Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption - Mississippi

Date: August 2020

Who Must Be Studied

Citation: Code of Rules 18-006-107; 18-006-106

A resource home is a single-family home licensed to provide care for a child in the custody of the Division of Family and Children's Services (DFCS) when that child cannot return safely to his or her own home for a period of time, temporarily or permanently. A resource home may be a foster, adoptive, or kinship care home.

All adults residing in the home who will participate in the care of the child must participate in all aspects of the licensing process. When a married couple applies, both spouses must participate in all aspects of the process.

Background checks, through law enforcement and DFCS records, will be conducted on all persons age 14 and older who reside in the home.

Agency or Person Conducting the Study

Citation: Code of Rules 18-006-107; 18-006-107

When a child in the custody of DFCS is being placed for adoption, an adoption specialist with the DFCS Adoption Unit is responsible for making an adoptive home study under the supervision of the adoption administrator. For all other types of resource home licensure, the home study will be completed by a resource specialist.

Qualifications for Adoptive Parents

Citation: Code of Rules 18-006-106

Applicants must be residents of the state of Mississippi. A legal alien may obtain a resource home license if all adult household members are legally in the United States.

The applicants must be at least age 21 and be financially self-sufficient. Married applicants must verify they are legally married.

The applicant must be able to protect children from harm and give and receive appropriate affection. The applicant also must have the willingness and ability to commit the time necessary to provide supervision and guidance. At least one parent in the home must be able to assist a child with checking homework assignments and giving help as needed.

The applicant(s) shall possess competent physical, cognitive, mental, and emotional capacities with reasonable life expectancy that is anticipated to continue through the minority of the child.

The resource home must meet the following criteria:

  • Be well-heated or well-cooled
  • Be well-ventilated
  • Have a working telephone
  • Provide safe storage of hazardous chemicals, cleaning materials, medications, and firearms
  • Ensure that outside play areas are clean and free of hazards
  • Have a continuous supply of clean drinking water and interior plumbing
  • Have at least one operable smoke detector in each living area and near sleeping areas
  • Have an operable fire extinguisher

The interior home environment shall be safe and sanitary, with adequate facilities. All household pets must have current vaccinations.

No more than four same-sex children shall share a bedroom. Each foster child shall have a standard bed appropriate to the child's age and needs. Children under age 18 months shall sleep in a crib. Children over age 18 months shall not sleep in the same room with an adult who is older than age 21. Children over age 3 shall not share a room with a child of the opposite sex.

Elements of a Home Study

Citation: Code of Rules 18-006-106

Following orientation and receipt of a home study application, the licensure specialist must complete the screening process, which includes the following:

  • Fingerprinting the applicant
  • Local criminal background checks on all household members age 14 and older
  • Central registry checks
  • A record check evaluation
  • A sex offender registry check

The applicant shall supply four character references, only one of which may be a close relative. Adult children who do not live in the home should be contacted as additional references. The licensure specialist also must seek at least two additional references not named by the applicant. These references may be school personnel, law enforcement staff, clergy, other licensed resource parents, neighbors, or other DFCS staff.

The home environment must be assessed using the home environment checklist.

The licensure specialist shall conduct a minimum of three home visits and a minimum of four home study interviews with the applicants as follows:

  • The first home visit includes interview one, a joint interview that is conducted after the applicants have completed the home study application and SAFE Questionnaire 1. This interview is used to 'get to know the applicants.'
  • The second home visit includes interviews two and three, conducted separately and scheduled back-to-back, with each applicant after administering SAFE Questionnaire 2.
  • The third home visit includes interview four, a joint interview that should focus on the marriage, or the support system for a single applicant, and their parenting plan. This is also where questions that still need answering are addressed.

Each home visit should be conducted approximately 1 week apart. All household members shall be interviewed privately, and these interviews can be completed during one of the home visits above.

Grounds for Withholding Approval

Citation: Code of Rules 18-006-106

Any applicant or person residing in the home who has been convicted of a crime or who has a pending indictment of a crime, whether a misdemeanor or felony, that bears negatively upon the individual's fitness to have responsibility for the safety and well-being of children will be evaluated as to their fitness to provide child care or be licensed as a resource parent. If one of the following felony offenses has been committed, a license shall not be granted:

  • A felony offense against a spouse or former spouse
  • A felony offense against children, including child pornography, child abuse, or neglect
  • A crime involving violence, including sexual assault, rape, or homicide, but not including other physical assault or battery
  • A felony physical assault, battery, or drug-related offense within the last 5 years

Grounds for denial may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The following is true for any person residing in the home:
    • Has been convicted of a crime that would prevent licensure
    • Has a record of evidenced child maltreatment
    • Refuses to submit to background checks
  • The minimum standards are not met.
  • The conditions in the home would or could be physically, mentally, or emotionally harmful to a child placed in the home.
  • The following applies to the applicant:
    • Has a history of alcohol or drug use without documentation of successful treatment and aftercare
    • Has been involved in illegal activity
    • Makes ethnic or racial slurs about certain groups of people or expresses other extremist views during the home study process
    • Shows an inability to work with DFCS
  • A person, residing in the home or not residing in the home, with responsibility of transporting children has been determined to be a high-risk driver.

