Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption - North Carolina

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Who Must Be Studied

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 48-3-309

The prospective adoptive parents and all individuals age 18 or older residing in the prospective adoptive home shall be included in the study.

Agency or Person Conducting the Study

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 48-1-109

Only a county department of social services in this State or an agency licensed by the State Department of Social Services may prepare preplacement assessments.

Qualifications for Adoptive Parents

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 48-3-301

An individual seeking to adopt a child must be found to be suitable to be an adoptive parent, either in general or for a specific minor.

Elements of a Home Study

Citation: Gen. Stat. §§ 48-3-303; 48-3-309

The preplacement assessment must include at least one personal interview with each individual being assessed. The preplacement assessment shall report on the following:

  • Nationality, race or ethnicity, and any religious preference
  • Marital and family status and history, including the presence of any children born to or adopted by the individual and any other children in the household
  • Date of birth
  • Physical and mental health, including any addiction to alcohol or drugs
  • Education and employment history and any special skills
  • Property, income, and current financial information
  • Reason for wanting to adopt
  • Whether the individual has ever been a respondent in a domestic violence proceeding or a proceeding concerning a minor who was allegedly abused, dependent, neglected, abandoned, or delinquent and the outcome of the proceeding
  • Whether the individual has ever been convicted of a crime other than a minor traffic violation
  • The quality of the environment in the home and the functioning of any children in the household

The department shall ensure that fingerprint-based criminal histories of all prospective adoptive parents and all individuals age 18 or older who reside in the prospective adoptive home are checked prior to placement and, based on the criminal history, a determination is made as to the prospective adoptive parent(s)' fitness to have responsibility for the safety and well-being of children and whether other individuals required to be checked are fit for an adoptive child to reside with them in the home. The department shall ensure that all individuals required to be checked are checked prior to placement for county, State, and Federal criminal histories.

Grounds for Withholding Approval

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 48-3-309

A county department of social services shall issue an unfavorable preplacement assessment to a prospective adoptive parent if any person residing in the home has a criminal history. An unfavorable preplacement assessment shall be issued when the county department of social services determines that, based on other criminal convictions, whether felony or misdemeanor, the prospective adoptive parent is unfit to have responsibility for the safety and well-being of children or other individuals required to be checked are found unfit for an adoptive child to reside with them in the home.

For purposes of this section, the term 'criminal history' means the following:

  • A county, State, or Federal conviction of a felony or a pending felony indictment for any of the following:
    • A crime for child abuse or neglect
    • Spousal abuse
    • A crime against a child, including child pornography
    • A crime involving violence, including rape, sexual assault, or homicide, other than physical assault or battery
  • A county, State, or Federal conviction of a felony or a pending felony indictment for physical assault, battery, or a drug-related offense, if the offense was committed within the past 5 years

Refusal to consent to a criminal history check by any individual required to be checked is grounds for the issuance of an unfavorable preplacement assessment.

When Studies Must Be Completed

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 48-3-301

A preplacement assessment must be completed or updated within 18 months immediately preceding a placement of a child for adoption.

Postplacement Study Requirements

Citation: Gen. Stat. §§ 48-2-501; 48-2-502

Whenever a petition for adoption of a minor is filed, the court shall order a report to the court made to assist the court in determining if the proposed adoption of the minor by the petitioner is in the minor's best interests.

In preparing the report, the agency shall conduct a personal interview with each petitioner in the petitioner's residence and at least one additional interview with each petitioner and the adoptee. The agency shall observe the relationship between the adoptee and the petitioners.

The report must contain the following:

  • An account of the petitioner's marital or family status, physical and mental health, home environment, property, income, and financial obligations
  • All reasonably available nonidentifying information concerning the physical, mental, and emotional condition of the adoptee
  • Copies of any court order, judgment, decree, or pending legal proceeding affecting the adoptee, the petitioner, or any child of the petitioner relevant to the welfare of the adoptee
  • A list of the expenses, fees, or other charges incurred, paid, or to be paid in connection with the adoption
  • Any fact or circumstance known to the agency that raises a specific concern about whether the proposed adoption is contrary to the best interests of the adoptee because it poses a significant risk of harm to the well-being of the adoptee
  • A finding by the agency concerning the suitability of the petitioner and the petitioner's home for the adoptee
  • A recommendation concerning the granting of the petition

Exceptions for Stepparent or Relative Adoptions

Citation: Gen. Stat. §§ 48-3-301; 48-2-501

A preplacement assessment is not required in an independent adoption when a prospective adoptive parent is a grandparent, full or half sibling, first cousin, aunt, uncle, great-aunt, great-uncle, or great-grandparent of the minor.

The following exceptions for the requirement for a postpetition report apply:

  • In any stepparent adoption in which the minor has lived with the stepparent for at least the 2 consecutive years immediately preceding the filing of the petition, the court may order a report. However, the court is not required to order a report unless the minor's consent is to be waived, the minor has revoked consent, or both of the minor's parents are dead.
  • In any adoption of a minor by the minor's grandparent in which the minor has lived with the grandparent for at least the 2 consecutive years immediately preceding the filing of the petition, the court may order a report. However, the court is not required to order a report unless the minor's consent is to be waived, the minor has revoked consent, or the minor is eligible for adoption assistance.

Requirements for Interjurisdictional Placements

Citation: Gen. Stat. §§ 48-3-207; 48-1-109

An interstate placement of a minor for purposes of adoption shall comply with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

A preplacement assessment prepared in another State may be used in this State only if the following conditions are met:

  • The prospective adoptive parent resided in the State where it was prepared.
  • The person or entity that prepared it was authorized by the law of that State to gather the necessary information.

An assessment prepared in another State that does not meet the requirements of this section and § 48-3-303 must be updated by a county department, a licensed agency, or a person or entity authorized to gather the necessary information pursuant to the laws of the State where the prospective adoptive parent resides before being used in this State.

An order for a report to the court must be sent to a county department, a licensed agency, or a person or entity authorized to prepare adoption home assessments under the laws of the petitioner's State of residence. If the petitioner moves to a different State before the agency completes the report, the agency shall request a report from a person or entity authorized to prepare home assessments under the laws of the petitioner's new State of residence.

Foster to Adopt Placements

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

Links to Resources

Child Welfare Manual, Adoption Services Policy, Protocol, and Guidance (North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services)