Raleigh Adoption Attorney Explains Pre-placement Assessments (or Home Studies) for Adoptions in North Carolina
Here's What you need to know about Home Studies for Adoptions
Adoption a way to grow your family, and provide a stable, loving home to a child in need. Many people across the state want to offer their love and home to a child, and to care for them as their own. As a family law attorney, I frequently get questions about the process for adoptions in North Carolina.
What most people don’t know is that North Carolina requires a home study for most adoptions. This is a critical part of the adoption process and should not be taken lightly.
A home study, also called a pre-placement assessment, is an important part of the adoption process and is required in all states when a family is applying to adopt a child. A home study is an interview with each adult in the home in order to find out if the individual is suitable to be an adoptive parent.
In other words, a home study is way to ensure that the child is being placed in a home that will provide a stable, welcome, loving environment for the child to grow. It also ensures that the child will be taken care of in the home, and not be injured due to harmful environment. It’s all about making sure the home is in the best interest of the child! Below are answers to common questions regarding home studies.
When is a home study required for an adoption?
Contrary to what most believe, not all adoptions require a home study. If you want to become an adoptive parent and you are a grandparent, full or half sibling, first cousin, aunt, uncle, great-aunt, great-uncle, or great-grandparent a home study is not required (unless you are going through an adoption agency). You also do not need a home study if you are a step-parent and your step-child has lived with you and your spouse (the child’s parent) for over two years.
If you do not fall into this category, North Carolina requires that the home study be completed or updated within the 18 months before the child is moved into the home or placed in the home by social services.
Who conducts the home study?
North Carolina law requires that a home study is conducted by social services (in the county in which the prospective adoptive parents lives) or by a company who has been licensed by the department of social services.
Who and what must be studied? What questions are asked?
North Carolina requires that all prospective adoptive parents and all individuals within the adoptive home who are 18 years of age or older to be included in the home study. The assessment must be based on at least one interview in the prospective adoptive parent’s home, but there could be several interviews, and the final report must address several topics.
Let’s start with the basics.
The assessor will gather information such as your name, date of birth, race, nationality, educational background, and current property and financial information.
The assessor will also gather information on employment histories or other special skills used for employment. Prospective parents are asked questions about why they are choosing to adopt, what their family status and background is, and what their religious preferences are.
The assessor also gathers information about the home itself and the people living there.
How many children are there?
Are any other children adopted?
Are there any substance abuse problems for anyone living in the home?
Have there been in the past?
Has anyone in the home been a respondent in a domestic violence proceeding or a proceeding concerning a minor who was allegedly abused, dependent, neglected, abandoned, or delinquent?
While it may or may not be a part of your home study, it is important to note a state and federal criminal background check is also a requirement before any child in the custody of social services can be placed with a prospective adoptive family.
When going through the process of a home study, it may seem a bit intrusive on your personal life. If you ever start to feel this way, remember that you are signing up to take responsibility for another life, this is something the state does not take lightly.
At the end of the day, the goal of the home study is to make a determination of an individual’s suitability to be an adoptive parent (including quality of the environment in home and functioning of any children in the household).
How much does a home study cost? Who pays for a home study?
Adoption is an expensive process and your home study is no exception. The cost of a home study varies based on which company or organization is conducting the assessment and where the home study is located. The company that performs the home study can charge a reasonable amount that is reviewable by the courts and the Department of Social Services sets the maximum fees which may be charged by county departments.
What if I don’t agree with the home study report?
If you do not receive a favorable assessment, you have a couple of options, but we always recommend seeking legal advice to your specific issues or concerns. One option is to call the company who prepared your assessment and ask for an internal review or explanation of the results.
If you are not happy with that, you can also write a formal response to the home study and send it to the Division of Social Services (DSS). Be aware that DSS is not required to respond to your submission and the statutes outlining home studies do not provide for a review process, and your response could do more harm than good.
If you have questions about adoptions we can help! Adoption is a long and complicated process and you should have an attorney to advise you as early in the process as possible.
If you are thinking about adoption, call Kurtz & Blum today at 919-832-7700 to schedule a consultation!