Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Our Home Study Consult: Binders, Manuals, Checklists

Last week we met with one of the social workers who will be managing our case at the adoption agency -- she is our Family Advocate. She is our finger on the pulse of what's happening throughout our process, she is the one we call with questions, she is the one who presents us with the initial stack of forms to fill out and the two-inches-thick Adoptive Parent Manual. She is the one, who after listening to our story of how we got to be sitting there in the giant conference room holding only three people, said the most beautiful words of hope I've heard in a long time:

"You are definitely ready to adopt. Now you are going to be parents." 

This meeting was the Home Study Consultation appointment, and it kick-started our home study process. Which, we found out, is the whole kit and kaboodle of paperwork, education, AND the actual home study visits to our home (I always thought that home study JUST meant the visits). So now, we are not just applicants, but we are prospective parents in the home study process, and once that process is done, we are WAITING ADOPTIVE PARENTS!!! It does not seem quite as overwhelming now that we have the timeline, the to-do lists, the full view of what it takes to get to the point where we are being viewed and hopefully selected by expectant or birth parents. 

For us, at our agency, the meeting looked like this: 
- Introductions
- Any questions before we get started? 
- Tell me about your decisions to adopt -- The Infertility part of the story comes up
- Here is the process -- the handing over of the manila folder filled with forms
          - Homestudy checklist (all paper and documents needed before an appointment can be scheduled with the separate social worker to do the actual home study visits and report)
           - Adoption Agreement (6 pages) read and signed
           - Nope, we have no criminal convictions sworn statement
           - Nope, we have no firearms in the house sworn statement and if for some reason we build an arsenal, we understand what must be done for children to be safe (yeah, so never building an arsenal)
           - drivers licenses and insurance cards copied
           - Pay Home Study Fee (first big chunk of dough, but equivalent to what I spent on injectibles in January, so not quite as painful to part with)
- Explanation of the Education component and the 40 credits we must complete 
            - Five required Home Study Classes, offered as a weekend cluster in Buffalo or Albany, count as 20 credits for both of us. 
             - 20 additional credits to be obtained by each of us, separately (or together if we attend classes together), including credit for books, for talking with other adoptive parents who have completed the process, for watching videos, for taking infant CPR and baby care classes (thankfully they offer these for adoptive parents, so you're not listening to all the pregos on breaks). Sadly there is a cap on reading books, as at this point I've read 5 1/2. :)
- Handing over of the giant Adoptive Parent Education Manual, with the explanation that the first five tabs are related to the classes and we will need to bring it to our class grouping. 
- Any further questions? 
- Handshakes, hugs, general admiring of all the pictures of babies and families on the wall and the placement board in the lobby, and then back out into the frigid cold to discuss everything on the hour and fifteen minute drive home. 

There it is, our actual manual for being a parent. Pardon the glare,
but it worked out fabulously as I wanted to blur out the agency
name and the faces of the adoptive parents on the cover but lack
the know-how to do it. Thank you, snow-sun glare!

Whew! It was about an hour and a half. But the time flew. It felt hopeful. It felt exciting. It also felt overwhelming, as I do not enjoy paperwork in jumbles in a folder. I immediately started brainstorming how to organize all this stuff and make it a process. 

Luckily I am a special education teacher, and organizing scads of paperwork into neat systems is my specialty -- especially now, at this time of IEP Annual Reviews. My Annual Review Binder is a thing of beauty, and I wanted to corral everything pretty similarly for this process. 

I did some research on Pinterest, and asked one of my friends what she did, binder or file box/accordion. I decided on binder. 

And here it is: 
Pretty binder. Even Lucky thinks so. (Little does he know what it means...)

Dividers with pockets! Haven't written on the tabs yet,
because I haven't 100% committed to how all those
glorious sections will be truly organized.

My pride and joy... they gave me a checklist, but I made
my own more detailed checklist and LAMINATED it.
Now we can use a wet erase marker to update what's done!

Ahhhhh. I feel SO much better when things are organized. The dividers hold signed copies of paperwork, paperwork to do (such as the daunting background check papers requiring addresses for 28 years!!!), education credit information, copies of receipts, original documents as we corral them and get them ready to be mailed (oh the joys of both being previously married...). 

That handy dandy checklist makes me feel better, because I made spaces for when we ordered paperwork, when we filled out forms, what appointments we've made, when things are received, and when things are mailed. Don't be too impressed by all the ink on there, this is a two-sided checklist. I am a firm believer in making to-do lists that already have things on them that you've accomplished--so all the paperwork we signed at the consult meeting is at the top. It is a lightening of the load to put a date next to another piece of the puzzle that must be completed! 

