Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption - Massachusetts
Who Must Be Studied
Citation: Code of Regs. Tit. 606, § 5.10
The study will include the applicants and all household members. Household members age 15 and older are subject to background checks.
Agency or Person Conducting the Study
Citation: Code of Regs. Tit. 606, § 5.10
The assessment shall be completed by a social worker who meets the requirements of 606 CMR 5.06(3).
Qualifications for Adoptive Parents
Citation: Ann. Laws. Ch. 210, § 1; Code of Regs. Tit. 606, § 5.10
Any adult or, jointly, a husband and wife may petition to adopt a child.
In regulation: Prior to a placement, adoptive parent applicants must complete a minimum of 10 hours of education about a range of issues that influence adjustment after adoptive placement. In addition, prior to the placement of any infant in an adoptive home, the adoptive parents must be trained in infant care and safety techniques.
The physical requirements for adoptive homes include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The home must be clean, safe, free of obvious fire and other hazards, and of sufficient size to accommodate comfortably and appropriately all members of the household and the approved number of adopted children.
- The home shall have adequate lighting and ventilation, a safe water supply, plumbing, electricity, and heat.
- The home shall have sufficient furniture to allow each child to sleep in a separate bed and to have adequate storage space for his or her personal belongings.
- The home shall be equipped with smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in working order.
- If the home uses well water, it shall be tested and determined safe.
- Any firearms located in the home shall be registered and licensed in accordance with State law, trigger-locked or fully inoperable, and stored without ammunition in a locked area. Ammunition shall be stored in a separate locked location.
- A working telephone for both incoming and outgoing calls must be available in the home at all times.
- All pets must be appropriate for the children in care, free from disease and parasites, and licensed and/or vaccinated as prescribed by law.
Elements of a Home Study
Citation: Code of Regs. Tit. 102, § 5.10; Tit. 110, §§ 18.05; 18.08
The assessment shall include at least three in-person interviews with the applicants, including at least two meetings in the applicant's home. The agency shall interview applicants individually at least once and as often as is necessary to determine the applicants' qualifications to adopt a child. The agency shall interview all other members of the applicants' household, as appropriate to the age of the member of the household.
The assessment shall be summarized in a written report and shall document the following regarding the applicants:
- Motivation for adoption
- Emotional stability and compatibility
- Social, education, and health histories
- Family composition, including pets
- A description of the home, including sleeping areas
- The family's attitude toward accepting an adopted child, including a child of a different ethnic background; a history/family history of substance abuse, mental health, or medical disabilities; or a different sexual orientation
- Parenting ability, including child rearing and discipline
- Attitude toward the birth parents of the child
- Characteristics of the children desired, including age, sex, abilities or disabilities, behavior, and characteristics of children parents are not willing to adopt
- At least three written references
- A written statement from a licensed physician regarding the health of each member of the household
- Evidence of birth certificates, marriage certificates, and/or divorce decrees
- Financial ability to care for an adopted child
- Ability to meet the physical, developmental, emotional, and educational needs of a child
Prospective preadoptive parents will be required to disclose whether they have a criminal record, including the crimes charged and the disposition of the charge. The department shall conduct a Criminal Offenders Record Information (CORI) investigation of any household member age 14 or older during the initial home study of the preadoptive home.
Grounds for Withholding Approval
Citation: Code of Regs. Tit. 606, § 5.10; Tit. 110, § 18.10
The agency shall determine that each applicant and each household member age 15 or older has a background free of conduct that could bear adversely upon his or her ability to provide for the safety and well-being of any children. In making this determination, the agency shall consider the following regarding the applicant:
- Any conduct that results in his or her child being adjudicated in need of care and protection
- Use of alcohol or drugs to an extent or in a manner that impairs his or her ability to care for children properly
- Conduct that results in a CORI report or in any other conduct, criminal or otherwise, that could impair the individual's ability to care for children
- Allegations of abuse or neglect
- Adjudication by the Sex Offender Registry Board as a registered sex offender
- Criminal record information from a fingerprint-based check
A CORI report shall consist of arrests, pending criminal charges, or criminal charges that have been finally disposed of for any offense involving sexual or physical abuse, any offense involving children, and violent or drug-related crimes, including driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A CORI report shall also consist of the report of a restraining order, violations of such restraining orders and other arrests, pending charges, or findings relative to abuse of adult or child family members.
An applicant shall not be approved for an adoptive placement when, after a review of the CORI record, the agency concludes that the applicant's home poses an unacceptable risk to the safety and well-being of the child.
When Studies Must Be Completed
Citation: Code of Regs. Tit. 606, § 5.10
The licensed agency, consistent with its current needs, shall evaluate adoptive parent applicants promptly.
Home study assessments for prospective adoptive parents shall be valid for a maximum of 18 months from the date of completion.
