Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption - Virginia

Date: August 2020

Who Must Be Studied

Citation: Admin. Code Tit. 22, § 40-211-30

The applicant and all members of the household shall be included in the home study.

Agency or Person Conducting the Study

Citation: Ann. Code § 63.2-1231

The home study may be conducted by the agency social worker, family services specialist, or other qualified equivalent worker.

Qualifications for Adoptive Parents

Citation: Ann. Code § 63.2-1231; Admin. Code Tit. 22, §§ 40-211-20; 40-211-60; 40-211-70

The prospective adoptive parents must be financially able, morally suitable, and in satisfactory physical and mental health to care for the child.

In regulation: All resource, foster, adoptive, and respite providers seeking approval from the local Department of Social Services shall be at least age 18. The applicant must complete the preservice training that is provided by the local department.

The applicant's home shall have sufficient appropriate space and furnishings for each child receiving care in the home. The home shall be heated in winter, dry, well-ventilated, and have adequate lighting. The home shall have a working telephone and an operable smoke detector.

Multiple children sharing a bedroom shall each have adequate space, including closet and storage space. Bedrooms shall have adequate square footage for each child to have personal space. Children over the age 2 shall not share a bed. Children over age 2 shall not share a bedroom with an adult unless the local department approves due to documented needs, disabilities, or other specified conditions. Children of any age cannot share a bed with an adult. Children of the opposite sex over age 3 shall not sleep in the same room.

The home and grounds shall be free from litter and debris and present no hazard to the safety of the child. The provider shall store any firearms and other weapons with the activated safety mechanisms in a locked closet or cabinet. Ammunition shall be stored in a separate and locked area. Providers shall ensure that household pets are not a health or safety hazard in accordance with State laws and local ordinances.

Elements of a Home Study

Citation: Ann. Code § 63.2-1721; Admin. Code Tit. 22, §§ 40-211-30; 40-211-40

All applicants shall undergo background checks that include a criminal history record check and a search of the central registry maintained for any founded complaint of child abuse and neglect.

In regulation: The applicant and all other household members shall submit to a tuberculosis screening and submit the results of a physical examination administered within the last 13 months from a licensed health-care professional.

The local department shall conduct at least three face-to-face interviews with each applicant, with at least one in the applicant's home. If two individuals are listed as applicants, at least one interview must be with both individuals. At least one interview shall be with all individuals who reside in the home.

The local department shall obtain at least three references from persons who have knowledge of each applicant's character and experience with children. At least one reference per person shall be from a nonrelative.

The local department shall conduct a mutual family assessment (MFA). The MFA shall include the following:

  • Demographic information, including age, marital status, and family history
  • Financial information, including employment, assets, and debts
  • Information from the interviews, references, and observations that shall be used to document that the applicant meets the following criteria:
    • Is physically and mentally capable of providing the necessary care for children
    • Can articulate a reasonable process for managing emergencies and ensuring the adequate care, safety, and protection of children
    • Expresses attitudes that demonstrate the capacity to love and nurture a child born to someone else
    • Expresses appropriate motivation to foster and adopt
    • Shows stability in all household relationships
    • Has the financial resources to provide for current and ongoing household needs

Grounds for Withholding Approval

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 63.2-1205.1; 63.2-1719

No petition for adoption shall be granted if the person seeking to adopt has been convicted of a sexually violent offense or an offense requiring registration as a sex offender.

In the case of adoptive homes approved by child-placing agencies, convictions for any crime that is defined as a barrier to approval shall include prior adult convictions and juvenile convictions or adjudications of delinquency based on a crime that would be a felony if committed by an adult within or outside the Commonwealth.

A barrier crime, as defined by § 19.2-392.02, includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Murder or manslaughter
  • Malicious wounding by mob
  • Abduction or abduction for immoral purposes
  • Assault and bodily wounding
  • Robbery
  • Carjacking
  • Threats of death or bodily injury
  • Extortion by threat
  • Felony stalking or violation of a protective order
  • Sexual assault
  • Sex trafficking
  • Arson
  • Drive-by shooting
  • Use of a machine gun or a sawed-off shotgun in a crime of violence
  • Pandering
  • Crimes against nature involving children
  • Taking indecent liberties with children
  • Abuse and neglect of children
  • Failure to secure medical attention for an injured child
  • Obscenity offenses
  • Possession of child pornography
  • Electronic facilitation of pornography
  • Abuse and neglect of incapacitated adults
  • Delivery of drugs to prisoners
  • Escape from jail
  • Felonies by prisoners
  • Any offense for which the person is required to register as a sex offender

When Studies Must Be Completed

Citation: Ann. Code § 63.2-1231

Any home study conducted for the purpose of parental placement or agency placement shall be valid for a period of 36 months from the date of completion. However, the State Board of Social Services may, by regulation, require an additional State criminal background check before finalizing an adoption if more than 18 months have passed from the completion of the home study.

