Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption - Utah

Date: August 2020

Who Must Be Studied

Citation: Ann. Code § 78B-6-128

Each prospective adoptive parent and any other adult living in the home shall be included in the study.

Agency or Person Conducting the Study

Citation: Ann. Code § 78B-6-128

The preplacement evaluation may be conducted by any of the following:

  • An expert in family relations approved by the court
  • A certified social worker
  • A clinical social worker
  • A marriage and family therapist
  • A psychologist
  • A social service worker, if supervised by a certified or clinical social worker
  • A clinical mental health counselor
  • An Office of Licensing employee within the Department of Human Services who is trained to perform a home study
  • The department or a child-placing agency that has entered into a contract with the department for a child with special needs who is in the custody of any public child welfare agency

Qualifications for Adoptive Parents

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 78B-6-117; 78B-6-118: Admin. Code R512-41-3

A child may be adopted by adults who are legally married to each other, including adoption by a stepparent. A child may not be adopted by a person who is cohabiting in a relationship that is not a legally valid and binding marriage under the laws of this State, unless the individual is a relative of the child or a recognized placement under the Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 U.S.C. § 1901, et seq.

When a child in the custody of the Division of Child and Family Services is placed for adoption, the child shall be placed with a married couple unless the following apply:

  • There are no qualified married couples who have applied to adopt a child, are willing to adopt the child, and are an appropriate placement for the child.
  • The child is placed with a relative.
  • The child is placed with a person who has already developed a substantial relationship with the child.
  • The child is placed with a person who was selected by a parent or former parent of the child.
  • It is in the best interests of the child to place the child with a single person.

A person adopting a child must be at least 10 years older than the child adopted. If the petitioners are a married couple, only one of them need be at least 10 years older than the child.

In regulation: Prospective adoptive parents who apply to adopt a child in the custody of division, including kin or division employees, must meet the following requirements:

  • Complete the adoption training program approved by the division
  • Be assessed and approved as adoptive parents following completion of a home study by a licensed child-placing agency or by the division
  • Obtain a foster care license issued by the Office of Licensing within the Department of Human Services, meet the same standards, or receive a written waiver from the division standard
  • Receive a determination by the division that no conflict of interest exists in the adoption process

Elements of a Home Study

Citation: Ann. Code § 78B-6-128; Admin. Code R512-40-5

The preplacement evaluation shall include the following:

  • A fingerprint-based State and national criminal history records check
  • A report containing all information regarding reports and investigations of child abuse, neglect, and dependency for each State the person has lived in for the previous 5 years

The home study shall include the following:

  • A recommendation to the court regarding the suitability of the prospective adoptive parent for placement of a child
  • A description of in-person interviews with the prospective adoptive parent, the parent's children, and other individuals living in the home
  • A description of character and suitability references from at least two individuals who are not related to the prospective adoptive parent and with at least one individual who is related to the prospective adoptive parent
  • A medical history, based upon a doctor€™s physical examination of the prospective adoptive parent, made within 2 years before the date of the application
  • A description of an inspection of the home to determine whether sufficient space and facilities exist to meet the needs of the child and whether basic health and safety standards are maintained

In regulation: The home study assessment also will include the following:

  • Psychosocial information gathered from the prospective adoptive parent and family members
  • Home visits and interviews to assess the prospective adoptive parent in the following areas:
    • Marriage, relationship, and personal stability
    • Ability to manage stress
    • Capacity to parent a child who has experienced trauma and who may have other special needs
    • How any children living in the home will be affected
    • Verification of sufficient income to provide for a child's needs

Grounds for Withholding Approval

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 78-6-117; 62A-2-120

An adult may not adopt a child if, before adoption is finalized, the adult has been convicted of, pleaded guilty to, or pleaded no contest to a felony or attempted felony involving conduct that constitutes any of the following:

