Organizing Your Home Study Paperwork

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You’ve set up the foundations of your home study binder (you haven’t? Check out my process here!) and now you’re ready to start organizing your paperwork.

Here is what you need:

– The Following Expandable Folders from your Home Study Binder

-To Do

-To Copy

-To Send

-Original Documents

– Binder clips

– Sticky notes

– Pen

– 3 Hole Punch

First things first, make copies of EVERYTHING…yep, everything. Make copies of your application before you send it in, we had to reference ours several times. When the agency gives you the giant packet of home study paperwork make copies of all the forms you have to fill out BEFORE you fill them out. This may seem crazy, but these blank forms can’t often be found online and if you mess up or something changes during the adoption process (job, house, etc.), you are going to be stuck waiting for the agency to send you another set of papers. This might be hard to hear, but the agency’s top priority will not be to get you another set of forms. Non-profits are usually run by a small staff, each staff member working his/her ass off for these children, expectant parents, and adoptive parents. Most staff members are working with multiple families and doing multiple jobs and things like mailing out another set of paperwork tend to get pushed to the bottom of the list. The more time you spend with these men and women the more you will recognize how hard they work and how much they care, but at first (as an adoptive parent) you might feel like your needs are being pushed to the side. It’s ok to feel this way, and I once again would suggest finding a therapist or counselor you can talk to. It’s best to face these feelings with another unbiased person behind the scenes so you don’t start harboring resentments towards your agency. I found for myself that I just wanted someone to fight for me- for my rights to become a parent. I wanted someone to have my back and validate this injustice (infertility) I was going through. Your agency wants to help you, and wants to have your back, but their primary job is to fight for the rights of the child(ren) and to counsel and guide expectant parents in crisis. My suggestion? Join a support group, attend waiting parent meetings, GET A THERAPIST! I’m serious! God gifted me with a therapist who was united with her two children through the adoption process. Just having someone to voice my frustrations and hurts to helped me so much. She didn’t feed my feelings of injustice or anger; she validated my feelings and helped me to see the reality of the situation: this agency was doing everything they could to ensure the safety of my child.

Okay, back to the paperwork. Your agency may or may not give you a “Home Study Checklist.” Our agency gave us a Checklist but within the first couple of days of working on paperwork, I realized that this simple checklist was not going to cut it for me. The home study is more than just: do this and check it off the list and my paper soon turned into a colorful display of dates and statuses. The reality of the checklist tends to be more like this:

Fill out this sheet of paper and sign it

Set it aside so your partner can sign it

Make a copy of the specific paperwork for your files

Bring the paperwork to the appropriate vendor, doctor, agency, etc. to fulfill whatever requirement needs to be fulfilled.

Wait for the vendor, doctor, agency, etc. to return the paperwork to you

Scan the returned paperwork and email it over to the adoption agency

Set the original paperwork aside to mail it to the adoption agency

Every now and then this process will be peppered with notarized signatures, payments, lost mail, and animal sacrifices; so you can see how you might have a mental breakdown without some sort of organization set into place.

The second thing I did was create my own Checklist. This checklist not only included the list of requirements, but also had columns to help me keep track of the status of each line item. Here is an example:

Form Parent 1 Parent 2 Other Signatures Notes Mailed/Completed Date
Matching Agreement N/A Copied, scanned, emailed 3/17/17 Mailed 3/21/17
General Medical Forms Dr. Appt. on 4/1/17

Depending on your agency and state you may have different requirements to fulfill, I have attached my checklist for your reference, but this is in no way the list you should use. Feel free to add and remove line items to fit your own agency’s requirements. Homestudy Checklist

The checklist was a great way to get an “At a Glance” view of where I needed to put my energy. It was also a great way to look and see that sometimes the adoption process is just a waiting game: waiting for your partner to fill out his/her forms, waiting for a doctor’s appointment, waiting for your security checks to come back, waiting for lab work to come back, etc. In those times of waiting you may feel like you need to do be doing something, but your checklist may tell you otherwise. You can’t control it all; you’ve done your part so take a break! Have some fun and just enjoy the waiting. (Easier said than done right?)

Third thing: I made sticky notes entitled with the following statuses:

To Fill Out

To Sign

To Be Signed by Others

To Notarize

To Pay

To Scan

To Email

To Copy

To Mail

To Hole Punch

To File

Then I attached a binder clip to each sticky note and most of them set up camp in my “To Do” expandable folder located in my binder. This made it easy for me to shuffle through my papers when I had 5 minutes of free time here and there to make copies or scan forms or whatever. As I would complete a task I would move that specific form to its next status clip. In that way I could have several different papers in several different statuses and not get confused about what paperwork I had already emailed or scanned, etc. It took time to set up the system but it allowed me to work in small 5-10 minute increments throughout the day without having to go through all my paperwork over and over again to figure out what I still needed to do. Plus, each time I moved a form to a new status it felt like I was accomplishing something. Instead of seeing a form as still incomplete because I didn’t have a signature or because I needed to make copies, I saw the form as “filled out” and moved to the “To Sign”  status binder clip. If nothing else, it helped me feel like I was actually making progress.

I used a separate expandable folder for my “To Mail” items, simply because I could just take the folder if I was running out the door to do errands. I didn’t like the idea of all my paperwork sitting in my car, so if my “to mail” items were separate I could grab them and go straight to FedEx and my “to mail” folder would then be empty.

I also had a separate expandable folder for my “To Copy” items, whether or not you do this is up to you. This was due to the fact that I had TONS of papers to copy and they started to take up most of the space in my “To Do” folder. Again, this is the system that worked best for me. This is not the only way to do it; I just want to give you a place to start.

The Fourth Step is to start organizing! I can’t really help you with this piece, but if you have any questions feel free to send me a message or comment. I will say this though: Any originals that I didn’t have to mail out, I made a copy of and put the original in the “Original Documents” expandable folder. All the copies of my documents (even the mailed ones) I then hole-punched and filed behind the “Home Study Documents” tab in the binder. I chose to file my documents in the same order that they were listed on my checklist so they were easier to find.

Well, I think that’s it for now! Next time I will be going over how to organize your expenses and donations. Hurrah!

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