Postplacement Study Requirements

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.2-1208

After an adoption petition has been filed, the court shall refer the case to a child-placing agency to conduct an investigation and prepare a report. The investigation shall include inquiries as to the following:

  • Whether the petitioner is financially able, morally suitable, in satisfactory physical and mental health, and a proper person to care for and to train the child
  • The physical and mental condition of the child
  • Why the parents, if living, desire to be relieved of the responsibility for the custody, care, and maintenance of the child and what their attitude is toward the proposed adoption
  • Whether the parents have abandoned the child or are morally unfit to have custody over him or her
  • The circumstances under which the child came to live, and is living, in the physical custody of the petitioner
  • Whether the child is a suitable child for adoption by the petitioner
  • What fees have been paid by the petitioners or on their behalf to persons or agencies that have assisted them in obtaining the child
  • Whether the adoptive parents have received the report of the birth parents' physical and mental health and the background, medical, and psychological records of the child

The report shall include a recommendation as to the action to be taken by the court on the petition.

Exceptions for Stepparent or Relative Adoptions

Citation: Ann Code §§ 63.2-1241 through 63.2-1242.3

For a stepparent adoption, an investigation and report shall be undertaken only if the circuit court in its discretion determines that there should be an investigation before a final order of adoption is entered.

A close relative placement is an adoption by the child's grandparent, great-grandparent, adult nephew or niece, adult brother or sister, adult uncle or aunt, adult great-uncle or great-aunt, stepparent, adult stepbrother or stepsister, or other adult relative of the child by marriage or adoption.

When the child continuously has lived with a close relative for less than 2 years, the adoption proceeding, including court approval of the home study, is subject to parental placement adoption provisions with the following exceptions:

  • The birth parent(s)' consent does not have to be executed in court in the presence of the prospective adoptive parents.
  • A simultaneous meeting of birth and adoptive parents is not required.
  • No hearing is required for this proceeding.
  • A postplacement investigation and a report shall not be made if the home study report is filed with the court, unless the court orders one.
  • The court may omit the probationary period and enter a final order of adoption.
  • The circuit court may waive appointment of a guardian ad litem for the child.

When the child continuously has lived with a close relative for 2 or more years, the parental placement provisions shall not apply. For adoptions under this section, the following apply:

  • A postplacement investigation and report shall not be made unless the court orders one.
  • The court may omit the probationary period and enter a final order of adoption.
  • The court may waive appointment of a guardian ad litem for the child.

Requirements for Interjurisdictional Placements

Citation: Ann. Code § 63.2-1000

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 § 63.2-1229; Admin. Code Tit. 22 §§ 40-211-10; 40-211-20

A foster parent may petition to adopt the foster child that is placed in his or her home when the following apply:

  • Either of the following applies:
    • The child-placing agency holding custody of the child consents to the adoption after the child has resided in the home of the foster parent continuously for at least 6 months.
    • The child-placing agency does not consent to the adoption of the child, and the child has resided in the home of the foster parent continuously for at least 18 months.
  • The birth parents' rights to the child have been terminated.

The circuit court shall accept the petition filed by the foster parent and shall order a thorough investigation of the matter to be made pursuant to § 63.2-1208. The court may refer the matter for investigation to a licensed child-placing agency other than the agency holding custody of the child. Upon completion of the investigation and report and filing of the consent of the agency holding custody of the child, the circuit court may enter a final order of adoption waiving visitation requirements if the circuit court determines that the adoption is in the best interests of the child.

In regulation: A resource parent is an approved provider who is committed to both supporting reunification and being prepared to adopt the child if the child and family do not reunify. When applicants are approved in accordance with regulations, they are approved as foster families, adoptive families, resource families, or respite families. The approved provider shall, however, be allowed to choose to provide only foster care, adoptive care, or respite care if they do not wish to serve as a resource family.

Links to Resources

The Steps to Adoption (Virginia Department of Social Services)

State regulations