Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption - Montana

Date:

Who Must Be Studied

Citation: Ann. Code § 42-3-202

The prospective adoptive parent and the home of the prospective adoptive parent must be studied and evaluated.

Agency or Person Conducting the Study

Citation: Ann. Code § 42-3-202

A prospective adoptive parent may request a preplacement evaluation from the Department of Public Health and Human Services, a licensed social worker, or a licensed child-placing agency. In a direct parental placement adoption, the preplacement evaluation must be conducted by either a licensed social worker or a licensed child-placing agency.

Qualifications for Adoptive Parents

Citation: Ann. Code § 42-1-106; Admin. Rules R. 37.52.104

A husband and wife jointly or an unmarried individual who is at least age 18 may be eligible to adopt a child.

In regulation: The department will not accept adoptive applicants who have current applications before any other licensed adoption agency. The department decides whether applicants will be studied and whether children will be placed. The department may limit adoptive intake according to the number and type of children available for adoption.

Adoptive applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Submit to the department a physical examination report as part of the adoption application
  • Have sufficient income to provide for an additional child or children

Elements of a Home Study

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 42-3-203; 42-3-204

A preplacement evaluation must include a review of the following:

  • A check of criminal conviction data, data on the substantiated abuse or neglect of a child, and data pertaining to any involvement in incidents of domestic violence
  • Medical and social history and current health
  • An assessment of potential parenting skills
  • Ability to provide adequate financial support for a child
  • Level of knowledge and awareness of adoption issues, including, when appropriate, matters relating to open, interracial, cross-cultural, and special needs adoptions
  • A check of the youth court records of any person living in the prospective home

The preplacement evaluation must include at least one in-home visit with the prospective adoptive parent and at least one interview with each family member.

The preplacement evaluation report must contain the following information, if available:

  • Age, nationality, racial or ethnic background, and any religious affiliation
  • Marital status and family history
  • Physical and mental health history and any history of abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Education and employment history and any special skills
  • Property and income, including outstanding financial obligations
  • Whether the individual has been charged with or convicted of domestic violence or has been involved in a substantiated charge of child abuse or neglect or elder abuse or neglect and the disposition of the charges
  • Whether the individual is subject to a court order restricting the individual's right to custody or visitation with a child
  • Whether the individual has been convicted of a crime other than a minor traffic violation
  • The quality of the environment in the individual's home and the functioning of other children in the individual's household

Grounds for Withholding Approval

Citation: Ann. Code § 42-3-205

An evaluator shall assess the information required for the home study to determine if it raises a specific concern that placement of any child or a particular child in the home of the individual would pose a significant risk of harm to the physical or psychological well-being of the child. If an evaluator determines that the information raises a specific concern, the evaluator, based on the original or any further investigation, shall find that the individual is or is not suited to be an adoptive parent. The evaluator shall support the finding with a written explanation.

When Studies Must Be Completed

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 42-3-201; 42-3-204

A child may not be placed for the purposes of adoption unless the person with whom a child is proposed to be placed has had a preplacement evaluation completed to determine fitness and readiness as an adoptive parent.

A preplacement evaluation is valid for 1 year following its date of completion and must be updated if there is a significant change in circumstances.

Postplacement Study Requirements

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 42-4-112; 42-4-113; 42-4-205; 42-4-209

In a direct parental placement adoption, the court shall order a 6-month postplacement supervision and a postplacement evaluation. The postplacement evaluation period must be supervised and evaluated by a licensed social worker or other qualified person.

An evaluation must be based on a personal interview with the prospective adoptive parent in his or her home and an observation of the relationship between the child and the adoptive parent. At a minimum, the evaluation must include the following information:

  • An assessment of adaptation by the adoptive parent to parenting the child
  • An assessment of the health and well-being of the child
  • The level of incorporation by the child into the adoptive parent(s)' home
  • An account of any change in the adoptive parent(s)' marital status or family history, physical or mental health, home environment, property, income, or financial obligations since the filing of the preplacement evaluation

The evaluation must contain a definite recommendation stating the reasons for or against the proposed adoption.

For a department or agency placement, the department or agency shall supervise and evaluate the placement during a 6-month postplacement evaluation period. The evaluation must include the following information:

  • Whether the child is legally free for adoption
  • Whether the proposed home is suitable for the child
  • A statement that the medical and social histories of the birth parents and child have been provided to the adoptive parent
  • An assessment of adaptation by the adoptive parent to parenting the child

The evaluation must contain a definite recommendation stating the reasons for or against the proposed adoption.

Exceptions for Stepparent or Relative Adoptions

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 42-3-212; 42-4-309

In a direct parental placement adoption, if the court is satisfied that adoption is in the best interests of the child, the court may waive the requirement of a preplacement and postplacement evaluation when a parent or guardian places a child for adoption directly with an extended family member of the child.

In a stepparent adoption, if the court is satisfied that the adoption is in the best interests of the child, the court may waive the requirement of a preplacement evaluation and the 6-month postplacement evaluation and report and grant a decree of adoption.

Requirements for Interjurisdictional Placements

Citation: Ann. Code § 41-4-101

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: Ann. Code § 42-4-113

The department or an agency may recommend the waiver of the 6-month postplacement evaluation period and the postplacement evaluation if the adoptee has been in the petitioner's home as a foster child for at least 1 year.

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