How Reliable Is A Home Study? Amber Garrott: Example Of Its Flaws

By AstridBeeMom

When an expectant mother relinquishes her child for adoption she is assured that she is giving her child a “better” life. In America, every family that adopts a child must obtain an approved home study from a licensed social worker or case worker. According to the government site Child Welfare, the home study has 3 purposes:

• Educate and prepare the prospective family for adoption

• Evaluate the capability and suitability of the prospective family to adopt

• Gather information about the prospective adoptive family that will help a social worker match the family with a child or youth whose needs they can best meet (applicable to adoptions in which public child welfare agencies are involved)

For private or domestic infant adoption, a home study can be conducted through a private social worker, not a licensed state worker (think foster to adopt).

Because of the home study process, expectant mothers are assured that every step has been taken to assure this is a suitable and capable home for their child. It is often what is given in lieu of an expectant mother conducting her own research into the family. Most expectant moms don’t have the luxury (or aren’t given the chance) to inspect a prospective adoptive family’s home, obtain their social security numbers or other information to run a background check, obtain medical information from a doctor who provides a physical to assure the prospective parents are in good health, or to interview friends, neighbors, or family members to get a feel for what kind of parents they would be. The home study is supposed to take care of all of this.

How reliable is a home study?

Certainly home studies are very thorough. The technical aspects assure that there are no obvious red flags. Home study criteria will vary from state to state, agency to agency, social worker to social worker. While some things are requirements in every state, such as a background check, other things go above and beyond the minimum requirements and are instituted by the person or organization conducting the home study. A huge component of passing a home study will rely on the judgment of the social worker conducting the home study. This person will get a feel for the family and make a recommendation based on information they have obtained from family and friends, home visits, and the general feeling they get from the prospective adoptive parents. Regardless of all of this, however, home studies are not iron clad or fool-proof. Social workers are human beings and, let’s face it, some just aren’t good judges of character. Also consider that while someone has no history of abuse or neglect, it does not mean they don’t have the potential for it once they are charged with the care-taking of raising another human being. Yet, the home study is the expectant mother’s assurance that their child will be raised in a suitable and capable home.

I am not asserting that all adoptive parents are abusive or neglectful. In fact, I’d say that the majority are not. Just as the majority of natural parents are not. However, according to studies, adopted and step children are more likely to be abused by their adoptive or step parents because of a psychological phenomenon known as the “Cinderella Effect.” This study asserts that biology naturally inclines one to not abuse their own offspring. In reported cases of child abuse, according to the National Center for Health Research, 85% of abuse victims were abused by a biological parent and 1% were abused by an adoptive parent. While those numbers seem to scream that it is safer to be adopted, that knee-jerk reaction would be false. You must take into consideration that less than 2% of the population is adopted while 98% of the population resides with at least one biological parent. Another thing to keep in mind is that not all cases, maybe not even most, of abuse and neglect are actually reported. These statistics back up my assertion that most parents (adoptive or natural) do not abuse or neglect their children.

Biological parents don’t require a home study to keep their children, so why should adoptive parents be held to a higher standard?

If we are talking about placing a child in a permanent home, as a conscious decision, it is of the utmost importance to make sure that child is in a safe, loving, capable, home. Many children who are adopted have already come from situations of abuse and neglect and those children who are adopted at birth, as a conscious decision made by an expectant parent, should have the same standards applied to their living situation if they are not to stay with their natural families. An expectant parent, facing a crisis situation, does not likely have the resources to investigate a family of her choosing to make sure they are safe for her child. For those mothers who didn’t have the luxury to choose a family or who were forced to give up their child, they didn’t even know who to investigate to begin that process. The home study is supposed to be the golden crown. The thing that assures everyone that this child will have a “better” life and be loved, cherished, and protected.

So why do we keep hearing about abused adoptees ? Because it’s not fool-proof. Because it is subject to the expertise of social workers and their judgment of character. Because it is flawed. Unfortunately it is the best we can do. Because of that, expectant parents that are considering adoption should know that it is not fool proof so they can make a sound and informed choice about the fate of their child. When contacting an adoption agency they will be reassured that the families they are shown are all safe, competent, loving and have an approved home study!! They are not told that home studies are not always concrete and that they can only cover so much territory.

I am, by no means, judging parents who suffer from mental illness, or other issues. Some of these parents do very well with the right support system in place. However, if you want to give your child a “better life” then you probably wouldn’t want to consider someone with a mental illness or addiction problem raising your child. Especially if your reasons for giving your child up, in the first place, were because of your own addiction struggle.

Meet Amber Garrott

Amber engaged with a first mom in a forum that had nothing to do with adoption. A first mom expressed her regret about the adoption of her child when the adoptive parents failed to follow through on promises made and, after 11 years, still had not told the child she was adopted. Amber felt the need, as a proclaimed adoptive parent, to dismiss this first mom’s lived experience and correct her.

