Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption - Vermont

Date: August 2020

Who Must Be Studied

Citation: Code of Rules § 13-162-005

The study must include all family members.

Agency or Person Conducting the Study

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 15A, § 2-202

A preplacement evaluation may be prepared only by a person who is qualified by the Department for Children and Families to make the evaluation or who meets the qualifications of an evaluator and is appointed by the court.

Qualifications for Adoptive Parents

Citation: Code of Rules § 13-162-005

The prospective adoptive family must be able to meet the child's needs.

Elements of a Home Study

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 15A, § 2-203

A preplacement evaluation shall be based upon a personal interview and visit at the residence of the person being evaluated and personal interviews or correspondence with others who know the person and may have information relevant to the evaluation.

A preplacement evaluation shall contain the following information:

  • Age, nationality, racial or ethnic background, and any religious affiliation
  • Marital status and family history, including the age and location of any children and the identity of and relationship to anyone else living in the household
  • Parenting experience
  • Physical and mental health and any history of alcohol or drug abuse
  • Education and employment history
  • Property, income, and outstanding financial obligations
  • Any previous requests for an evaluation or involvement in an adoptive placement and the outcome of the evaluation or placement
  • Whether the person has been subject to an abuse prevention order, charged with or convicted of domestic assault, the subject of a substantiated complaint filed with the department, or subject to a court order restricting the person's right to parental rights and responsibilities or parent-child contact with a child
  • Whether the person has been convicted of a crime other than a minor traffic violation
  • Whether the person has located a parent interested in placing a child with the person for adoption and, if so, a brief description of the parent and the minor
  • The reason for and attitude about adoption
  • Whether the person is in noncompliance with a child support order
  • Any other fact or circumstance that may be relevant in determining whether the person is suited to be an adoptive parent, including the quality of the environment in the home and the functioning of other children in the household

The applicant shall submit to fingerprinting and sign a release permitting a criminal background check.

Grounds for Withholding Approval

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 15A, § 2-204

If an evaluator determines that the information assessed raises a concern that placement of any minor, or a particular minor, in the home of the person would pose a risk of harm to the physical or psychological well-being of the minor, the evaluator, on the basis of the original or any further investigation, shall find that the person 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. Stat. Tit. 15A, § 2-201

Except for placements with a relative or a stepparent, a person must have a favorable written preplacement evaluation before receiving a child for adoption. An evaluation is valid if it was completed or updated within the 12 months preceding the placement of the child with the person.

Postplacement Study Requirements

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 15A, §§ 3-601; 3-602; 3-603

No later than 5 business days after an adoption petition is filed, the court shall order that an evaluation be made of the placement. The evaluation shall be based on a personal interview with the petitioner in his or her residence and observation of the relationship between the adoptee and the petitioner.

The evaluation shall be in writing and contain the following:

  • An account of any change in the petitioner's marital status or family history, physical or mental health, home environment, property, income, or financial obligations since the filing of the preplacement evaluation
  • All reasonably available information concerning the physical, mental, and emotional condition of the adoptee that is not included in any report on the minor's health, genetic, and social history filed in the proceeding for adoption
  • Copies of any court order, judgment, decree, or pending legal proceeding affecting the adoptee, the petitioner, or any child of the petitioner
  • Any behavior or characteristics of the petitioner that raise a concern
  • A recommendation concerning the granting of the petition for adoption

The evaluator shall complete a written evaluation and file it with the court within 60 days after receipt of the court's order unless the court for good cause allows a later filing. If an evaluation produces a concern, the evaluation shall be filed immediately and shall explain why the concern poses a risk of harm to the physical or psychological well-being of the child.

Exceptions for Stepparent or Relative Adoptions

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 15A, §§ 2-201; 4-110

A preplacement evaluation is not required if a parent or guardian places a child for adoption directly with a relative of the child, but an evaluation of the relative is required during the pendency of a proceeding for adoption.

After a petition for adoption of a minor stepchild is filed, the court may order that an evaluation be made by a qualified evaluator to assist the court in determining whether the proposed adoption is in the best interests of the child. Unless otherwise directed by the court, an evaluator shall base the evaluation on a personal interview with the petitioner and the petitioner's spouse in the petitioner's residence, observation of the relationship between the child and the petitioner, and personal interviews with others who know the petitioner and may have information relevant to the examination.

An evaluation shall be in writing and contain the following:

  • The information required by § 2-203(d) and (e) concerning any background of criminal conviction and/or child maltreatment
  • The information required by § 3-602(b)(2) through (5), including the child's health and social history

If the court does not order an evaluation, the preference of the minor who is younger than age 14 shall be taken into consideration, if the minor is mature enough to express a preference.

Whether or not an evaluation is ordered, the court shall obtain the petitioner's background information, as required by § 2-203(d)(7)-(9).

Requirements for Interjurisdictional Placements

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 15A, § 2-106

An adoption in this State of a minor brought into this State from another State by a prospective adoptive parent, or by a person who places the minor for adoption in this State, is governed by the laws of this State, including this title and the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

Foster to Adopt Placements

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

Links to Resources

Licensing Regulations for Child-Placing Agencies in Vermont (Vermont Department for Children and Families)