What is a Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW)?


The Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary defines an LCSW as “a social worker trained in psychotherapy who helps individuals deal with a variety of mental health and daily living problems to improve overall functioning. A social worker usually has a master's degree in social work and has studied sociology, growth and development, mental health theory and practice, human behavior/social environment, psychology, research methods. Abbreviated L.C.S.W.”

There are many licenses that allow individuals with a master’s degree in social work (MSW) to practice; however, the LCSW is the only license that allows a social worker to practice independently and employ other social workers. It is the highest title that one can earn with the MSW. As such, many services can only be provided by a Licensed Certified Social Worker. The adoption home study is one of those services.

How long will the home study take?


We can typically complete a home study within 30 days which is much faster than the average agency. However, the home study is a process that is affected by several factors. Often there are adjustments that the family needs to make to prepare for the child and to meet the criteria set by state law. You can help speed up the process by filling out your paperwork, scheduling your medical appointments, and gathering the required documents without delay.

The time it takes to conduct the home study varies from agency to agency, depending on factors such as how many social workers are assigned to conduct home studies, what other duties they have, and how many other people applied to the agency at the same time. On average the home study process takes 3 to 6 months to complete 1. We can speed up this process because our independence as a private practice allows us to control our case load and therefore focus on delivering the best to each of our clients.

How much does a home study typically cost?


According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, a private agency or certified social worker in private practice might charge from $1,000 to $3,000 for the home study of a domestic infant adoption, intercountry adoption, or independent adoption 1. Our price is definitely on the lower end of this scale because we have relatively low administrative and overhead costs of running our practice. Some factors that affect the cost include what kind of adoption you are pursuing, the level of attention the child and family need to address issues inherent to adoption.

We can usually quote you a price over the phone during a phone consultation interview. Our phone consultations are free. Sometimes in complicated situations, we may need to travel to you to have a consultation interview in person. In these cases, we charge a menial fee to cover travel time and costs. If you are planning to adopt a child from foster care you may not have to pay for the home study. Our agency works with the C.A.L.L. (Children of Arkansas Loved for a Lifetime) to provide adoption home studies free of charge for children in foster homes. If there is a fee, it is often modest ($300 to $500), and once you adopt a child from foster care you can usually obtain reimbursement for this fee. Contact us to find out more or check out their website.

Is there a way to lower the costs of adopting?


At Arkansas Home Study and Counseling Services, we understand that you don’t have to be wealthy to love a child. There are many ways to reduce the costs of adoption including state and federal tax breaks, grants for adopting special needs children, grants for adopting one of the thousands of children in foster care, as well as our own sliding scale reduced fees for those who qualify. One of the easiest and most available ways to lower the cost of adopting is through the IRS tax credit up to $12,500! 2 In addition there are adoption loans available to those who qualify. We can put you in contact with these resources and help you gather the paperwork necessary to claim these benefits (many of which can be found on our Forms page).

Adoption usually takes a lot of planning and saving, however, sometimes families find the need to adopt quite unexpectedly and do not have the savings in place to pay for the adoption process. This is usually the case when a parent or parents are suddenly no longer able to care for their children (i.e. death or incarceration), and the extended family or godparents want to take responsibility for raising the children. We always have the children’s best interest in mind and want to place them in the best home. The best case scenario is to place adoptive children with loved ones and/or to keep the siblings together. As such, we work with families to help lower our fees on an income based sliding scale in order to place these children into loving homes as quickly as possible.

For more information about costs of adoption and resources to help defray those costs, see our Resources page or contact us.

What documents are required for the home study?


  • Birth certificates
  • Tax returns/proof of income
  • 3 – 4 personal references
  • Criminal background check
  • Autobiographical statement from each prospective parent
  • Health statement from your doctor (physical exam from the last 6 months)

What is included in the final home study report submitted
to the state?


The adoption home study final report is separated into five sections which cover major aspects of the family’s life. These sections are titled Personal History, Health Report, Criminal Background, Financial Statement, and Personal Statement.

