Once their letters of reference are secured and their home study paperwork is complete, straight and gay would-be adoptive parents face one of the most stressful events of their adoption home study—the dreaded visit or series of visits by a social worker to their home. This is a high-stakes event. This social worker has the power to advance your dreams or stop them dead. Don’t be placated by anyone who tells you, “Relax. Just be yourself.” When has that ever worked for anyone? Here are some suggestions.
By the time your social worker arrives at your doors, she has poured over your home study application and developed her positive or negative preconceptions of you. The instant you answer the door, your attire either reinforces or neutralizes these positive and negative preconceptions—so dress with care.
|Prospective Parents||Suggested Attire|
|Married Straights||You have your social worker’s seal of approval in the bag, unless you blow it. Just imagine you are dressing for a casual dinner with friends. Husbands, pull out your polo shirts with your Ivy League logos. It’s a nice way to telegraph that your child will eventually be granted legacy admission status at Harvard. Wives, avoid skirts showing too much upper thigh. This sets off the social worker’s Britney Spears maternal alarm.|
|Single Straights||Look really well put together, even if you need to call in help. Make sure the home is well decorated and there’s something more in the fridge besides Rocky Road. Social workers will be looking for signals that you have food disorder issues and don’t have your shit together and that’s the reason you’re not married.|
|Gay Males||Strive for an I’m-too-focused-on-becoming-a-parent-to-worry-about-my-appearance look. Avoid tight jeans, muscle shirts, Italian suits, expensive cologne, or flawlessly gelled hair. Look like you wouldn’t mind playing in a playground sandbox, even though you wonder if rats run through it at night and whether birds do their business over it during the day. Yuk!||Lesbians||Femme it up a little (even if you’re not usually inclined to), but not so much that it looks like an act. While some social workers are raging liberals secretly rooting for you, others will share society’s concern that you’ll deny your daughter her birthright to express herself in pinkness, frills and Barbie dolls.|
|Prospective Parents||Staging Suggestions|
|Gay Men|| You are all too familiar with the concept of staging. Your people invented it. Remember when you pretended to be straight in high school? Then when you had your own apartment, you alternated between your gay or straight decor, depending on whether your friends or your family were coming to visit?
Regardless of your income bracket, your home undoubtedly looks magnificent. What you need to do is anti-staging. This involves removing select pieces of fine art and antiques from walls and shelves and placing them into a storage unit so that your home doesn’t look too perfect (too gay) to be welcoming to a small child. Tuck away your artsy coffee table books. Take down the nude male oil painting that has looked down on you seductively for the last ten years. Trash the adult videos (it’s time for Disney DVDs anyway).
|Straight Men and Women||Make sure your priorities are clear. If you’ve been using the second bedroom as a home office, clear it all out and make it look like all it’s missing is the crib and a baby to go in it. If this room has been your entertainment center where you watch football games and Netflix movies on a 60-inch plasma or play Grand Theft Auto into the wee hours to calm your work anxieties, rip the brackets out of the wall, repair the plaster, and repaint in a friendly gender-neutral pastel that says, “We can’t wait to welcome any child the world sees fit to give us.”|
|Lesbians||You need to do something about your second bedroom, too. Your teetering, overloaded bookshelves are filled with hardcover editions of female writers past and present. There are the historical ones who couldn’t face their lesbianism and (since antidepressants weren’t invented) committed suicide; writers who became feminists and then discovered, “Hey, I’m really a lesbian after all”; lesbian mystery writers just in it for the money; and writers you’re sure will prove to be lesbians. And while you’re at it, box up your fifty-volume journal documenting every insult society has dealt you and move it to the circular storage unit.|