  • Child abuse or child abuse homicide
  • Child kidnapping or human trafficking of a child
  • Sexual abuse, aggravated sexual abuse, or sexual exploitation of a minor

The office shall not approve a prospective adoptive parent if the applicant has been convicted of a felony involving any of the following:

  • Child abuse, domestic violence committed in the presence of a child, abuse or neglect of a child with a disability, or endangerment of a child or vulnerable adult
  • Aggravated murder, murder, manslaughter, child abuse homicide, or homicide by assault
  • Kidnapping, child kidnapping, or aggravated kidnapping
  • Human trafficking of a child
  • Any sexual offense described in title 76, chapter 5, part 4
  • Sexual exploitation of a minor
  • Aggravated arson, aggravated burglary, or aggravated robbery
  • Domestic violence
  • An offense committed outside the State that, if committed in the State, would constitute a violation of an offense described above

The office shall deny approval of a prospective adoptive parent if, within the immediately preceding 5 years, the applicant was convicted of any of the following:

  • Aggravated assault, aggravated assault by a prisoner, or mayhem
  • A drug-related offense

In addition, the office shall conduct the comprehensive review of an applicant's background check if the child abuse registry check indicates that the individual is listed in a child abuse and neglect registry of another State as having a substantiated or supported finding of a severe type of child abuse or neglect.

When Studies Must Be Completed

Citation: Ann. Code § 78B-6-128; Admin. Code R512-40-3

A child may not be placed in an adoptive home until a preplacement adoptive evaluation assessing the prospective adoptive parent and the prospective adoptive home has been conducted in accordance with the requirements of this section.

The preplacement evaluation shall be completed or updated within the 12-month period immediately preceding the placement of a child with the prospective adoptive parent.

In regulation: A record of the approved home study shall be maintained in the division's management information system. Any significant changes in the family's situation shall be documented by revisions or additions on an annual basis in the adoptive study, including revised medical reports, if needed.

At the end of a family's third year as an approved prospective adoptive home, the division shall notify the family that their home study will be closed unless the family reapplies for a new home study to be completed.

Postplacement Study Requirements

Citation: Ann. Code § 78B-6-129

A postplacement evaluation shall be conducted and submitted to the court prior to the final hearing in an adoption proceeding. The postplacement evaluation shall include the following:

  • Verification of the allegations of fact contained in the adoption petition
  • An evaluation of the progress of the child's placement in the adoptive home
  • A recommendation regarding whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child

Exceptions for Stepparent or Relative Adoptions

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 78B-6-128; 78B-6-129

Preplacement and postplacement evaluations are not required if a preexisting parent has legal custody of the adoptee and the prospective adoptive parent is related to that child or the preexisting parent as a stepparent, sibling, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or first cousin unless the court otherwise requests the preplacement evaluation. The prospective adoptive parent shall obtain criminal history record information and a report containing all information regarding reports and investigations of child abuse, neglect, and dependency and file that documentation with the court prior to finalization of the adoption.

Requirements for Interjurisdictional Placements

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 62A-4a-701; 62A-4a-710

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 State of Utah may request a home study report from another State or an Indian Tribe for purposes of assessing the safety and suitability of placing a child in a home outside of the jurisdiction of the State of Utah.

The State of Utah may not impose any restriction on the ability of a State agency administering, or supervising the administration of, a State program operated under a State plan approved under 42 U.S.C. § 671 to contract with a private agency to conduct a home study.

When the State of Utah receives a home study report, the home study report shall be considered to meet all requirements imposed by the State of Utah for completion of a home study before a child is placed in a home, unless, within 14 days after the day on which the report is received, the State of Utah determines, based on grounds that are specific to the content of the report, that making a decision in reliance on the report would be contrary to the welfare of the child.

Foster to Adopt Placements

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

Links to Resources

Utah Guide to Adopting Children Who Live in Foster Care: A Handbook for Prospective Adoptive Parents (Utah Department of Human Services, Division of Child and Family Services)

State regulations