Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption - New Jersey

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Who Must Be Studied

Citation: Admin. Code § 3A:50-5.6

The applicants and household members age 18 and older must be included in the study.

Agency or Person Conducting the Study

Citation: Admin. Code §§ 3A:50-1.6; 3A:22-3.1

An adoption agency that is certified by the Department of Children and Families shall provide adoption services, including conducting home studies of adoptive applicants. The department shall accept an application from and provide home study services to an adult New Jersey resident interested in becoming an adoptive parent, only if the adult is interested in adopting a special needs child.

Qualifications for Adoptive Parents

Citation: Admin. Code § 3A:50-5.6

The agency shall ensure that the adoptive applicants meet the following criteria:

  • Are at least age 18 and at least 10 years older than the child being adopted
  • Have the capacity to meet the child's physical and emotional needs

The agency also shall ask applicants to disclose any history of child abuse or neglect or any criminal record, excluding minor traffic violations.

Elements of a Home Study

Citation: Admin. Code § 3A:50-5.6

The home study process shall include the following:

  • At least three in-person joint and individual interviews with married applicants
  • At least one in-person joint and one individual interview with each member of the applicant's household
  • At least one visit to the residence of the applicants
  • A review of the applicants' current job references
  • A review of three personal references from persons unrelated to the applicants

The agency shall obtain information on the applicants, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The applicants' interests, hobbies, child caring skills, strengths, and weaknesses and how they see themselves and each other
  • Philosophies on child rearing, discipline, and parental roles
  • Experience with children
  • Emotional stability and maturity
  • The state of their marital relationship
  • The attitudes of other members of the family
  • Each parent's family life history
  • Each parent's agreement not to use excessive corporal punishment as a means of discipline or otherwise engage in abusive or neglectful behavior
  • Written medical reports on each applicant and all other persons living in the home
  • Verifications of present or previous marriage(s) and divorce(s) of each adoptive applicant, including deaths of former spouses when there was no divorce
  • Location and description of physical environment of the residence and neighborhood
  • A statement of income and financial resources and a description of the applicant's capacity to manage finances

The agency shall obtain fingerprint-based criminal history background checks and child abuse records checks on each adoptive applicant and all persons age 18 and older residing in the adoptive applicant's home.

Grounds for Withholding Approval

Citation: Admin. Code § 3A:50-5.6

An adoption agency shall disqualify an adoptive applicant if the applicant or any adult residing in the household was convicted of one of the following crimes or offenses:

  • A crime against a child, including endangering the welfare of a child; child pornography; or child abuse, neglect, or abandonment
  • Murder or manslaughter
  • Aggravated assault
  • Stalking
  • Kidnapping and related offenses, including criminal restraint; false imprisonment; interference with custody; criminal coercion; or enticing a child into a motor vehicle, structure, or isolated area
  • Sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, or lewdness
  • First-degree robbery or second-degree burglary
  • Domestic violence
  • Endangering the welfare of an incompetent person or an elderly or disabled person
  • Terrorist threats
  • Arson

An adoptive applicant may be disqualified if he or she or an adult residing in the household was convicted of one of the following crimes or offenses within the preceding 5 years:

  • Simple assault or fourth-degree aggravated assault
  • A drug-related crime
  • Second-degree robbery or third-degree burglary

When the child abuse record background check reveals that the adoptive applicant or an adult residing in the home has a record of a substantiated incident of child abuse and/or neglect, the agency shall examine the nature and seriousness of the abuse and/or neglect incidents and determine if the perpetrator has completed a rehabilitation program or counseling program. If such evidence exists, the agency shall assess whether the perpetrator can provide an appropriate home for the child.

When Studies Must Be Completed

Citation: Admin. Code § 3A:50-5.6

The agency shall not place a child in the adoptive applicant's home for the purpose of adoption without a completed home study.

For applicants who have been studied, approved, and placed on a waiting list for longer than 12 months from the time their home study was approved, the agency shall ensure that the home study is current within 12 months of the child's placement into the home, except for home studies for foreign adoption, which may be current for 18 months of the child's being placed in the home. The updated home study shall include the following:

  • One or more interviews with all members of the applicants' household
  • Medical reports within the past year for all members of the applicants' household
  • A visit to the residence of the applicants
  • Updated financial information

Postplacement Study Requirements

Citation: Admin. Code § 3A:50-5.8

The agency shall visit the home within 14 calendar days of the adoptive placement and document the following in the child's record:

  • The child's background information was reviewed with the adoptive parents.
  • The adoptive parent(s) and child were given reassurance that their feelings, worries, and joys are natural and understandable.
  • School-age children are in compliance with compulsory education requirements.
  • Working parents have made child care arrangements.

For children younger than age 5, the agency shall do the following:

  • Conduct bimonthly home visits for at least 6 months
  • Document that all members of the household were interviewed
  • Document that the following issues were discussed:
    • How the presence of the child changed family relationships
    • What role each family member has assumed regarding child care and discipline
    • How parents cope with the demands of a crying infant and/or a child who 'tests' the placement and how the family reacts to these episodes, including any feelings of insecurity about doing the 'right' thing

For children age 5 or older, the agency shall do the following:

  • Conduct monthly home visits during the minimum supervisory 6-month period and then bimonthly home or office visits until the adoption is finalized
  • Document that the child was interviewed privately about his or her feelings about the adoption at each supervisory visit
  • Document that the following issues were discussed:
    • How the presence of the child changed family relationships
    • What role each family member has assumed regarding child care and discipline
    • How the child 'tests' the placement and how the family reacts to these episodes, including any feelings of insecurity about doing the 'right' thing
    • How the family perceives the child's sense of identity and the need to fill in gaps in the child's history
    • How the child has adjusted to the school environment

Exceptions for Stepparent or Relative Adoptions

Citation: Admin. Code § 3A:50-5.6

For a stepparent adoption, a criminal history record check shall not be required for household members age 18 and older who are related to the birth parent.

Requirements for Interjurisdictional Placements

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 9:23-5

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. Stat. § 30:4C-26.7

Any person who as a resource family parent has cared for a child continuously for a period of 15 months or more may apply to the division for the placement of the child with them for the purpose of adoption, and if the child is eligible for adoption, the division shall give preference and first consideration to their application over all other applications for adoption placement.

Links to Resources

Path to Adoption (webpage) (New Jersey Department of Children and Families)

Foster and Adoption Services: Licensing Information (webpage) (New Jersey Department of Children and Families)