“You no longer have a valid home study”

It had been awhile since we’d been in touch with our Ohio home study agency. The day before Thanksgiving we found out they no longer exist.

Even if you work with an out-of-state adoption agency, you must have a home study conducted by a licensed agency in the state where you live. Our options were limited because we live in a rural area, and many agencies here won’t work with gay couples. But we found one in a city nearby that was supposedly gay-friendly.

Before signing on, I asked for references. After speaking with two couples that had good things to say, we signed on. The alternative was an agency that was farther away, cost much more money, and required several weekends of parenting classes without childcare.

Although our social worker seemed disorganized and was sometimes abrupt on the phone, things mostly went okay. She got the home study ready, visiting our home twice to conduct a safety audit and interviews.

In response to their standard form question about a major disappointment, I’d written how I’d felt after voters in my former state passed a constitutional amendment banning marriage for gay couples. I described the awful feeling I had that the votes of all those people were personal votes against me and my family. Reviewing my document, the social worker turned to me, while sitting at our dining room table and swigging her gigantic container of Mountain Dew and said, “Now, I see that you felt pretty angry about that marriage vote. I’m not going to turn on the nightly news and see you protesting, am I?”

For some reason, my first reaction was to tell her that it was unlikely because, while I care about social change, I’m not exactly the protesting sort. But then she said, “Well, that’s good. You know we have to watch what we do because we’re licensed by the state. We don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that license.”

I realized she was most likely just ignorant–not a hater. But the more I thought about it, the more outraged I felt that she essentially instructed me not to be political. She had all the power in the situation, and I just wanted the home study over and shipped off to our out-of-state, much, much cooler adoption agency.

It’s interesting to think of that exchange now because—after not hearing from this agency for months—we thought we should check in with them last week. When we tried to call, the phone number was dead. When we checked the website, it wouldn’t load. After Google searches failed to turn up news about the agency, we left a voicemail with the state adoption and foster care licensing office to ask if they had any information. A woman from the state called back the day before Thanksgiving on our drive to my parents’ house in Michigan.

The news? In October, the state shut down the agency because of fiscal mismanagement—fortunately not due to concerns about their home study or placement practices. And not, apparently, because one of their clients showed up at a protest somewhere.

It’s standard protocol for agencies with revoked licenses to inform all clients so they can transfer files to other agencies. But we’d never received any notice at all. The woman at the state office was kind but told us we needed to consider our home study invalid until we could get it transferred and accepted by a new agency.

It was crushing. I couldn’t help but feel defeated and in even less control over our future, after all the other twists and turns on this adoption journey. What if we’d had a fast match and placement with a baby already born in a hospital? And had only learned of the agency’s closing once we’d traveled out of state? I felt utterly betrayed and exhausted by the unnecessary complications they’d thrown our way.

It’s a few days later, though, and things look better. Miraculously, we quickly found another, better agency recommended by an acquaintance with lots of knowledge of adoption services across the state. The staff has been warm, sympathetic about our situation, and 500 times more organized than the last agency. They’ve agreed to accept our file without charging us fees as if it were a brand new home study.

The problem now is that in order for the transfer to be legit, the home study file needs to come from our old agency. We can’t just send a photocopy ourselves. The contact at the state office told us the former director has the box of files with her at her house. She gave us this woman’s cell phone number but said she doesn’t always respond and has charged some former clients for her “copying and mailing services.” I left a message Monday and a second one this morning, trying to be pleasant. But still no word.

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17 thoughts on ““You no longer have a valid home study”

  1. So rather than being the type of parent that would teach your child to be passionate and stand up for themselves and be proud of their beliefs, standing strong for their convictions… she would “prefer” you keep quiet and not rock the boat. Ridiculous.

    Hope you hear something soon.

    • Thanks, Jenni. Yeah, I couldn’t figure out her logic. Especially because social workers are often motivated by some sense of wanting to make change.

  2. It’s okay to be gay, we’ll tolerate that. Just don’t be a flag waving, protesting gay. Not cool.

    What a load of crap. Call me a jerk but I’m satisfied knowing they got closed down. That doesn’t sound like an attitude that has any place in the adoption process.

    Sorry to hear about all of the added stress! Hopefully everything gets straightened out for you guys soon (and without a huge bill for re-doing the home study).

    • Ryan – Yeah, I have to wonder if the social worker’s behavior was connected to the agency’s larger problems. It really did feel like that old refrain, “I’m okay with gay people, as long as they don’t ‘flaunt it.'” Which of course was just a way of saying gays should stay in the closet and not be truthful the way everyone else is about family, love life, etc.

  3. Wow! The instructing you not to be politically active (which isn’t a requirement for being approved for adoption, and therefore shouldn’t be part of a homestudy). The not calling when they were preparing to close. The not returning your calls about trying to get YOUR homestudy back from them. What a mess!
    It sounds like it’s good that you found about it when you did. Good luck getting things sorted out from here!

  4. Just reading this makes me feel crazy angry, so I can only imagine how you must have felt actually going through it. Don’t you love how you have to do all this training and be uber-perfect to adopt, but apparently being a social worker doesn’t require much sensitivity training at all? (Well, it probably requires a ton–but clearly it didn’t sink in for this woman.)

    I want to protest.

    • I know! I’ve really had to tamp down the anger since it probably won’t help at all when trying to get them to transfer our file. But I’ve definitely researched how to file small claims in court here if they refuse to help us out–and we end up having to pay all over again for a complete home study.

  5. That sounds awful – and stressful. And that social worker was definitely not cool. Amazing that even after you’ve gone through all those hoops, something like this can come up and start a whole new round. I hope everything works out.

    • I’m not really one for believing things are “meant to be,” but I do think the experience will lead somewhere and equip us with some new level of…perseverance? understanding? love for a kid who comes to us only after trying so hard to make it happen?

  6. I have no words. The adoption process is stressful enough- it is invasive, a lot of hard work, a lot of busy work, and emotionally draining. Adding a thoughtless, small-minded social worker to the process is completely unacceptable. It breaks my heart to see two loving parents who just want to add another member to their family be treated as though they are undeserving, or lesser citizens of this world. It disgusts and saddens me. I am so sorry you have to go through this.

    • Thanks….I certainly don’t want to whine about it. We’re so lucky to have one child already. We’ll keep at it and hopefully something positive unfolds soon.

  7. Hi there. I recently found your blog and love it! My wife and I are trying to start our own family here in St. Louis,Missouri.

    Do you know if she actually held a social work degree? Alot of child welfare people are referred to as social workers but are not. It is an embarassment to the profession if she is a full fledged social worker. At the core of social work practice is social justice and advocacy.

    I am sorry that you had to be exposed to ignorance in your own home.

    • Good luck with your family building! Our social worker was indeed license by the state–and now has a new position with seemingly more legitimate agency, working with kids in the foster care system.

  8. Pingback: The latest with the home study and the extinct agency | Regular Midwesterners

  9. My partner and I had our home study a year ago in January and when the social worker arrived she seemed nice enough and not too freaked out by two men. Then she got comfortable with us and shared stories of other families while using the F word quite often; in front of our 2 year old. If that’s the worst of our experience I feel very lucky, and terrible for you to have to go through the experience again. We completed our adoption in Chicago and moved to a small town in MI as soon as the final decree arrived in the mail. Good luck! I have no doubt you know it will be so worth it in the end. Jon

    • Whoa, are you serious?!? That–the F word used to your face–takes the cake. You’re right, though, hopefully all of these adventures and misadventures lead to a good conclusion. I’m glad to hear you were able to adopt, despite the totally inappropriate social worker.

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