Home study agents for adoption evaluate a family's suitability to adopt a child. Home study agents visit the family's home, interview each family member individually, assess the physical home environment, facilitate criminal background checks and write reports on their findings. Most home study agents are licensed master's degree-level social workers, explains Jessica Ritter, PhD, author of "101 Careers in Social Work." In some states, however, bachelor's-level professionals, licensed mental health counselors and psychologists may also work as home study agents for adoption.
Earn the formal credentials required by your state. The National Adoption Clearinghouse explains that you should contact your state's regulating body to determine your state's regulations regarding adoption professionals. Typically, you will need to earn a master's degree in social work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a master's degree in social work usually takes two to three years of full-time classroom study. Once you have finished your degree, you must complete a 2,000- to 3,000-hour professional internship, take a state licensing exam and pass a background check before you may become licensed as a social worker.
Learn your state's adoption laws. In addition to understanding the general dynamics of adoptive families, home study agents for adoption should understand their state's adoption laws, procedures and regulations. If your social work or psychology program did not focus on the legal component of adoptions, most state child protection agencies and law schools offer training targeted to professional child welfare workers.
Identify settings that hire home study agents. Adoption home study agencies most often work for state child welfare agencies and private domestic adoption agencies. Nonetheless, licensed social workers, mental health counselors and psychologists who work in private practice may also perform home studies independently. When applying for a position in any of these settings, your employer may ask you to submit to criminal and child protective background checks.