I'm a mom who has a child I adopted through foster care. He was placed with us as a newborn, we finalized his adoption at 13 months (maybe 5 months after the parents suddenly decided to relinquish their rights??), and he is now 16.5 months old.
We were foster parents for a few years before adopting, though our first foster child was supposed to be with us in a "permanent placement" even though he wasn't eligible for the states adoption programs, but was moved sadly after only being with us for a little less than a year. Once we entered the foster-adopt program, we took one short-term placement that we knew ahead of time would be short-term, and right after that, ds came to live with us. So it wasn't long until we adopted...from the time our adoptive homestudy was completed and approved by the department to the time of placement of ds was about three months, and then it was 13 more months until the adoption was finalized. That's a total of 16 months, after the homestudy was over (it took eight months, however, to get the homestudy done, in part because the state was so understaffed it was hard to get appointments...so a total of 24 months from when we began the adoptive homestudy to our adoption finalization).
Foster-adopt is quite the roller-coaster, but in the end, I think it was a good thing for us to do (though I know I might have sworn it off had we "lost" this little one at some point). I have discussed our journey extensively on here, so if you poke around, you'll probably find posts from me in almost all stages of the experience. I'd be happy to answer any specific questions you might have too. In terms of the two questions you posted already...
1. About them "nosing" in your business, one thing you should know about dealing with foster care is that nothing is private. Your life becomes pretty accessible during the whole thing. First there is paperwork in which you have to answer all sorts of questions about your upbringing, your parenting styles, your health and medical histories as well as that of your children, etc. And in our state we also had to get letters from our docs stating that we were healthy enough to adopt, etc., as well as four letters of references from friends, coworkers, and relatives. And then they spent hours interviewing us and combing your home to make sure it meets a list of standards. To complete the adoptive homestudy required two homevisits with both of us present, and then one office-interview of each of us. They may want to talk to your kids with or without you present. And after all that, once you have a foster placement, there are regular homevisits (I think it is either every 30 or 90 days here now...it recently changed in our state) from the social worker to visit with the child in his/her foster home, there are documents written for the court reviewing the child's placement, and there may be other things that come up (for example, in our case, the birth relatives wanted to meet us and spend time with us before saying for certain that they wouldn't take the placement themselves-- even though none were in a position to accept the placements-- since the state gives priority to birth family placements). It's just not very private at all. Having said that, I don't want to scare you off. In my state, homeschooling and stuff like that isn't necessarily seen as a bad thing. And, sometimes if a state is understaffed, things like homevisits are rushed and not particularly invasive. With some foster placements, we've had the social workers want the foster kids to show them around the house and their room, etc...but with our foster-adopt son, when he was in foster care and recieving regular homevisits, the social worker always just visited with us for a while in our living room and never once asked to see his crib, etc. I would feel things out at your state.
2. Honesty in the system...hmmm, that's a difficult one. Our experiences have been mixed, and a lot just depends on who the social worker is (after a while you might get to know some social workers for being honest or not-so-much, etc.) and the circumstances. In general, I've found lots of vague statements made before placement. I think this is partly to protect the child's privacy in case the placement doesn't pan out. I think it also has to do with social workers being desperate to make the placements, and not necessarily wanting to disclose all the challenges. I wouldn't say I've experienced too much blatant dishonesty. In one case, when we were licensed through a private agency contracted by the state, we experienced a lot of dishonesty. But in all other cases, it is usually just a matter of folks painting the picture through rose-colored glasses...not real lies, but just a focus on the possibilities of very positive things like potential for adoption (we had one placement we accepted and then the child never even entered into foster care...and amazingly they had been saying it might pan out to be an adoption...what hooey!), child's strengths without also sharing potential challenges, etc.
After placement, I think it almost always depends on the social worker. We've had social workers wait until the last minute to tell us a child was going back home, and social workers who tried to give us as much warning as possible. We've had social workers who walked us through the process step-by-step, and social workers who barely communicated.
I think it helps if you make an effort to be in touch with the social worker on a regular basis, tell them how important it feels for you to have honest assessments of the situation, ask *specific* questions (actually, this is my all-time number one tip), always clarify when a statement is made that doesn't make sense or that you don't understand, show up at court whenever there are open hearings of any type, be friendly with and be in touch with as many members of the team as you can (the child's CASA, the social worker, etc.), and make buddies with the child's social worker as much as possible.
My best to you!
I'm pro-adoption reform, but not anti-adoption.