The dreaded home study- this is the adoption version of birthing: tons of paperwork, hours of labor, and a lot of waiting. Many prospective adoptive parents fear the home study because of its daunting nature and mountains of paperwork, but it really doesn’t have to be that scary. I was blessed to be a housewife during our home study process which really allowed me time to organize and reorganize our home study binder until I found a system that worked for me. And I believe God called me to help others who may not have the same luxury of time I was blessed with.
With that being said, this is not the only way or even the best way for YOUR home study binder. This was the best way, so far, that I have found for myself. But I understand that many of you work and may not have extra time built in to your schedule to organize and reorganize a home study binder to fit your needs. I know for myself, when life got super busy and I was still searching for a way to best organize my binder, the paperwork stacked up super fast. Before I knew it I had a binder full of loose papers and I had no idea which documents I already copied and which ones I scanned and emailed before sending out all the originals to the agency. The confusion is enough to make you have a breakdown, IF you don’t have the time to or energy to “deal” with the mess of papers.
First things first, if you are on the verge of a breakdown or at the very least a tantrum, THAT’S OK!!! Go ahead and feel it. It’s ok to be pissed that you have to do this in order to have a baby. It’s ok to be angry with God, He can handle it. It’s ok to cry and mourn over this process. I believe the greatest blessing of the home study process is the very stressful nature of it all. I believe the fact that you will be interviewed about your past, questioned about your parenting, and expected to sign forms stating you promise to vaccinate your child (I agreed, but I still felt like the choice had been taken from me), is all a beautifully challenging way to get us adoptive parents to mourn our inability to conceive our own children. A lot of this process seems unfair because most parents don’t have to go through these hoops in order to have children. And as much as I hated all of that in the moment, it forced me to recognize how hurt I was by the unfairness of it all. It forced me to confront the issues of unfairness with the head of it all: God. The agency was doing their best to help me become a parent, these measures were to cover their butt in case I turned out to be crazy, and most importantly to find a suitable and loving family for these babies that they vowed to protect and speak for. As much as it felt like it, the agency was not causing my feelings of unfairness and hurt, no, I had to take this up with the source of all life: God. So if you find yourself in this place, GREAT! You are well on your way to becoming the parent your child needs! Because this mourning process will help open your heart FULLY to the wonderful child God has planned for you and your family. Every piece of paperwork is a labor pain that is so worth it, I promise. Start working through the emotional crap (I ended up finding a counselor to help), and I will help you organize your home study binder, so you can work through the shit and still have a beautiful binder with everything you need. YAY!
Today, we will simply be putting together the binder. No paperwork just yet, but at the end of today you will have a place to put your paperwork. This binder will be able to store all of your home study paperwork before you are matched with your child and all of your placement documents and progress reports after you matched, so everything for your child will be in one organized place! This is super helpful, especially if you move houses less than a week after you have been matched (Like us).
What You Will Need:
- One 4in Binder (believe me, the bigger the better, even my 4 in binder is about to bust at the seams)
- One set of 8 Tab Dividers
- At least eight Velcro expandable binder pockets (I have 8 and wish I had 2 more)
- One 3 hole punch (not those sissy plastic things you put in your binder, I broke 3 of those before sucking it up and buying a nice hole punch)
- Easy Access to a Printer
1.Go into the kitchen and rustle up your drink of choice, beer, coffee, wine, whatevs, I don’t judge, but I prefer drinks I wouldn’t be allowed to have if I was pregnant; it makes me feel special or something.
2. Download the following pdf for your title-labels-dividers and print them out. Of course you are always welcome to make your own.
3. Let’s get these title pages out of the way first. The large print “Adoption Paperwork” will go on the front of your binder and the smaller version, needs to be trimmed to fit on the binding.
4. Insert your 8 Tab Dividers into the binder. Use the hole punch to punch holes in the 8 Divider Title Sheets and place each title sheet behind its own divider in the following order: “General Info & Notes”, “Application”, “Instruction Sheets”, “Home Study Documents”, “Renewal Documents”, “Home Study Drafts”, “Placement Documents”, and “Progress Reports”
5. Take a moment to cut out the labels for the divider tabs and insert them into the corresponding divider tab (or just write them on the tabs, it’s up to you!).
6. Now, cut out the medium sized square labels along the gray lines. Each one of these labels will be taped on an expandable binder pocket. I taped mine behind the pocket flap to keep it looking nice. Actually, to be completely honest I made these labels for this blog post so that your binder would look nice. Mine was just these same titles scribbled on sticky notes. I put it behind the flap so dust wouldn’t get in there and make my sticky note stop sticking.
7. Some of the locations of these expandable binder pockets are obvious, but some not so much. These expandable binder pockets were the MOST useful items when it came to my home study binder. They easily held packets of paper, loose receipts, business cards, donation checks, etc, without any fear of them falling out of the binder. If I didn’t have time to hole punch some papers, I just slipped them into the “To Do” binder pocket with a sticky not label “to punch” (sometimes I put a picture of a pregnant lady in there with that label on it just for fun. Just kidding…but you know…that feeling is legit.)
At the moment, most of your expandable binder pockets will go behind the “Home Study Documents” tab because you will be using them to organize paperwork that is still be processed and is incomplete, but we will go into more detail with that in a different post. Right now, let’s just focus on getting this binder put together and ready for the eventual paperwork. Place the “To Do”, “To Copy”, “To Send”, and “Original Documents” pockets behind the “Home Study Documents” tab. The “Placement Documents” pocket will go behind the “Placement Documents” divider and the “Progress Reports” pocket will go behind the “Progress Reports” divider. You should have two more pockets: “Donations” and “Receipts & Expenses”. These two pockets I have moved around so many times. It changes based on where we are in the process. When we were accepting donations I had the “Donations” pocket in the very front of the binder. Then every time a check came in I could quickly get it into a safe place until I had time to deposit it and write a thank you note. Now that we have our son and don’t need donations, I keep the pocket in the back of the binder where it stays out of my way. The “Receipt & Expenses” Pocket I like to keep in the back of the binder, simply because I hate looking at it. Really, it can go anywhere as long as you know where it is because this pocket will be your frenemy during every single portion of this process, especially when you go to file your taxes (yup, sorry I brought up taxes, but this will be so helpful I promise!)
8. (Optional Pockets) I would have liked to have an expandable pocket for my photo book ideas and quotes and a pocket on hand in case I needed an extra for some reason. I don’t know why I never bought 2 more pockets…I guess I felt we were already strapped for money with the adoption, but honestly I could have just gotten them.
9. (Optional) Print out some encouraging quotes or bible verses to place in the front and back covers and the front and back pockets. Or just tape them anywhere you will see them. This helped me a lot. I read these bible verses over and over and over and over again, and slowly I started to believe them and feel the truth in them.
10. Close your binder, take 3 deep breaths, and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Your binder might not be full of papers yet, but it is ready and so are you!
I hope this has been helpful so far. If you have any questions do not hesitate to comment below. I will do my best to answer them in a timely manner. Also, keep an eye out for the next Home Study Binder post: Organizing You Home Study Paperwork. Also, please share this with anyone who you think might benefit. Happy Home Studying!