Annexure -VI

GUIDELINES FOR HOME STUDY
Home Study Report may include the following documents:

While preparing the Home Study Report, social worker may go through the following guidelines.

(The format has been prepared for suitable Indian couples. In case of single parents the professional Social Worker has to see that adequate support systems are available and the single parent is physically, mentally, financially and psychologically capable of handling the  adoption alone).

GUIDELINES FOR PREPARATION OF HOME STUDY
The guidelines enumerated here should not be considered as all encompassing or to be adhered to rigidly.  The Home Study can include any other material which may be found relevant in a particular case.
 

Single parents and parents already having biological child/children will not be discriminated. The information that should be included in a Home Study can be divided into two broad categories, i.e. purely factual information and a psychosocial assessment of prospective adoptive parent/s.  These categories are not mutually exclusive as even the factual information helps in building up the over-all picture of prospective adoptive parent/s as will be seen below.

A. Factual Information :
This should include names of prospective adoptive parent/s and of their children, if any, their address, age, number of years of marriage, educational qualifications, occupation, financial situation and religion.  The same information should also be given regarding other members living in the home.

Age: Adoptive applicants should generally be of natural child bearing age.  However, too great an age gap between the adoptive parents and the child is not desirable as the parents may then find it difficult to meet adequately the physical and emotional needs of the growing child.

Years of Marriage : Generally it is advisable that the couple should have been married for at least 5 years before they contemplate adoption.  This would serve to provide evidence of the quality and stability of their marital relationship.  It would also ensure that they have had a reasonable chance of having their own biological child.  However, stability of a marriage should not be determined only on the basis of its length.  In exceptional cases, a marriage of shorter duration may also be found acceptable, where the couple knew each other earlier, prior to legalisations of their marriage, and / or where the delay may disqualify them on account of over age.

Educational Qualifications: An idea of the couple’s educational background is necessary not only to obtain a complete picture of them, but also because it would be likely to influence the educational plans they would make for their adopted child.

Financial Situation: Although there is no hard and fast rule, the income of the applicants should be sufficient to meet the reasonable and legitimate needs of a child. The stability and long term security of the income and its proper management is more important than the amount itself. It is not necessary to have a stated amount of savings. However, in the case of non-Hindus taking a child in guardianship, the Court usually requires a certain amount to be invested by the applicants in the name of the child, to provide him/her some degree of financial security, since guardianship does not entitle the child to inherit the family property of the guardian. The adoptive applicants should be made aware of this possibility.

Religion : It is important to know the religion of the adoptive parents and the influence it would have on the decisions they make when selecting a child.  It should be ascertained whether their religious beliefs, or those of the religious denomination to which they belong, would militate against their accepting a child from a different religious background, or whose religious affiliation is not known.

Source of Referral : This should indicate how the applicants came to know about the agency.

Number of Single and Joint Interviews :
The information here should include interviews held with the husband and wife, singly and jointly, as well as interviews with other collaterals, such as the applicant’s children, if any, relatives, friends, family physician or priest, where possible and felt necessary.  While such references are not likely to give their negative evaluation if any, a contact with them is of use in overall assessment.  The type of people with whom the applicants interact is, in some ways, a reflection of them as persons.  (Written statements are required from at least three persons who know the couple well).

Health History :
There should be reasonable evidence to show that the couple are in good physical health and free from communicable diseases.  They should not be suffering from any health problem which may be physically or mentally debilitating, thus affecting their functioning or care giving ability, or which is likely to have a negative influence on their normal life span.  Conditions such as diabetes which is under control, or previous surgery, should not automatically debar the applicants. (A doctor’s report should be obtained which is not older then two months).

Family Constellation :
If the couple live in a joint or extended family, information about other members of the household including their relationship with the couple, their ages, education, occupation and health should be given in the Home Study.

Home and Neighbourhood:
This should include a physical description of the home, the accommodation which will be available for the adopted child, the type of neighborhood, amenities in the house and the neighbourhood, such as accessibility to school, and the standard of living of the couple as reflected in the home.

Name of the Social Worker, His/ Her Qualifications, Name and Address of Agency:
This information should come at the end of the Home study, and should include the signature or the social worker who has prepared the Home Study.

B.  Psycho-Social Assessment of the Couple:
Information needs to be collected in several areas to enable the social worker to form a composite psycho-social picture of the adopting couple.  Some of the areas are mentioned below:

General Impression of the Couple :
Besides giving a description of the physical appearance of the couple, their facial features, complexion and general health condition, the information given here should convey an idea of the general impression the couple make on others.

Emotional Health:
This implies to an extent an understanding of one’s self, recognition and acceptance of one’s strengths and weaknesses, adequate enactment of one’s roles, and a capacity to form permanent and satisfying interpersonal relationships.  In order to be a happy parent, one must first be a happy person.

Value System: 
This includes the philosophy of life and the basic values held dear by each spouse.  Their sense of values should place primary emphasis on the integrity of each individual’s personality, a concern and respect for others, a willingness to understand and appreciate individual differences and attitudes, a belief in the basic worth of a human being and a concern for life.  The possession of such a value structure is particularly important when adopting a child whose parentage and background is not known.

Social Status and background of Adopting Couple: 
Information here should include the family background of both the marital partners; their social and psychological experiences in their families of birth; their educational background, work experience and adjustment to work; their relationships with others in the community; and their social standing.

