Types of Home Studies

Parents need home studies for various reasons, including to get approval to adopt, to become a foster parent, or to regain custody of a child. Most home studies have the same basic components and are designed to help with child placement evaluation; however, some of the exact requirements may vary given the type of home study needed.

Adoption Home Study

The home study for adoption is a process that educates prospective parents on what to expect during the adoption process, as well as a way for the state to approve parents for adoption. The kind of adoption home study you need depends on whether you are trying to pursue a domestic adoption, an international adoption, or an adoption with a child from foster care. Home study requirements also vary on a state-by-state basis, so it’s important to make sure you work with a provider in your state.

Domestic home study

Parents looking to adopt a child in the U.S. typically will go through a domestic home study. In some states, a home study is not required for relative adoptions, such as step-parent adoptions or grandparent adoptions. For a full list of requirements for your state, view our state-by-state adoption guides.

International adoption home study

New regulations applying to all international adoptions went into effect in July 2014 and state that your home study for international adoption must be done by a Hague-accredited or Hague-supervised provider, which is a provider who has been licensed by an accrediting agency to provide international adoption services.  Failure to use a Hague-accredited provider means that you will not be able to bring the adopted child through U.S. immigration.

Some home study providers and social workers may be able to be supervised by a Hague-accredited child placement agency to perform home studies. As you are selecting a home study provider, it’s important to make sure to check to make sure that they are accredited to perform an international home study. International home studies also typically require at least 10 hours of training (though the amount of training required may vary by country).

Foster home study

Parents looking to adopt children from the foster system typically need a special kind of home study which helps parents prepare for adopting a child from the foster system. Requirements tend to vary on a state-by-state basis; for example, some states have a dual-approval home study which can be used for families who only want to foster, only want to adopt, or want to foster-to-adopt.

In some states you can get your foster home study done through a government agency, like your local social services department. Other times the government will pay for private agencies to do it or will subsidize your private agency costs. Parents adopting from the foster system also typically need to take some educational trainings as part of the home study requirements as well. Check your state’s requirements here.

Other Types of Home Studies for Child Placement

Home study for custody cases

When going through divorce or custody proceedings in court, either party in the proceedings or a judge may order a home study as a way to collect more information about the child’s placement and help the judge make a custody decision. This is also known as a court-ordered home study. If you need a home study for custody purposes, make sure that the court order specifically addresses any special requests or issues that the court needs more information on.

CPS home study

In some cases when abuse or neglect has been suspected, Child Protective Services (CPS) may temporarily take custody of the child. In these cases, the parent(s) can request a social services home study be conducted with relatives or other non-relatives who have had a previous substantial relationship with the child so that the child can be placed in the home of someone he or she already knows.

Home Study Methodology

SAFE adoption home study

Home study methodology differs based on state requirements, however, some states and jurisdictions have implemented the Structured Analysis Family Evaluation (SAFE) adoption home study. SAFE is a specific home study methodology that has been adopted by a number of states, including California, Colorado, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and other jurisdictions. It standardizes the home study process across states and ensures uniformity in the techniques social workers use to better understand family dynamics and other factors affecting child placements.

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