Gay Adoption

I Just Completed the Home Study. Here's What I Learned

This gay dad-to-be recently completed the home study and he's sharing everything he learned from the experience.

I'm not sure why, but it doesn't seem like anyone ever talks about the home study. Perhaps I glossed over the provision in all of the paperwork that comes along with adoption that says that talking about home study is taboo. Or maybe there's an unspoken agreement – “the first rule of home study is: you do not talk about home study."

Well…I'm breaking that rule.


Ken (left) and Alex (right) at Muir Woods National Park

My husband and I started the adoption process about a year ago. We just finished our home study, and our profile is now being shown to expectant birth mothers. Our agency conducted the home study in a series of three visits, each of which was about an hour and a half in duration. Here's what I learned from each of these visits:

Visit #1: It's Not About How Clean Your House Is

We were incredibly nervous for our first home study visit. Our nervousness covered the whole spectrum of things that could go wrong. What if our house doesn't meet the standards required by our agency or the state? What if we're asked a question that we don't have a good answer for? What if the dog fur on the floor disqualifies us? Most of our worries were unfounded, but the home study is a big deal. We had to worry.

Friends had told us the home study is not a “white glove test." Still, it's spring, so we've got a pretty significant amount of dog fur. And, in general, we don't want to look like complete slobs. So, because we were concerned about a dirty house disqualifying us, we cleaned and vacuumed the night before our first visit. As it turns out, cleaning was largely unnecessary. Our social worker did not say one word about cleanliness. (Seriously…not even a compliment about how shiny the countertops were.)

Our social work told us something very early in her visit that put us at ease almost immediately. She told us that a lot of people ask when they'll find out if they've passed. Then she told us that, basically, we'd already passed---she wouldn't be here if we hadn't.

Our first visit involved a discussion about my husband and me. We sat in our living room and just talked. The discussion was natural. We discussed our relationship: how we met, why we clicked, what we like about each other, areas of our relationship that we can work on, etc. We quickly discovered that this portion of the home study was not about our home---it was about us. Ultimately, she needed to ascertain what kind of fathers we will be. Of course, she is concerned with how safe our home will be for our child. But this first visit, at least, was not about that.

Alex taking Chace for a bike ride in the Houndabout

Visit #2: Mistakes Are Learning Opportunities

For the second visit, we met individually with our social worker at her office. Once again, we were all nerves before this visit. We thought the agency was trying to catch us in some type of fatherhood prisoner's dilemma. I did talk about my husband a little bit during my meeting, but the interaction was largely focused on my broader family, some of who have rather colorful histories.

"Just because a family member has spent a night or two in jail," I found myself saying to her, "it doesn't mean they'll be a terrible influence on my child."

At a certain point I could sense that our social worker probably agreed. That realization made me feel much more at ease with the conversation. At one point I said, “I feel like I'm portraying my family as a terrible group of people." (They're not terrible people.)

“You cannot change your past or your family's past,"Our social worker responded. "What you can do is recognize the learning opportunities that both you and your family have presented and grow from those experiences."

That is some good advice.

Ken (front) and Alex (back) canoeing in Madison

Visit #3: Your Home Doesn't Need to be Spotless... But it Does Need to Be Safe

The third and final visit was back in our home, where our social worker visited with us for about an hour. She had a few follow up questions from previous visits. We also briefly talked about the couple of missing documents that she needed to appease the state.

Then we walked through our house. My husband and I just built our home, so our social worker didn't have much to check in the way of compliance with building code. Still, she checked out the first floor living space, and we talked about our plans to convert what is now our office into a play room. She made sure the bedrooms and bathrooms meet state minimum requirements. We told her that the nursery is the only room in the house that we didn't paint when we moved in; we're waiting to see if we're having a boy or a girl. And we showed her our vision for how the nursery will be laid out. She also looked in the basement.

***

Is “home study" a misnomer? Maybe. We spent very little time focusing on our actual home. Perhaps “are-you-going-to-be-good-fathers study" was already taken. Regardless, don't lose sleep worrying about your home study. And when you do inevitably lose sleep worrying about your home study anyway, know that by virtue of having a home study, you're in the home stretch.

Read more:

Adoption Glossary: Terms Every Adoptive Parent Needs to Know

Path to Gay Fatherhood: The Adoptive Dad

Thinking About Adoption But Don't Know Where to Start?

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Gay Adoption

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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.

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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."

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"We're both Americans; we're married," James told the New York Times. "We just found it really hard to believe that we could have a child that wouldn't be able to be in our country."

According to decades-old immigration law, a child born abroad must have a biological connection to a parent that is a U.S. citizen in order to be eligible to receive citizenship upon birth. Children born via surrogacy are determined to be "out of wedlock," according to the Times report," which then requires a more onerous process to qualify for citizenship, such as demonstrating that a biological parent is not only an American citizen, but has spent at least five years in the country.

The intent of the law, which dates back to the 1950s, was to prevent people from claiming, falsely, that they are the children of U.S. parents. But LGBTQ advocates argue this archaic policy is being used intentionally to discriminates against same-sex couples, who often have to rely on donors, IVF and surrogacy in order to have biologically children, and are thus held to a higher standard.

"This is where our life is. This is where our jobs are," James told the Times. "Our daughter can't be here, but she has no one else to care for her."

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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