Portrait of a happy young African American family standing in front of their American suburban home.

How are Adoptive Families Screened?

If you’ve decided you are ready to move forward with an adoption plan and look for an adoptive family, you may be wondering how to know for sure if an adoptive family is physically, emotionally and financially ready to raise your child.

To protect both you and your child, there are several layers of the screening process an adoptive family will go through before you select them for a “match” and follow the same adoption plan.

Families are screened for the obvious reasons (past felonies, health, finances, etc.) but also for the not-so-obvious reasons (motivations to adopt, health of marriage, parenting styles, adoption preferences and goals, etc.). The more knowledge learned about the adoptive family, the better idea you and your adoption professional have about what life would be like growing up in their family.

There are three ways in which adoptive families are screened:

1. Adoption Home Studies

For a person or couple to be legally eligible for adoption, each state requires the adopting family to complete an adoption home study, a social worker’s investigation into their past and present lives.

A home study consists of many steps, including…

  • Criminal and child abuse background checks at both the state and federal levels
  • Collection of documents, such as financial documents, marriage license, birth certificates, etc.
  • Health and psychological evaluations by licensed professionals
  • Home visit by the social worker, to ensure the home is a safe place in which to raise a child
  • Interviews by the social worker, so she or he can get a better sense of who they are and whether they are truly ready for adoption.

The home study provider analyzes all of the data and either approves or disapproves the family to be eligible to pursue adoption.

2. Adoption Agencies

Once a family completes their first round of screening via their adoption home study, they are then screened by their adoption professional.

A family will complete a variety of documents and answer numerous questions to make sure they are a good fit for the adoption agency and for the pregnant women whom the adoption agency is working with.

For example, some adoption agencies require that their adoptive families are accepting of at least a semi-open adoption relationship with the birth mother that chooses them. It is the adoption agency’s job to educate their adoptive family applicants about semi-open adoption and determine whether they are comfortable with this type of relationship.

Therefore, an adoption agency’s screening process effectively promises birth mothers that their adoptive families have matched the agency’s own requirements and are ready to pursue an adoption plan.

* In an independent adoption, because an adoption agency is not used, this second screening process will likely not occur.

3. Your Own Screening Process

After a family is “active” with an adoption agency, you can be sure they are good people who are ready to start or add to their family. However, not every family is right for every birth mother.

During the “matching process,” a prospective birth mother may view Adoptive Family Profiles, either by browsing an agency’s website or looking through profiles provided by an agency’s social worker.

Once the birth mother finds the right family, she may then ask to participate in a conference call or meeting with the family, where she may conduct her own screening process.

There is no better way for a birth mother to know for sure if a family is right for her and her child than by speaking directly with them, asking them the necessary questions and feeling comfortable when interacting with them.

And remember, as a woman pursuing adoption, the screening process never ends until you sign the consent paperwork after the birth of your baby. If halfway through the adoption you decide the adoptive family is not the best fit, you have every right to find a different family or to choose your mind about adoption completely.