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The Homestudy Process

The main section of the assessment process is called the Homestudy. It is when a social worker comes to your house over a period of time and interviews you to see if you would make good prospective adoptive parents.

One of the most important facets of adoption is the 'assessment of suitability' of you as future adoptive parents. 

Long gone are the days that a couple would arrive at an orphanage, saying that they would like to adopt a child, to be handled a bundle and happily leave.  Nowadays, if you want to adopt a child you have to go through rigorous checks, by a third-party, to ascertain that you will make good potential adoptive parents (PAPs). 

The idea behind this, is that if a child is placed with you, then that child needs to be better off with you as his or her parent, then they would be with either their birth parents or in an institution.

Now, of course we all feel that we will make wonderful parents and that of course, a child will be better off with you then they would spending their lives in an orphanage or being with abusive parents. And after all, no one checks up on anyone becoming a parent, as it is the most natural thing in the world, and if it weren't for your body letting you down, no one would be questioning your parenting abilities....

But life is a little more complicated than that, and especially when one comes to international adoption.  The best way that I can explain it is that when a child comes into welfare they become part of the state. Their rights as individuals are taken away and they become 'objectified and commodified' re Barrozo, and universally become termed 'The Child'. All policy then is designed to protect The Child from harm, be it trafficking, loosing his or her cultural and national inheritance or not being safe.  We all agree that the safety of children is of paramount importance.

 When you come forward to adopt a child, then you too, have to step into the state system. Your rights/beliefs as autonomous individuals is put onto the side and for the duration of the adoption you become part of the State apparatus. And as in the old Communist regime, the State knows best.  And like The Child, you become The Parent, except unfortunately, The Parent doesn't command as much attention as The Child!

So, despite how you feel, or your friends and family, it is the state that has to verify your suitability. And in inter-country adoption, there is an understanding between the states, through the Hague Convention of Inter-country Adoption, that they respect each others work.  Thus, India will accept a couple if the UK have approved of them, as will China, Russia, Columbia etc.

There is also a very pragmatic reason that you are assessed as being suitable adoptive parents. Adopted children have their own issues and needs and sometimes PAPs are unaware how this can affect their lives. It is perhaps shocking to hear that at least a dozen children from Russia have been killed by their US adoptive parents. They have come home with their beautiful wanted and longed for children only to end up smothering them, leaving them to freeze to death, dumping them into a bath of boiling water, or simply forgetting them in a car in 32 degree heat.

Here, in the UK there is the infamous Victoria Climbie case which radically reformed child protection laws, and to some extent stifled common sense in adoption.  The following year a couple from Wales, The Kilshaws, illegally adopted twin girls from the United States via the internet. The ensuing huge controversy led to further tightening of the adoption law in the UK and to an inherited dislike of inter-country adoption.

The present government, has commissioned Prof Eileen Munro of London School of Economics to review all child protection procedures in England on the basis that the previous changes had now made the system too bureaucratic and stifled social workers initiative in making difficult decisions. We await two reports coming out this year and are encouraged by the changes being made to get children in care into families.

So, anyone who wants to adopt a child must be assessed to see if they are 'suitable'. This is not a science but rather an art and a very subjective form of art.

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