Home Study Requirements for Prospective Foster Parents - California

Date: February 2018

Who May Apply

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code § 16519.5

The Department of Social Services shall implement a unified, family-friendly, and child-centered resource family approval process to replace the existing multiple processes for licensing foster family homes, certifying foster homes by licensed foster family agencies, approving relatives and nonrelative extended family members as foster care providers, and approving guardians and adoptive families.

A 'resource family' is an individual or family that has successfully met both the home environment assessment standards and the permanency assessment criteria necessary for providing care for a child placed by a public or private child-placing agency by court order, or voluntarily placed by a parent or legal guardian. A resource family shall demonstrate all of the following:

  • An understanding of the safety, permanence, and well-being needs of children who have been victims of child abuse and neglect and the capacity and willingness to meet those needs, including the need for protection, and the willingness to make use of support resources offered by the agency, or a support structure in place, or both
  • An understanding of children's needs and development; effective parenting skills or knowledge about parenting; and the capacity to act as a reasonable, prudent parent in day-to-day decision-making
  • An understanding of his or her role as a resource family and the capacity to work cooperatively with the agency and other service providers in implementing the child's case plan
  • The financial ability within the household to ensure the stability and financial security of the family
  • An ability and willingness to provide a family setting that promotes normal childhood experiences that serves the needs of the child

A resource family shall be considered eligible to provide foster care for children in out-of-home placement and shall be considered approved for adoption and guardianship.

Training Requirements

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code §?16519.5

A resource family applicant must complete a minimum of 12 hours of preapproval caregiver training. The training shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following courses:

  • An overview of the child protective system
  • The effects of trauma, including grief and loss, and child abuse and neglect
  • Positive discipline and the importance of self-esteem
  • Health issues in foster care
  • Accessing services and supports to address education needs, physical, mental, and behavioral health, and substance use disorders
  • The rights of a child in foster care and the resource family's responsibility to safeguard those rights
  • The cultural needs of children, including instruction on cultural competency and sensitivity
  • Instruction on existing laws and procedures regarding the safety of foster youth at school
  • Permanence, well-being, and education needs of children
  • Child and adolescent development, including sexual orientation and gender identity
  • The role of resource families
  • A resource family's responsibility to act as a reasonable and prudent parent and to provide a family setting that promotes normal childhood experiences and that serves the needs of the child

Resource families also must complete a minimum of 8 hours of caregiver training annually. In addition, a county may require a resource family to receive specialized training for preparing the resource family to meet the needs of a particular child in care. This training may include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Caring for commercially sexually exploited children
  • Caring for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children
  • Best practices regarding psychotropic medications
  • The Federal Indian Child Welfare Act
  • Caring for nonminor dependents
  • Caring for children with special health-care needs
  • Understanding the different permanency options and the services and benefits associated with the options

Minimum Standards for Foster Homes

Citation: DSS Manual Tit. 22, § 89387

The caregiver shall provide bedrooms in the home that meet, at a minimum, the following requirements:

  • No more than two children shall share a bedroom.
  • Children of a different sex shall not share a bedroom unless each child is younger than age 5. A minor parent may share a bedroom with his or her child of the opposite sex.
  • Except for infants, children shall not share a bedroom with an adult.
  • No room commonly used for other purposes shall be used as a bedroom. Such rooms include, but are not limited to, halls, stairways, unfinished attics or basements, garages, storage areas and sheds or similar detached buildings.
  • No bedroom shall be used as a public or general passageway to another room.

The caregiver shall provide each child with an individual bed that is equipped with a clean, comfortable mattress and clean linens, blankets, and pillows. Beds shall be arranged to allow easy passage between beds and easy entrance into the room. The caregiver shall provide each infant with a safe and sturdy bassinet or crib, appropriate to the age and size of a child.

The home shall be clean, safe, sanitary, and in good repair at all times. The licensee shall take measures to keep the home reasonably free of flies and other insects.

Except a home with a sprinkler system, a home shall have an approved, commercially manufactured, and functioning smoke detector installed in the hallway in each sleeping area in the home. Every foster family home shall have one or more carbon monoxide detectors in the home. The caregiver shall maintain at least one toilet, sink, and tub or shower in safe, clean operating condition. Bathrooms shall be located inside the home.

The caregiver shall ensure the safety of a child in a home that has fireplaces, open-faced heaters, or woodstoves.

The licensee shall prohibit smoking inside the home. Smoking on the outside of the home is permitted, as long as the child is not present.

Approval Process

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code § 16519.5

Resource family home environment assessment standards shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:

  • A criminal record clearance of each applicant and all adults residing in, or regularly present in, the home
  • Consideration of any substantiated allegations of child abuse or neglect against the applicant and any other adult residing in, or regularly present in, the home
  • A home and grounds evaluation to ensure the health and safety of children

In addition, the resource family home environment assessment standards shall also require the following:

  • That the applicant demonstrates an understanding about the rights of children in care and his or her responsibility to safeguard those rights
  • That the total number of children residing in the home of a resource family shall be no more than the total number of children the resource family can properly care for, regardless of status, and shall not exceed 6 children, unless exceptional circumstances exist to permit a resource family to care for more children, including, but not limited to, the need to place siblings together
  • That the applicant understands his or her responsibilities with respect to acting as a reasonable and prudent parent and maintaining the least restrictive environment that serves the needs of the child

The resource family permanency assessment standards shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:

  • Caregiver training
  • A psychosocial assessment of an applicant, including the results of a risk assessment
  • Completion of any other activities that relate to the ability of an applicant or a resource family to achieve permanency with a child

A caregiver risk assessment shall include, but not be limited to, physical and mental health, alcohol and other substance use and abuse, and family and domestic violence.