Other than this stack of paperwork, we have the classes. Unfortunately, the March classes were full. That was a bummer, as I would love nothing more than to plow through all the requirements to get to the home study visits and ultimately approval to be profiled. The April classes are in Albany, not Buffalo, which is a difference of a few hours and means taking time off of work for both of us, plus potentially driving in the crap weather for longer, plus April is a month with a lot going on. So we're doing the May classes in Buffalo. It sounds so, so far away but in actuality it's less than 3 months. And, we can get all this paperwork done ahead of time so that the classes are the last thing we need in our file before scheduling home study visits. There's just so much information in the classes that I wish we could do them earlier in our process. Oh well, just another reminder that there is still so much out of our control and that we must have peace with the process and any delays/bumps/issues that may come up. I'm sure a delay in taking classes is going to be the least of our bumps in the road, but it sure would be nice if that was it! Har har har. 

So, the first meeting is done and wasn't scary at all -- very warm and welcoming. The paperwork is in hand and we are methodically (obsessively) collecting everything and getting a good chunk of it done during February break. So grateful for this space to run around to county and town offices! We are officially IN THE PROCESS, and that is truly exciting.  


  1. I'm so very excited for you!! I'm also a list lover, and it is rare that a list is made with out something on it that can be crossed off immediately:)

    1. Thank you so much! YES, I think that is the secret to successful list-making. Always put stuff on that is easily completed (or done just SLIGHTLY before you wrote the list). Does wonders for making it a feel-good experience instead of frustrating. Hooray for lists!

  2. Oh my, your initial steps into the adoption process sound just like ours!! We had to wait for our mandatory seminar too, which also disappointed me initially but worked out in the end. Then, I also started looking at the stack of paperwork and re-organizing everything into a format that made sense to us!
    I'm wishing you the absolute best as you begin to navigate and work through the adoption process! In my experience so far, some days are frustrating, but by and far most days are hopeful! :)

    1. I think it's so comforting to have a common experience! I'm trying to think of the later class date as giving us the chance to get all our paperwork in ahead of time and then relax into it, have the classes be the last thing before homestudy visits. I'm loving the parallels, I have to say that following your journey lowers my anxiety a bit. :) Thank you for your good wishes, I wish the same for you and hope for less frustrating days and more of the hopeful ones.

  3. I'm glad you're feeling like you have a handle on things. It definitely seems like everything could get overwhelming if you don't keep organized!

    1. Thank you! Yes, it is a lot when it sits in the manila folder, a giant stack of to-dos, for sure. And I bet it would be even more overwhelming if I didn't serendipitously have February Break from school this week and could really make good headway. Making a further-broken-down checklist helps me feel much more productive, because you can check off every little thing you do and feel a sense of accomplishment sooner. I knew there were benefits to being a control freak! :)

  4. So glad to hear the first meeting went well and you organize like I do (or wish I did haha). Hope you haven't moved too often in the last 28 years ;)

    1. Thank you so much! I am really good at binders, but don't look in my closet or at my zillions of piles of notebooks and books and magazines that drive my husband nuts... Or as I tell my students, "Look at my binders for inspirational organization! LOOK AWAY FROM MY DESK..." Ha. I have 6 addresses for that form, but luckily I remember all the months and it all lined up just so. Whew. Thanks for your thoughts! :)

  5. The power of stationery to help us feel in control! (I actually have a post brewing about stationery, so can understand your pleasure in being ready and organised.)

    I'm so glad you're feeling so positive about this.

    1. Thank you -- I agree, the right office supplies can be life-changing! :) I was really looking forward to getting a pretty binder, and it was such a plus that it had a built-in clipboard in the front inside cover. I look forward to your post! I love pretty post-it notes, too. The giant ones with lines on them make me pretty happy. Thank you for your thoughts, it is beautiful to be in a positive place.

  6. Yay for you first meeting! So glad to hear it went well. I am a fan organization, so I appreciate your binder, list and tabs to be determined. Keep up the great work! May will be here before you know it. :)

    1. Thank you so much! Looking outside it's really hard to imagine May, since it should take until June to defrost from this winter. Har har har. But it will be here in such a short time, and patience in waiting for the class will serve me well in the waits to come. I've waited this long, what's another couple months for a class? :) Thank you so much for your support, much appreciated and loved.

  7. Your binder is beautiful! We're so happy for you both.

    1. Thank you! It provides peace of mind and a sense of accomplishment, for sure. We appreciate your shared happiness!

  8. That is one beautiful binder! I'm so happy to read all these updates in which everything is going just as it should. :)