In place of the complete home study assessment, the agency may perform a limited assessment or home study assessment update in the following circumstances:
- If the agency receives an adoptive parent assessment from another licensed agency completed no more than 18 months prior to the current application for approval
- If the agency receives an adoptive parent assessment performed in another State in accordance with the laws of such State that was completed no more than 18 months prior to the current application for approval
- If a placement does not occur within 18 months of approval of the adoptive parent by the agency
A limited adoptive parent assessment or home study assessment shall be a review of the previous adoptive parent assessment that must include the following:
- The completion of new background record checks for all household members
- A visit to the prospective adoptive parents' home
- Interviews conducted in person with the prospective adoptive parents to determine if there have been any changes since the last home study assessment, including changes in financial status that are supported with current documentation
- A current statement from a medical professional about the health of all household members
Postplacement Study Requirements
Citation: Code of Regs. Tit. 606, § 5.10
The agency shall assign a social worker who will be responsible for providing direct services to the adoptive family until the adoption is finalized. The social worker shall assist the adoptive parents and the child with any adoption-related matters and shall do the following:
- Following placement, make monthly supervisory contacts with the adoptive parents, beginning no later than 2 weeks after placement and continuing until the adoption decree is entered
- Beginning no later than 6 weeks after placement, make face-to-face contact at least every other month, with at least two contacts in the adoptive parents' home with the child and parents
- Following placement, and as appropriate to the age of the child, talk privately with the child to explore the child's safety, well-being, feelings, and concerns about the placement
- Inform the adoptive parents in writing of any postponement of the legalization of the adoption, the reasons for such postponement, the actions that the agency determines are needed to remedy such postponement, and the timeframes within which such actions must be taken
- Provide updated medical and/or psychological information regarding the birth family to the adoptive family, including relevant information about siblings
- Assist the adoptive parents and the child in obtaining any needed services
- Inform the adoptive parents of their right to update the information in their case record at the agency at any time
- Document in adoptive family records all contacts with children and adoptive families, including postplacement supervision, if applicable
- Assist the adoptive parents in maintaining contact with siblings, when appropriate
- Provide support services for older sibling groups
Exceptions for Stepparent or Relative Adoptions
Citation: Code of Regs. Tit. 110, § 18.10
In the case of an individual seeking to serve as a preadoptive kinship placement for a child in the care or custody of the Department of Social Services, the department shall not be precluded from placing the child in a kinship home if the commissioner, deputy commissioner for field operations, and general counsel have conducted a review of the CORI record pursuant to 110 CMR 18.11(9) and determined the placement is in the best interests of the child.
Requirements for Interjurisdictional Placements
Citation: Code of Regs. Tit. 606, § 5.08
An 'identified adoption' means an adoption in which the parent executes a written surrender of his or her child directly to a particular person or agency.
Identified adoptions of children brought into the Commonwealth are permitted provided that the placement is made by the Department of Children and Families or by an adoption or child-placing agency licensed or approved by the Office for Children and is approved by the administrator of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) for the Commonwealth.
Identified adoptions of Massachusetts children in another State are permitted provided that a home study is prepared in accordance with the laws of the receiving State and is submitted for approval to the ICPC administrator for the Commonwealth, prior to the placement.
Any licensed or approved adoption or child-placing agency that agrees to accept a child from another State and to place that child in a particular identified home in the Commonwealth can thereafter refuse to place the child in that particular home based on the results of a completed home study.
The ICPC shall apply to all identified adoptions of children born to mothers who are out-of-State residents, regardless of whether the surrender was executed in the sending State or in Massachusetts, unless the child is surrendered directly to an exempt relative or guardian, as enumerated in 110 CMR 7.503(3).
Foster to Adopt Placements
Citation: Code of Regs. Tit. 110, § 7.200
Any foster parent may seek to become the preadoptive placement for a child for whom the department's long-term goal is adoption. A foster parent may be approved as the preadoptive placement for a particular child if the department determines, after assessment, that adoption by the foster parent will further the best interests of that child.
Although all foster preadoptive parents who seek to become a preadoptive placement will be considered and assessed, priority will be given to those who are interested in the kinds of children currently waiting for and in need of homes. This includes, but is not limited to, the following types of children: school age, special needs, legal risk, siblings, Black, Hispanic, and mixed racial. Special needs include a wide variety of emotional problems, behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, and other handicapping medical conditions. Applicants interested only in healthy infants will be considered as the need for such homes presents itself.
All preadoptive parents who have a child in preadoptive placement shall have a full or abbreviated reevaluation, as appropriate:
- Whenever the department learns of factors affecting the suitability of the placement
- Within 30 days prior to an adoption, if the adoption occurs more than 1 year after approval of the preadoptive placement
- Annually in accordance with 110 CMR 7.113
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