Grounds for Withholding Approval

Citation: Health and Safety Code § 1522; Welf. & Inst. Code § 16519.61

Approval of the application shall be denied if the applicant has convictions that would make his or her home unfit as a resource family home. No exemptions can be granted for any crime listed below:

  • Gang-related extortion or intimidation of witnesses or victims
  • Murder, attempted murder, or voluntary manslaughter
  • Mayhem or felony torture
  • Kidnapping
  • Robbery, burglary, arson, or carjacking
  • Assault with intent to commit mayhem, rape, or sodomy
  • Rape or sexual battery
  • Sexual exploitation of a minor
  • Aggravated assault of a child
  • Contributing to the delinquency of a minor
  • Willfully inflicting any cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or injury on a child
  • Incest, sodomy, or lewd or lascivious act upon a child under age 14
  • Felony conviction for distributing lewd material to children
  • Sexual abuse of a child
  • All crimes for which one must register as a sex offender
  • Distributing or possessing child pornography
  • Poisoning or adulterating food, drink, medicine, pharmaceutical products, or water supplies
  • Elder or dependent adult abuse
  • Drawing, exhibiting, or using a loaded firearm
  • Molestation of a child younger than age 18
  • Any felony punishable by death or imprisonment in the State prison for life
  • Any felony that inflicts great bodily injury
  • Exploding, igniting, or attempting to explode or ignite any destructive device or explosive with intent to commit murder
  • Felony sexual exploitation by a physician, psychotherapist, counselor, etc.

A resource family application may be denied for any of the following reasons:

  • Violation of § 16519.5 or the regulations adopted pursuant to § 16519.5
  • Conduct that poses a risk or threat to the health and safety, protection, or well-being of a child or another individual
  • The conviction of the applicant at any time before or during his or her approval of a crime described above
  • Engaging in acts of financial malfeasance

Kinship Foster Care

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code §§ 309(d); 361.4(a)

If a relative or a nonrelative extended family member is available and requests emergency placement of the child pending the detention hearing or after the detention hearing and pending the dispositional hearing, the county welfare department shall initiate an assessment of the relative's or nonrelative extended family member's suitability for emergency placement pursuant to § 361.4.

Upon completion of the assessment, the child may be placed in the home on an emergency basis. Following the emergency placement of the child, the department shall evaluate and approve or deny the home pursuant to § 16519.5. The county shall require the relative or nonrelative extended family member to submit an application for approval as a resource family and initiate the home environment assessment no later than 5 business days after the placement.

Prior to making the emergency placement of a child, the department shall do all of the following:

  • Conduct an in-home inspection to assess the safety of the home and the ability of the relative or nonrelative to care for the child's needs
  • Cause a State-level criminal records check to be conducted by an appropriate government agency for all of the following:
    • All persons over age 18 living in the home, excluding any person who is a nonminor dependent
    • At the discretion of the department, any other person over age 18 known to the department to be regularly present in the home, other than professionals providing professional services to the child
    • At the discretion of the department, any person over age 14 living in the home who the department believes may have a criminal record
  • Conduct a check of allegations of prior child abuse or neglect concerning the relative or nonrelative extended family member and other adults in the home

Foster to Adopt

Citation: Fam. Code § 8730

The department, county adoption agency, or licensed adoption agency may provide an abbreviated home study assessment for a licensed or certified foster parent with whom the child has lived for a minimum of 6 months.

Unless otherwise ordered by a court with jurisdiction over the child, home study assessments completed pursuant this section shall include, at minimum, all of the following:

  • A criminal records check, as required by all applicable State and Federal statutes and regulations
  • A determination that the applicant has sufficient financial stability to support the child and ensure that any adoption assistance program payment or other government assistance to which the child is entitled is used exclusively to meet the child's needs
  • A determination that the applicant has not abused or neglected the child while the child has been in his or her care and has fostered the healthy growth and development of the child
  • A determination that the applicant is not likely to abuse or neglect the child in the future and that the applicant can protect the child, ensure necessary care and supervision, and foster the child's healthy growth and development
  • A determination that the applicant can address any issues that may affect the child's well-being, including, but not limited to, the child's physical health, mental health, and educational needs
  • Interviews with the applicant, each individual residing in the home, and the child to be adopted
  • A review by the department, county adoption agency, or licensed adoption agency of all previous guardianship investigation reports, home study assessments, and preplacement evaluations of each applicant

Interjurisdictional Approval

Citation: Fam. Code § 7906.5

Within 60 days of receiving a request from another State to conduct a home study to assess the safety and suitability of placing a child who is in the custody of the requesting State, the county child welfare agency shall, directly or indirectly, do both of the following:

  • Conduct and complete the home study
  • Return to the requesting State a report on the results of the home study that addresses the extent to which placement in the home would meet the needs of the child

Nothing in this section shall be construed to require the county to have completed, within the applicable period, those portions of the home study concerning the education and training of the prospective foster parent or adoptive parent.

The county shall treat any home study report that is received from another State, Indian Tribe, or private agency under contract with another State, as meeting any requirements imposed by the State for the completion of a home study before placing a child in the home, unless, within 14 days after receipt of the report, the county determines, based on grounds that are specific to the content of the report, that making a decision in reliance on the report would be contrary to the welfare of the child.

Links to Resources

Code of Regulations, Title 22, Division 6, Chapter 9.5, Foster Family Homes