for help. Relatives often don't realize how much an adoption costs, but once they do, your parents (or grandparents or loaded uncle) might want to help. It could be by way of a low or interest-free loan, or as a gift. This might be your last option, but it's worth giving a go.

"If you are close to your family, think about asking them for help, if it's within their financial means," said Edward whose one adoption cost $36,000.

Bonus: Consider Foster-to-Adopt

Foster-to-adopt can be a totally free option but it can come with its own set of hurdles. Ultimately you have to decide what the best path to fatherhood is for you.

** The path you choose to create your family is a very personal one. Gays With Kids supports you, whatever your particular path to fatherhood. Check out our "Becoming a Gay Dad" section for the different paths, and please keep us posted on your journey! **

For more, read our article Adoption Glossary Terms Every Adoptive Gay Dad Needs to Know."

And read Agency or Independent Adoption: Which Should Gay Dads Choose?"

Don't forget to read our indispensable guide to adoption:Paths to Gay Fatherhood: The Adoptive Dad."

Change the World

Judge's Decision in NY 'Compassionate Surrogacy' Case Involving Gay Dad Overturned

Though compensated surrogacy remains illegal in New York State, "compassionate surrogacy" arrangements are remain legal

Last week, an unanimous four-judge panel, part of the New York Appellate Division in Brooklyn, New York, revived a gay dad's petition to adopt his son born via surrogacy. The dad, identified as "Joseph P." in court documents, had earlier been denied his petition to adopt by a Queens County Family Court Judge, John M. Hunt. The Queens judge denied the petition because compensated surrogacy contracts are illegal in New York. However, the child born to Joseph was born via "compassionate surrogacy," meaning his gestational surrogate was not compensated.

The Appellate court's decision, written by Justice Alan D. Scheinkmanm called Hunt's decision "clearly erroneous," and held that a new Family Court judge should re-hear the case.

Judge Hunt's decision is all the more confusing since Joseph had actually already become a father via surrogacy in New York—three times over. In each instance, he used donor eggs and a friend serving, voluntarily, as the gestational surrogate. He had his first child in 2012, and then twins the following year. In all three instances, a Family Court judge granted Joseph's adoption petition, given that each child was conceived via "compassionate surrogacy," meaning no money changes hands in the course of a surrogacy journey between carrier an intended parent. This type of surrogacy arrangement is not illegal under to New York law. The social worker in Joseph's latest attempt to adopt, Gay City News noted, also gave him a favorable review, calling him "a mature, stable, and caring person who intentionally created a family of himself, the twins, and John."

Gay City News notes: "Justice Scheinkman provided a careful description of the laws governing surrogacy in New York. The Legislature provided that surrogacy contracts are unenforceable and treated as void. However, the only surrogacy contracts actually outlawed are those where the surrogate is compensated. It was clear to the Appellate Division that the Legislature did not mean to outlaw voluntary surrogacy arrangements, merely to make them unenforceable in the courts. Those who enter into a compensated surrogacy agreement face a small monetary fine and people who act as brokers to arrange such agreements are liable for a larger penalty. There is no penalty for voluntary, uncompensated surrogacy arrangements."

Read the full article here.

Entertainment

How Fatherhood Has Impacted Tom Daley's Diving Career for the Better

British diver Tom Daley, and new-ish gay dad, is looking to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in South Korea.

British diver Tom Daley is currently in the running to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in South Korea, his fourth if he competes, at the young age of just 26.

But he also has another concern that most young gay men his age couldn't fathom—fatherhood. He and his husband, filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, recently welcomed Robbie Ray via surrogacy in June 2018.

In an interview with the Independent, Daley explained how fatherhood has changed his routine and training, which he says is often for the better.

"It has changed my life completely in all of the best ways possible," Daley said. "It has changed my perspective, the way I think about things. [My son] is the most important thing in my life, everything I do is for him, everything I think about he is at the forefront of everything."

With respect to his diving career, Daley continued, "if you have a bad day at training, or a good day, you are grounded immediately when you get home through the door because you are having cuddles or you are having to change a dirty nappy. It is the first time that I have been able to leave diving at the diving board and not think about what I need to the next day in the pool."

Whatever the challenges he faces while training, he said, "I can leave it there because you don't have time to think about diving when you are looking after a kid under one."

The strategy seems to be working in Daley's favor. He recently enjoyed his most successful FINA Diving World Series ever this past Spring in Canada, winning 12 medals across five events. And barring any major catastrophe, he is overwhelmingly expected to qualify for South Korea 2020.

And we can't wait to cheer the young dad on!

Change the World

One Gay Dad's Fight Against Hate in Superior, Nebraska

Brian Splater is refusing to let homophobic and transphobic elected officials in his town go unchecked

Millie B. Photography

Guest post written by Brian Splater

No one ever should feel they will have a very lonely and secluded life as a child. But that is something me and many other gay kids believe as they are growing up.

The truth of the matter is there are people who will try everything in their power to have our rights go back in time instead of forward. It is very disheartening when these people are elected officials, or they are people who use their place of employment to spread their disgust and hate.

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Politics

America's First Gay Dad Governor Heads Into the Lion's Den

Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently became the first elected Democrat to speak at the annual Western Conservative Summit in Denver

Last Friday, American's first gay dad Governor, Jared Polis, became the first elected Democrat to speak at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, where he urged the Republican crowd to help him build a "Colorado for all."

"While we should never gloss over the things that divide us, there is a lot more that unites us," Polis said. "When we close ourselves off from discussion or debate, and we reject the possibility of hearing and understanding other perspectives, it threatens the fabric of our democracy."

If he was hoping for a Kumbaya moment, he didn't exactly get it. As he was called to the stage, he was greeted with a smattering of applause—while others booed and shouted for a "recall" of the Governor.

"It was almost unbearable for me to sit there to listen to his talk," Abby Johnson, one of the event's attendees, told the Denver Post. "And I'm going to tell you why. He kept talking about equality for all persons, yet we live in a society where 60 million innocent human beings have been slaughtered in the name of choice. Where is their justice? Where is their equal rights?"

Polis was also criticized from his left flank for attending the same event that refuses to let the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay GOP members, participate—and that featured Donald Trump Jr. as a speaker the same day. "To me it feels like vanity," Katie Farnan, a staffer with progressive group Indivisible, told the Denver Post. "He can go and be a hip Democratic governor who isn't afraid to go into GOP sanctuary. Or maybe it's recall insurance. But unless he was there to hold them accountable for their support for fascist and racist policies, what's the point?"

In response to the criticism from both sides of the political aisle, Polis told the Colorado Sun: "I think it's very important that Coloradans of different ideologies, different races, different geographies, different orientations and gender identities all really celebrate that we're all part of what makes Colorado great."

The event is hosted each year by Colorado Christian University to bring together conservatives from around the state, and the larger West.

What do you think, dads? Was Polis's decision to speak at the event a savvy political move or mere pandering?

Fatherhood, the gay way

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