When Studies Must Be Completed

Citation: Code of Rules 18-006-106

All persons who contact DFCS and are interested in becoming a licensed resource parent will be considered. The inquiry may be screened out on initial contact if the very basic requirements are not met and the potential applicant is not a kinship care placement. These basic requirements include the following:

  • The applicant is at least age 21.
  • The number of children in the home is fewer than 5.
  • The applicant(s) are a legally married couple (not separated) or is legally single (not cohabitating).
  • The applicant has a Mississippi Automated Child Welfare System clearance.
  • The applicant has no known criminal history.
  • The applicant is a legal Mississippi resident.

The applicant also must attend an orientation meeting within the first month of inquiry.

Within 120 days of the date the applicant completed the orientation and screening or within 90 days for expedited relative placements, all screened-in applications must be processed, and a written decision must be given to the applicant.

Postplacement Study Requirements

Citation: Code of Rules 18-006-107

A major role of the adoption specialist during the supervisory period is to provide support, including assistance with parenting skills, to the adoptive family. The adoption specialist supervising an adoptive placement shall be notified of any request for services received in the county during the placement of a child in an adoptive home.

A minimum of 6 months supervision is required for each adoptive placement. This may be all the time that is necessary for an infant placement. The 6 months may be extended if needed to stabilize the placement. The adoptive family also will be encouraged to attend the adoption support group meetings before placement and after for continued postadoptive support.

During the supervisory period, the adoption specialist will make a minimum of two visits each month to the home of the adoptive family. The first visit will occur within 2 weeks of placement. The adoption specialist will speak to the child in private in the home during the supervisory visits. One visit may occur in a setting other than the home. The number of contacts with the adoptive family may vary greatly, depending on the individual situation.

At the end of the supervisory period, the adoption specialist supervising the placement will prepare a family file, with a memo summarizing the placement and recommending that the family be allowed to finalize the adoption.

Exceptions for Stepparent or Relative Adoptions

Citation: Ann. Code § 93-17-13; Code of Rules 18-006-10601

The 6-month period of postplacement supervision is not required when a child is a stepchild of a petitioner or is related by blood to the petitioner within the third degree.

In regulation: For a child in need of out-of-home care, DFCS will give first priority for placement to a relative when it is suitable and appropriate to do so. If a child is in the custody of DFCS and placed with a relative, the relative must be licensed as a resource family within 90 days of placement.

DFCS shall maintain an expedited process for licensing screened relative and fictive kin caregivers to enable a child to be placed quickly with relatives or fictive kin upon entering foster care. The licensing process for these placements shall take place in two steps:

  • An emergency process that enables a child to be placed with the relative as soon as the child enters placement, following an initial screen of the relative's home
  • A full licensing process, to be completed no later than 90 calendar days after the child has entered placement

DFCS may waive nonsafety licensing requirements for relative or fictive kin placements in individual cases in accordance with Federal regulations.

Requirements for Interjurisdictional Placements

Citation: Ann. Code § 43-18-1

Any out-of-home placement of a child outside the State is subject to the provisions of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

The child shall not be sent into the receiving State until the appropriate public authorities in the receiving State notify the sending agency, in writing, that the proposed placement does not appear to be contrary to the interests of the child.

Foster to Adopt Placements

Citation: Code of Rules 18-006-107

A resource parent who has been providing foster care for a child for 6 months or more shall be given preference as an adoptive parent for that child once the child becomes legally available for adoption, unless there is documentation as to why the placement is unsuitable for adoption.

Every adoption of a foster child initially placed in a licensed resource home must have a completed child-specific adoptive home study, known as the adoption addendum. The adoption specialist shall submit the adoption addendum and all necessary documentation within 60 days of a child being freed for adoption unless there are documented reasons for delay that are in the best interests of the child. The adoption specialist will review and provide a written approval or denial within 10 days of receipt of the documentation.

Written instructions to the resource parent on how to proceed with the adoption will be provided when the adoption specialist approves the family to adopt the child through an adoption approval letter. If the resource family does not follow through with the finalization within 6 months of receiving the adoption approval letter, the adoption unit will notify the resource family that recruitment efforts for an adoptive home for the child must be initiated.

Links to Resources

Policy Manual, Adoption Policy (Mississippi Department of Human Services, Division of Family and Children's Services)