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What to Expect: Psychological Evaluation for Adoption

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

Adoption can be a difficult and emotional process for a couple. The required psychological evaluations are comprised of an interview and an assessment. There is no studying, so just be yourself.


From my experience, home visits and psychological evaluations can be two of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of the adoptive process.  Naturally everyone wants to put their best foot forward. The fear that one might say something off the mark is lurking in each person’s mind as the meeting with the social worker and/or psychologist begins.  Furthermore, many people express the very natural and normal feeling of anger at having to be evaluated for fitness as a parent. 

Often times this feeling of anger is more pronounced if the couple attempting to adopt has had several unsuccessful attempts to have a child of their own.  The question in their minds might be:

“Why did Jane Doe accidentally get pregnant with her third when she is completely overwhelmed with two, while we so badly want a child and have to jump through these hoops?” 

This is a normal part of the emotional adoptive process and it is to be expected.  Acknowledging this feeling and processing it prior to, during and after the home visits and psychological evaluation can be beneficial for:

  • One’s own mental health and well-being

  • Assisting the person to put his or her best for forward.

Many people express the very natural and normal feeling of anger at having to be evaluated for fitness as a parent. 

The Interview Portion

Psychological evaluations are typically part of the international adoption process.  Each host country has its own requirements for what the evaluation should include and the length of the report.  Nonetheless, the process of the psychological evaluation remains the same.  One can expect a psychological evaluation to last about three hours.  The first hour is spent in an interview type of setting between the potential adoptive parent(s) and the psychologist.  This is an area where some potential parents may feel frustrated because many of the questions are the same questions asked during the home study. 

It is important and ethical, however, for the psychologist to conduct his/her own interview.  This serves three purposes:

  1. To establish rapport with the parents-to-be

  2. For the psychologist to be able to make his/her own assessment independent of the home study report

  3. For the psychologist to be able to accurately interpret any assessments that may be used during the evaluation

In regard to this latter point, it would be unethical for a psychologist to conduct an assessment without an interview and then attempt to interpret that assessment.  Assessments should not be interpreted without some type of framework and this is what the interview provides.

The Assessment Portion

Regarding the assessment, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 or the MMPI-2, is typically the assessment of choice and is the assessment requested by most host countries.  The MMPI-2 specifically is a 567 question, true or false test that takes about two hours to complete.  Due to the sensitive nature of the testing material, the test must be conducted in the office and is not to be taken home to be completed at will.

There is no preparation or studying needed.  Simply answering the questions as accurately and as best one can is all that is required.  It is important to know that this is an assessment of psychopathology.  In other words it does not predict the future or assess one’s ability to acquire millions of dollars but it is assessing for a person’s ability to be in touch with reality, depression, anxiety, etc.  It is natural to be anxious about taking such an assessment, especially when some of the questions may seem as if they have absolutely nothing to do with an adoption evaluation.   Having depression around failed IVF attempts is normal.  Being sad a loved one has passed is to be expected.  It is important to remember that this test is looking for psychopathology, not pre-test jitters or a normal response depression.

The Adoption Assessment Report

After the assessment is completed, the psychologist prepares the letter or report required by the host country.  Most adoption agencies provide a sample letter or report of what is required by the host country.  Some agencies also request a review of the report prior to submission – not to change content but to look for wording issues that can be misconstrued due to cultural differences or interpretation issues.    Almost all countries require that the letter or report be notarized and often a copy of the psychologist’s license is also required.  The MMPI-2 is sent away to be scored and depending on how long the scoring process takes it will affect how long it takes to generate the letter or report.  One can expect it to take approximately two to four weeks after the meeting with the psychologist.

In conclusion, as you’ve likely been guided through the whole adoptive process, it is important to simply be yourself.  It is normal in life to have highs and lows and acknowledging and expressing those feelings is part of simply being yourself.

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