The Home Study Trilogy: Episode One

The best stories are always trilogies, aren’t they? We’ll call this “Episode One," but instead of Jar Jar Binks, this one is about the beginning of the home study process.

It is 6:30 on the morning of Wednesday, January 21. In the shower, my fingers are tracing warm, soapy circles on my body. I towel dry myself, nude and alone in my bathroom, rubbing eucalyptus spearmint body butter over my skin. You see, I’m meeting someone at noon today, and I am 100% taking my pants off.

My date is with a 70-year old woman named Mary Ellen, at the doctor’s office where I’ll have a physical to determine my physical ability to parent a child. And if my mother taught me anything, it’s never leave the house with wet hair, always bring something with you to a dinner party, and make it a pleasantly scented, aroma-therapeutic experience when a geriatric has your balls in her hand.

Not what you were expecting? Sorry, there’s not so much spice here, but there is plenty to talk about. We’ve begun our home study, and for those out there, whether you’re gay dads-in-waiting, straight couples, or anyone else following along on our road to first-time parenthood, we wanted to talk about the process.

Okay, square one. Before you can adopt, you have to go through this home study process. It’s an opportunity for lots of people to evaluate you, to make determinations on your ability to be a good parent, from a legal, physical, mental, financial, and emotional plane of judgment. Sound stressful? It can be.

When you get your home study packet, it is overflowing with forms to fill out; homework to do, if you will. When you’re married to a teacher, well, there’s an aversion to having yet more paperwork to complete at home. I sympathize, but we know we want to be dads, and if paperwork is as hard as it gets, we knew we could muddle through.

The first collated stack we decided to peel off the mountain was the 10-page form that collected some of our basic information. At 10 pages, that’s a lot of basic information. The usual data, the social security numbers, the addresses, driver’s license numbers, job history, educational history, etc, it was all there. We had to list our weight, so that was sobering. We disclosed our income, our assets, our liabilities, and our net worth. We had to talk about our current residence, our community. We got to talk about our cat Stoli, something from which I’ve never shied away. We talked about our health history, and I swallowed hard when listing all of the aunts and uncles I’ve lost to cancer. Thankfully we’re not passing on our biology, so we can give this kid a chance at breaking the streak.

Oh wait, tucked away on the very last page of this packet is a list of required attachments to this document. Well, that’s a sneaky way to give me more work. It started to feel like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure novels, where we just keep getting in deeper and deeper.

We decided to start with the Local Police Report for Adoption Application. We went to our municipality at 8:30 in the morning, to be sure we wouldn’t wait in line. The woman behind the counter, Sandi, took a look at our forms, and then at us, and smiled. Oh, that’s exactly what we needed Sandi, thank you. She shared that she had adopted her child from Honduras, and then pointed behind the glass window, littered with posted information on obtaining a handgun, to another woman, also an adoptive mother, to a child from China. This must be a sign of good things to come, I remember thinking. After the declaration in print that neither my husband nor I had “any local record including domestic violence,” we were officially stamped with a clearance to proceed.

Anthony's husband Dom surrounded by paperwork

Now we needed to provide pet vaccination records. Okay, full disclosure. We got Stoli six years ago, when we were volunteering at a pet shelter together. We had him fully vaccinated and took him home, where he’s remained an only cat, indoors 100% of the time. So no, his vaccinations aren’t what you’d call entirely up to date. Easy fix, I suggested to Dom, we’ll just set up a vet appointment and have his shots done again. $384 later, Stoli had a senior blood panel drawn, urine taken, a rabies and distemper shot, and a thermometer in his #2 place. The sacrifices we make, eh?

Also on the checklist was a Medical Clearance Report for Adoptive Parents. As covered earlier, this meant we needed to go to the doctor’s office and be examined, and to ask our doctor to fill out a form stating that she believes we would be good parents, from a medical perspective. These are the determinations our doctor needed to make:

  • Are there any physical or mental health conditions that would jeopardize the welfare of a child placed in the home with this individual?
  • Based on current medical information, does this patient have a normal life expectancy?
  • Based on current age and medical information, is there a likely expectation that this person will parent an infant to adulthood?
  • In your opinion, does this person have any physical or mental health impediments or limitations that would affect his or her ability to perform all normal parental function?
  • Okay, faithful readers. If my parents had been asked to answer those questions before I was conceived, you wouldn’t be reading this article today. And I’m sure that’s true for a lot of parental situations. The answers above, if you were looking for closure, were determined to be No, Yes, Yes, and No.

    And for her work and diligence, I hope our doctor appreciated that she was given the gift of a scented undercarriage.

    We also had to be fingerprinted by the State, to be on file officially. I’ll talk about this process another day, because it’s fascinating.

    We had to ask friends and neighbors for reference letters, as well as ask the same from professional colleagues. Asking friends to recommend us as parents is easy, but disclosing our entire process to supervisors and colleagues? That’s a little bit more invasive, but it’s a necessity to move forward.

    So in the “Done” column so far, my wonderfully patient readers, is the Universal Fingerprint Form, the Medical Clearance Report, the Criminal History Record, the Local Police Report, our pet vaccination records, and a copy of our full driver’s history, as requested for our home study. These are all just as sexy as they sound.

    There are other inclusions for our home study packet that are far less glamorous than a record that we’ve put a thermometer in our cat’s butt. Color snapshot of me and Dom, copies of our tax returns, our most recent W-2, copies of our marriage certificate and our passports, and of our driver’s licenses, directions to our home.

    And of course, the check for the home study fee, which, thanks to the incredible support of friends, family, and strangers through our GoFundMe campaign is covered in full. Many thanks, you’re all part of this now, too.

    With all of those items checked off the list, it’s time for us to tackle what I imagine will be the most difficult part of the home study process, and that’s the essay.

    And so it’s here that I’ll leave you for the moment, with the assurance that the next time we talk, we’ll walk honestly through the second significant portion of our home study process, the autobiographical essay, in which two dads-in-waiting get asked to commit to record some of the most difficult, challenging, and self-revelatory answers they’ve ever had to disclose.

    As always, I hope you’ll be along for the ride.

    And one more promise. I’ll be sure to shower for you all, you deserve an experience just as freshly scented as Mary Ellen's.

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