In addition to being dismissive and correcting the first mom, Amber also seems proud that she has cut contact off with her child’s natural parents. I certainly understand keeping children away from people, no matter who they are, who are unhealthy, but the way Amber presents herself and her story rubs me the wrong way. I couldn’t figure out exactly why until I began reading more of her comments.

twoIn response to the first mom taking issue with her proudly proclaiming she cut off bio parents.

You certainly do, Amber. I don’t disagree. But I still sense something is amiss.

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Well, that’s a low blow. I’m not sure why Amber didn’t expect what came next. A mother expresses her grief and regret and, right away, Amber decides she needs to defend adoption instead of sympathizing. Then she adds insult to injury if you read between the lines. It’s a common scenario. All first moms are either saints or sinners, depending on what you’re talking about. You’re a “selfless, brave, saint” for giving your child up to have a “better” life or you’re a dirty sinner for not taking responsibility and parenting your child.

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6 months sober before relinquishing, then 3 months after relapse. Hmm. Maybe the trauma of relinquishing her child was too much to bear ? I’d like to also point out that Amber has pictures of her and her child’s first mom as recently as 6 weeks ago on her Facebook page. First mom, in one of them, looks like she’s sipping on something intoxicating. Way to go, Amber! If your child’s first mom is an addict then why are you feeding her margaritas ?

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Another low blow. I’m sure there’s more to the story that’s not being told, too. But not by the first mom. Amber is ALWAYS honest and open with her child’s first mom. Remember that.

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Because if an adoptive parents breaks promises it must ALWAYS be the first mom’s fault. Because they would never just do it because they’re insecure or had no intentions of keeping promises to begin with, right Amber ?

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And here it is. Straight from the horse ‘s mouth. This is in response to the first mom saying her child has no idea she’s even adopted. YOU LOSE THAT RIGHT TO SAY ANYTHING ABOUT IT WHEN YOU SIGNED YOUR RIGHTS AWAY. Remember that when you’re considering adoption.

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I thought agencies and attorneys were supposed to protect those expectant mothers, no ?They’re supposed to help them make an “informed” choice. Let’s see what else Amber has had to say about herself.

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A “smidge ” domestic violence ? She couldn’t stop herself ? Holes in the wall from her ? Son needs to go back up for adoption ? Yet she has the nerve to judge other women, including her child’s first mother. This is what passed a home study.

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But I thought her child’s first mom was the drug addict ?

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Her husband had her put on a 72 hour psych hold ? She should win mother of the year ! This child is surely getting a MUCH better life than he would have with his first mom.

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Let’s revisit her reasoning for cutting off the first parents. She had good reason, remember ? She’s very honest with her child’s first mom. Maybe Amber should consider cutting herself off – with good reason. Did you catch that her husband’s a cop ? Is that how she passed a home study ? Is that why she gets away with it ? The only “police department” page that Amber has like on her Facebook page is that of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana.

I will reiterate, I am not claiming that all or most adoptive parents are abusive, drug addicts, or unstable. What I AM saying is that expectant parents, considering adoption, need to understand that, like Amber said, you should educate yourself a little better before making such a life-altering decision. I sure know that if I knew that my child could have got parents like Amber, I would have run the other way.

INFORMED CONSENT is NOT what agencies, social workers, attorneys, prospective adoptive parents, the media is giving you. Anyone whose livelihood relies on adoption (see, their job, their income) is not going to give you these ugly details. It is up to you to decide if you can live with this risk – if you’re okay with this being the potential outcome. Your child, unfortunately, can’t decide for you. They have no choice at all.
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About the Author

Astrid Beemom
"I am a mother to four parented children, first mother to one beautiful daughter, and wife to my husband. In my free time I hang out with my little Yorkie mix and my aloof Siamese cat. I blog mostly about all things related to adoption and it does focus more on unethical adoptions and practices within the adoption industry. My own adoption story was conducted quite ethically, in my opinion, but that does not take away from the reform that is still needed. I co-manage a birthmothers support group, as well as a couple birth family and adoptee support groups online. I believe it is through sharing and learning, from all sides, that real change can happen. I was not forced (unless you count my circumstances, that left me with no choice) into adoption, but I know many who were. And regardless of how ethical my child’s adoption was handled, it still sucks to be forced by circumstances to that “choice.” Occasionally I will blog about other aspects of my life. Above all else I believe it is essential for the voices of the adoptee and birth families to be heard." FInd Astrid at : http://musingsofabirthmom.com/

1 Comment on "How Reliable Is A Home Study? Amber Garrott: Example Of Its Flaws"

  1. w0w… but somehow i do believe her when she says she gets along well with the birth mom.

    mindboggling. amber’s own flaws overshadow a fine point you made that bmoms are seens as saints or sinners.. yes. even today. by the adoptive parents. maybe by society. and likely at some point by their adopted out kids? i wish this was public knowledge, wisdom. can’t imagine the pain they are set up to feel throughout their lives.

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