Personal History:

A comprehensive history is developed on each adult living in the family home. Questions are asked about experience with children, family of origin, education, perspectives on education, employment status, and future plans. Questions may address daily routines, friends, neighborhood and community, extended family and religious activities, if any. Married couples are asked questions about how they met, how long they have been married, the strengths and weaknesses of their relationship, how decisions are made, etc. Single persons are asked questions about their support systems; significant others; availability of child care resources; and so forth. Children in the home are also interviewed (depending on their age and level of understanding) regarding their feelings about a new sibling and what adoption means to them.

Health Report:

A medical history, including a physical exam within the past 12 months, is required for all prospective parents. TB tests are required for every member of the household. A medical condition that is under control (e.g., high blood pressure, diabetes) usually does not prevent being approved to adopt. A serious health problem that affects life expectancy might.

Criminal Background Check:

All adults and teens 16 and older in the household must complete forms that are sent to the state police headquarters and child protective services. Some states or counties require local police clearances, as well as FBI fingerprint checks. People who are registered with any child maltreatment agency for harm to children are not eligible to adopt.

Financial Statement:

You will be asked for recent tax forms and a financial statement listing assets, debts, and family budget. You do not have to be wealthy or to own your own home to adopt. Even if you receive some type of assistance, you are eligible to adopt as long as you have adequate resources to provide for your family. Information on tax breaks during the first year following the adoption is available. Financial assistance in the form of subsidies is often available when adopting children with special needs.

Personal References:

You will be asked for names, addresses and phone numbers of three or four individuals who can attest to your experience with children, the stability of your marriage and/or household, and your emotional maturity. These individuals may be employers, teachers, neighbors, friends and family members.

What might disqualify our family from adopting?


Aside from a criminal record or overriding safety concerns that would preclude agencies from approving your family under your State's laws or policies, characteristics that might disqualify a family in one situation may be seen as strengths in another. Remember, agencies are not looking for "perfect" families. The home study process is a way for a social worker to learn more about your real family, as a potential home for real children.

Who may adopt varies from agency to agency, state to state, and by the child's country of origin. Adoptions in the United States are governed by state law and regulations. Child Welfare Information Gateway has compiled states' laws regarding who may adopt in Statutes at a Glance: Parties to an Adoption 1. Within Arkansas’s guidelines, we are looking for ways to qualify families rather than disqualify them. There are thousands of children in the U.S. foster care system who are waiting for families, and we want to find as many qualified families to meet the needs of these children.

How will the children in our family be involved in the home study? 1


Children in your family (whether they joined your family through birth, foster care, adoption, or marriage) will be included in the home study in some way. Older children may be invited to participate in age-appropriate groups during one or more of the educational sessions. They also might be asked to write a statement describing their feelings and preferences about having a new brother or sister.

We will likely ask how the children do in school, what their interests and hobbies are, what their friends are like, and how their behavior is rewarded or disciplined. However, the emphasis will more likely be on how the children see a new sibling (or siblings) fitting into the family and whether they are prepared to share your time and attention. Children's input is usually quite important in the overall assessment of a family's readiness to adopt a child. We will want to make sure that an adopted child or children will be wanted and loved by all family members from the start.

What are some potential challenges to prepare for?


There are many issues inherent to adopting a child into your family. Some are more common than others, but it is best to be prepared for everything. We help educate the adoptive family and adoptive children on what to expect and how to deal with a variety of these issues. These can include but are not limited to:

  • Addressing feeling of loss of hope for having your own biological child
  • Receiving a child with history of physical/sexual/emotional abuse
  • Bonding issues
  • Child’s feelings of betrayal/abandonment/confused emotions
  • Child’s inadequate coping skills
  • Prenatal exposure to drugs and/or alcohol
  • Addressing fears of transition or the unknown
  • Receiving a child with special needs, developmental disabilities, medical fragility, birth defects, and/or certain behavioral issues
  • Child’s loss of siblings, pets, parents, accustomed routines and previous life
  • Child’s difficulties adjusting to new home, new people, new “norms” and expectations

We are available to our clients throughout the adoption process to assist them in whatever issues they may face. We continue to serve our clients even beyond the home study as requested. If you think you may have any concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

1 (reproduced with permission from http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/f_homstu.cfm)
2 (cited as a 2009 tax break from http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc607.html)