Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption - California

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Who Must Be Studied

Citation: Fam. Code § 8811

Each person filing an adoption petition and any adult living in the prospective adoptive home must be included in the investigation.

Agency or Person Conducting the Study

Citation: Fam. Code § 8811

The Department of Social Services (DSS) or a delegated county adoption agency shall conduct the assessment and investigation.

Qualifications for Adoptive Parents

Citation: Fam. Code § 8601

A child may be adopted by an adult who is at least 10 years older than the child. An exception to this requirement may be made if the adoptive parent is a stepparent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, or first cousin of the child and, if that person is married, is adopting jointly with his or her spouse.

Elements of a Home Study

Citation: Fam. Code §§ 8811; 9001; Code of Regs., Tit. 22, §§

Each person filing an adoption petition must submit fingerprints and obtain from an appropriate law enforcement agency any criminal record to establish whether he or she has ever been convicted of a crime other than a minor traffic violation. DSS or a delegated county adoption agency may also secure the person's full criminal record, if any, with the exception of any convictions for which relief has been granted pursuant to § 1203.49 of the Penal Code.

The criminal record, if any, shall be taken into consideration when evaluating the prospective adoptive parent, and an assessment of the effects of any criminal history on the ability of the prospective adoptive parent to provide adequate and proper care and guidance to the child shall be included in the report to the court.

A home study shall be conducted that consists of a physical investigation of the premises where the child will reside.

In regulation: The agency shall assess the petitioners to determine their suitability as adoptive parents by doing the following:

  • Conducting interviews as necessary to make the assessment
  • Obtaining the following documentation:
    • A report of a medical examination on the petitioner
    • School reports for all school-age children residing in the home
    • Certification that each adult residing in the home is free from communicable tuberculosis
    • At least three letters of reference regarding the suitability of the petitioner as an adoptive parent
    • The full State criminal record, if any, from the State Department of Justice
  • Evaluating the following information:
    • Current employment and financial stability
    • Verification of marital status, if relevant
    • Feelings and attitudes that may impact the adoption
    • Social and educational background
    • Adequacy of housing

Grounds for Withholding Approval

Citation: Fam. Code §§ 8811; 8822

Under no circumstances shall DSS or a delegated county adoption agency give final approval for an adoptive placement in any home in which the prospective adoptive parent or any adult living in the prospective adoptive home has either of the following:

  • A felony conviction for child abuse or neglect; spousal abuse; crimes against a child, including child pornography; or for a crime involving violence, including rape, sexual assault, or homicide
  • A felony conviction that occurred within the past 5 years for physical assault, battery, or a drug- or alcohol-related offense

DSS or a delegated county adoption agency may find that the home of the petitioners is not suitable for the child and recommend that the petition be denied.

When Studies Must Be Completed

Citation: Fam. Code § 8811.5; Code of Regs., Tit. 22, § 35091

The preplacement evaluation, whether it is conducted for the purpose of initially certifying prospective adoptive parents or for renewing that certification, shall be completed no more than 1 year prior to the signing of an adoption placement agreement.

In regulation: The agency shall complete the assessment and report to the court with a recommendation within 180 days of the filing of the adoption petition, unless an extension of time has been granted by the court.

Postplacement Study Requirements

Citation: Code of Regs., Tit. 22, §§ 35299 through 35309

The agency shall supervise the adoptive placement of the child with the prospective adoptive parent unless the child was adopted abroad. The supervision shall commence when the child is placed with the prospective adoptive parent and continue until a final decree of adoption is granted or the child is removed from the home of the prospective adoptive parent.

The duration of the supervisory period shall be no less than 6 months, unless the following apply:

  • The adoptive parent has successfully completed the adoption of another child in California within the past 5 years.
  • The adoptive parent is in the military service of the United States or is employed by the American Red Cross and completion of the 6-month supervisory period would delay completion of an adoption that the agency has determined should be completed.

During the supervisory period, the agency shall provide the following services, as needed, to the prospective adoptive parent and the adoptive child so that the child may be integrated successfully into the family:

  • Liaisons between the family and schools, mental and physical health agencies, rehabilitation service agencies, and other community resources
  • Updates of the psychological and medical history form to reflect any additional information revealed during the supervisory period
  • Updates of the assessment of the child to reflect any additional information discovered during the supervisory period

During the supervisory period, the agency shall conduct at least one interview in the home of the prospective adoptive parent with the parent and the adoptive child. The agency shall conduct at least three additional interviews with the prospective adoptive parent unless the duration of the supervisory period has been reduced to less than 6 months.

Exceptions for Stepparent or Relative Adoptions

Citation: Fam. Code §§ 8730; 9001

An abbreviated home study assessment may be completed for any of the following persons:

  • A licensed foster parent with whom the child has lived for a minimum of 6 months
  • An approved relative caregiver or nonrelated extended family member with whom the child has an ongoing and significant relationship
  • A court-appointed relative guardian of the child who has been investigated and approved pursuant to the guardianship investigation process and has had physical custody of the child for at least 1 year

Unless otherwise ordered by a court, an abbreviated home study shall include, at minimum, all the following:

  • State and Federal criminal records checks
  • A determination of the following for the applicant:
    • Has sufficient financial stability to support the child and ensure that an adoption assistance program payment or other government assistance to which the child is entitled is used exclusively to meet the child's needs
    • Has not abused or neglected the child while the child has been in the applicant's care and has fostered the healthy growth and development of the child
    • Is not likely to abuse or neglect the child in the future and can protect the child, ensure necessary care and supervision, and foster the child's healthy growth and development
    • Can address 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 DSS, the county adoption agency, or a licensed adoption agency of all previous guardianship investigation reports, home study assessments, and preplacement evaluations of each applicant

Unless ordered by the court, no home study may be required of the petitioner's home in a stepparent adoption.

Requirements for Interjurisdictional Placements

Citation: Fam. Code §§ 7907.5; 7901.1

A child who is born in this State and placed for adoption with a person who is not a resident of this State is subject to the provisions of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, regardless of whether the adoption petition is filed in this State. In interstate placements, this State shall be deemed the sending State for any child born in the State.

Within 60 days of receipt of a request from another State to conduct a study of a home environment for purposes of assessing the safety and suitability of placing a child in the home, a county child welfare agency shall do, directly or by contract, both of the following:

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

Foster to Adopt Placements

Citation: Fam. Code § 8730

If the prospective adoptive parent of a child is a foster parent with whom the child has lived for a minimum of 6 months, the assessment or home study procedure is the same as for a relative caregiver.

Links to Resources

Adoption Regulations (webpage) (California Department of Social Services)