Quality of Marital Relationship: 
Through the series of joint and single interviews, it is necessary to assess the degree of emotional satisfaction the couple derive from their marriage.  Factors such as mutual participation in decision making, especially with reference to the decision to adopt, degree of mutual sexual satisfaction, and the acceptance and adequate performance of allocated roles within the family, are all important considerations.

Current Family Relationships and Details of the children in the home including biological and adopted : 
Besides assessing the quality of relationship between the husband and wife, it is also necessary to ascertain their current relationship with other members of the household, including their children, if any, and members of each other’s families.

Attitude towards Childlessness. 
The Home Study should cover reasons for childlessness, if any. The prospect of remaining childless can be very hard to accept and couples usually go through a period of great emotional stress before coming to terms with their childlessness.  The social worker should be aware of this and should explore their feelings in this area with sensitivity and understanding.  The couple’s adjustment to this deprivation is an important consideration because, in the future, the adoptive child can be a constant living reminder of what the adoptive parents see as their own deficiency.

If the couple already have biological children, for instance, they have girls and plan to adopt a boy, the Home Study Report shall explore the effect of adoption on these children.  If, on the other hand, there is a possibility that a childless couple may later have children of their own, the effect this would have on their feelings towards their adopted child should also be carefully explored with them.

Motivation for and Attitudes towards Adoption:
It is important to know the couple’s general attitude towards adoption, particularly of an unrelated child, and the motivating force behind their decision to adopt.  Their attitude to illegitimacy is an important consideration since a negative attitude may adversely condition their response to a child born out of wedlock.  Positive qualities that can be identified are:- an evident enthusiasm to adopt and adjustability and tolerance in their requirements of a child.  Negative characteristics can be identified as :- tension in their marital relationship, anticipation of the adoption as a means of alleviating some personal problem, or indecisiveness in their commitment to adoption.

In general, motives that focus on the needs of the child, rather than those of the adoptive parents are acceptable.  Some couple may wish to adopt to repair their shaky marriage, to bring in a companion and playmate for their natural born child or to replace an expired child.  Combating the loneliness of a mother, creating new interest in the life of a sick and miserable parent, or anticipation of support in old age may be other motives.  These are irrational and unrealistic motives and the applicants should be helped to reflect on these areas and even advised to refrain from adopting a child in such cases.  They should understand that a child cannot be made a tool in solving the problems of two adults.

It is further important to explore whether both the spouses are equally eager to adopt or if one of them is going along with the plan just to please his/her partner.

Capacity for Parenthood and Expectations of a Child
This includes a capacity to love, accept and offer emotional security to children, a capacity to permit them to grow in their own individuality, a readiness to accept and understand the behavioural problems of children and to be flexible and realistic in their expectations from children.  It is also necessary to explore if the applicants have strong pre-conceived ideas as to what the child should be like.  Some parents have a dream image of a child or a desire that the child should become exactly like his/her father or mother in all respects.    A child cannot be laden with the burden of futuristic expectations of the adoptive parents.  When a relationship is based on such motivations there is an undue emphasis on loyalty.  Even the normal self-assertions of the child will then be seen by the parents as adverse signs.  Emotionally charged anticipations often serve to set off a chain of negative responses which render mutual adaptations all the more difficult.  Couples should be helped to understand that a child is a separate entity with his own individuality.  Areas which should be explored are a couple’s rigidity or otherwise about the background of the child, whether they will be willing to let a child grow in his own way at his own speed while they support him with loving discipline, and their hopes and plans for the child.

If the wife is working the social worker should discuss with her whether she plans to continue to work or to give up her job.  If her intention is to continue with her job, it should be ascertained what plans she would be making for the child’s care while she is at work.

Attitude of Significant Others:
In our traditional cultural set up, next in importance to the applicants themselves, come the members of their extended family.  If there are any biological children old enough to have an opinion in the matter, their views regarding the adoption plan and the extent to which their parents have prepared them should be ascertained.  If the applicants are living in a joint family, it would be advisable to meet all the family members living in the home.  Both sets of prospective adoptive grand parents should be seen where possible.  Such contact with significant relatives would give evidence of their degree of support of the adoption plan of the couple, ensure their positive involvement and also help ascertain if they need support in resolving their own feelings about the idea.

Others issues:
Plans to Tell the Child of His/Her Adoption:
The social worker should discuss with the couple their feelings about and their plans for sharing the fact of the child’s adoption with him.  The worker should assess their ability to do so comfortably and easily.  The parents may be advised not to keep the adoption as a secret matter and it should be conveyed to the child when he is appropriately grown up.

Evaluation of Strengths and Weaknesses, and Social Worker’s Recommendations:
There are strengths and weaknesses in every individual and in every marital relationship.  One can, therefore, not expect to find a perfect couple.  The social worker’s recommendation of a couple’s suitability to adopt should be made on the basis of his/her evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses observed in the course of doing the Home Study, of whether the weaknesses are in significant areas which might affect the welfare of the child, and of the extent to which the strengths outweigh the weaknesses.  The probable areas in which the couple is likely to need on going help, such as coming to terms with sterility, or telling the child he/she is adopted, should be noted.  Finally the recommendations should state  the suitability of the parents to adopt.

(Always Home Study should be updated and not more than 2 year’s old at any cost.)

 

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