What happens during a home study in Colorado?
The home study is an essential part of every adoption that takes place in Colorado.
One of the most important steps in adopting a child in Colorado is the home study. A home study is required for an agency domestic adoption, foreign adoption, and second parent adoption. It is not required for a stepparent adoption and may be waived by the court in Kinship and Custodial adoption cases. Everyone going through the assessment process should know what to expect from the home study.
In order for a home study to be valid, Colorado law dictates that a qualified child placement agency, individual or department of social services must conduct it. Failing to obtain a written report from the approved party could result in serious issues for the prospective family’s adoption.
What the study entails
A written home study is a comprehensive evaluation of the person petitioning for the adoption as well as the child who may be adopted, if already placed in the prospective adoptive home. The report will include, but not be limited to, the following:
- The mental and physical health of the petitioner and the child (if applicable)
- The emotional stability and moral integrity of the petitioner
- The significant events in the family background, evaluation of the applicant’s knowledge and capacity to care for a child, ability to maintain long-term relationships, and significant life changes including issues of grief and loss
- The current status of the family system including marital relationship, interrelationships with significant persons outside the nuclear family, relationships with extended family, methods of decision making, parent/child rearing practices, methods of discipline, religious, career decisions, and child care plans
- Any previous emotional problems, mental illnesses, substance abuse issues or marital problems that may have an impact on the adoption
- The applicant’s finances
- The applicant’s interests and attitude to adopt a child of a different ethnic, cultural, or religious background
- Any history of substance abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse, child neglect or domestic violence
- The suitability of the home
- Whether the applicant has ever been rejected as a prospective adoptive or foster parent
- How long, if applicable, the child has been in custody of the petitioner
As part of the home study process, all adoptive applicants must also receiving training provided by the agency to prepare them for the adoption. Depending on the type of adoption, training must be no less than 16 hours and typically will cover topics such as attachment, loss and grief, adoption as a lifelong issue, child growth and development, parenting a child of a different cultural or racial background, understanding adoption laws and procedures, and on-going contact with biological family members.
When it comes to an adoption from another country, the home study process may involve a few more steps. For example, if the country is part of the Hague Adoption Convention, the country must be selected before the home study is conducted.
Agencies conducting the home study are required to abide by a specific process. This includes a minimum of three face-to-face interviews with a couple and one individual interview with each adult member in the household. For single applicants a minimum of three interviews are required. The agency must conduct at least one interview in the home and must spread out the interviews over a period of at least 7 days. As part of the study, applicants will be required to submit child abuse and criminal clearances, personal references, verification of health insurance, and a physical examination. Typically, the home study process takes about three months to complete but can be expedited if the circumstances warrant. Once approved as adoptive parents, the original study is valid for a three year period but must be updated annually.
Tips for preparing
Anyone about to embark on a home study should be well-prepared. That includes filling out any necessary paperwork honestly and on time. The family should be prepared to produce multiple collateral documents as part of the home study, such as copies of birth certificates, marriage license, if applicable, driver’s licenses, photographs, divorce decree, if applicable, and tax returns.
There are also safety regulations that will determine if a home is sound for a child. For example, people who have a pool in the backyard would be required to ensure that there is a fence around the pool. Covering electrical outlets when adopting a baby would also be a good idea.
A recent report from the Colorado Office of Children, Youth & Families states that in 2015, 824 children who had involvement with welfare services were adopted. There are also many private agency adoptions that occur across the state. In either case, a home study will be required, and having the above information can increase the likelihood of a smooth transition.
Anyone who has questions about this topic, including those related to past criminal convictions, mental health diagnosis, or substance abuse issues, should speak with an experienced adoption attorney in Colorado.