Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption - Delaware

Date:

Who Must Be Studied

Citation: Code of Regs. 9-200-201, Part III

The adoptive parents and other members of the household must be included in the study.

Agency or Person Conducting the Study

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 13, § 904

The preplacement evaluation must be completed by the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (DSCYF) or a licensed agency.

Qualifications for Adoptive Parents

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 13, § 903; Code of Regs. 9-200-201, Part III

A person who is at least age 21 and a resident of Delaware may adopt. The person may be single, married, divorced, or legally separated.

In regulation: The agency shall ensure that the adoptive parent applicant meets the following criteria:

  • Demonstrates emotional stability, good character, a responsible adult lifestyle, freedom from abuse of alcohol or any legal drug, or use of any illegal drug
  • Has the ability to provide nurturing care, supervision, reasonable positive behavior management, and a home-like environment that is free from domestic violence
  • Demonstrates a capacity for setting a realistic expectation for behavior and performance based on the age, abilities, and special needs of a child
  • Demonstrates a willingness and ability to discuss and deal appropriately with his or her own feelings of anger, frustration, sorrow, conflict, and affection and those of others
  • Shows evidence of a stable living arrangement for at least 1 year
  • Has income to meet the needs of a household and ensure the household's security and stability

The agency shall ensure an applicant who works outside the home provides a child care plan to the agency. An adoptive parent applicant must obtain approval from the agency for a business conducted in a home showing business activities will not interfere with the child's care.

Elements of a Home Study

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 31, § 309; Code of Regs. 9-200-201, Part III

A background check for applicants wishing to become adoptive parents and their adult household members shall consist of the following:

  • A fingerprint-based Delaware and national background check completed by the State Bureau of Identification and the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • A child protection registry check completed by DSCYF

In regulation: The agency shall have four written references or telephone notes on such references for an applicant. At least three of these references shall be from a person not related to the applicant. The agency shall visit an applicant's home and inspect all rooms and the grounds to observe if the home is maintained in such a manner that it does not present a threat to the health and safety of all occupants.

The agency shall meet with an applicant at least three times. The location of the meetings shall include the following:

  • At least one meeting in the home of the applicant that includes meeting with any other household member
  • Two more meetings at the agency or a location where an adoptive parent applicant can be provided the space to be privately and individually interviewed

The home study shall include a written evaluation that addresses the following regarding the applicant:

  • Motivation for and attitudes toward adoption
  • Willingness and ability to work cooperatively with the agency in the best interests of the child
  • Emotional strengths and weaknesses and philosophy on child rearing, positive behavior management, parental role, and experience with a child
  • Communication and problem-solving skills
  • Marital and family relationships
  • Family history, including his or her early home life
  • Feelings on the type of child he or she is able and willing to adopt

Grounds for Withholding Approval

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 31, § 309; Code of Regs. 9-200-201, Part III

The following criminal convictions or entries on the child protection registry shall prohibit an applicant from being approved for the amount of time indicated:

  • A lifetime prohibition for felony convictions involving physical or sexual assault crimes against a child, an adult who is impaired, or an elderly person
  • Prohibition for 10 years for felony convictions involving physical or sexual assault crimes against another adult
  • Prohibition for 7 years for all other felony convictions, unless the felony is included within the crimes that can lead to entry on the child protection registry, in which case the length of time for the prohibition shall be as provided in the child protection registry regulations
  • Prohibition for 7 years for misdemeanor convictions against children, unless the misdemeanor is included within the crimes that can lead to entry on the child protection registry, in which case the length of time for the prohibition shall be as provided for in the child protection registry regulations

In regulation: A person who is active on the Delaware child protection registry at a level III or level IV is prohibited from being an adoptive parent while on the child protection registry. Approval of an application will be denied if the adoptive parent(s) or other members of the household have convictions, current indictments, or substantial evidence of involvement in any criminal activity involving violence against a person; child abuse or neglect; serious sexual misconduct; possession, sale, or distribution of any illegal drug; gross irresponsibility; disregard for the safety of others; or serious violations of accepted standards of honesty or ethical conduct.

When Studies Must Be Completed

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 13, § 904; Code of Regs. 9-200-201, Part III

An adoptive placement shall not be made until a preplacement evaluation that complies with the Delaware Requirements for Child Placing Agencies has been completed.

In regulation: Once an agency approves an applicant, the agency shall provide an approval letter or certificate to the applicant. The approval shall state the preadoptive parent has met the requirements for adoption as established in the regulations and received a satisfactory evaluation based on a home study conducted by an agency licensed to perform adoption home studies. In addition, the approval shall include a start and end date that shows the dates of the home's approval. The approval shall be effective for no more than 1 year.

The agency shall do the following:

  • Prepare an update or addendum when there is a significant change and no less frequently than 1 year from the date the home study was approved
  • Create an update or addendum to a home study during an approval period if there is a change in family circumstance, such as a marital separation, divorce, change of household composition, loss of job, serious illness, or death
  • Ensure a home study contains all required items and is kept current and accurate at the time of placement through finalization
  • Complete a new home study within 3 years of the initial home study

Postplacement Study Requirements

Citation: Code of Regs. 9-200-201, Part III

The agency shall assist a preadoptive parent during the postplacement period until finalization as follows:

  • Assign a caseworker who is responsible for providing services to a preadoptive parent
  • Offer assistance with steps toward integrating a child into a new family
  • Provide help with problems that may occur, including referrals for services outside of the agency's capability
  • Provide information on adoption subsidies, if applicable

The agency shall maintain in-person contact with a preadoptive parent and child during the postplacement period until finalization as follows:

  • The first in-person contact shall occur within 2 weeks of placement or within a term required by the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.
  • After the first contact, a minimum of three in-person visits shall be required.
  • At least one in-person contact shall be made in the preadoptive parent's home.
  • Each household member shall be interviewed in-person at least once during the postplacement period.

Exceptions for Stepparent or Relative Adoptions

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 13, § 904

No petition for adoption shall be presented unless, prior to the filing of the petition, the child sought to be adopted has been placed for adoption by DSCYF or a licensed child-placing agency, and the placement has been supervised by DSCYF or the agency. No such placement or supervision shall be necessary in the case of the following:

  • A child sought to be adopted by a stepparent or a blood relative
  • A child sought to be adopted by a guardian as long as guardianship has been granted for at least 6 months prior to filing the adoption petition

Requirements for Interjurisdictional Placements

Citation: Code of Regs. 9-200-201, § 17

A child-placing agency shall, when accepting for placement any child who resides in another State or placing a child in another State, comply, as appropriate, with the terms of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

Foster to Adopt Placements

This issue is not addressed in the statutes and regulations reviewed.

Links to Resources

Adoption (webpage) (Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families)

State regulations