5110. Completing the Home Study

Approval:      Connie Lambert-Eckel, Acting Assistant Secretary

Original Date:

Revised Date: October 19, 2017

Sunset Review: October 1, 2021


Purpose

Children placed in out-of-home care are particularly vulnerable and have a special need for placement in a safe, stable and nurturing environment. Assessing the applicant’s ability to provide a safe and healthy environment for every child is critical to a child’s well-being.

Scope

This policy applies to all Division of Licensed Resources (DLR) licensing staff.

Laws

RCW 26.33.180 Preplacement report required before placement with adoptive parent, exception

RCW 26.33.190 Placement report, requirements, fees

RCW 43.20A.205 Denial, suspension, revocation, or modification of license

RCW 74.13 Child Welfare Services Chapter 

RCW 74.14A.020 Services for emotionally disturbed and mentally ill children, potentially dependent children, and families in conflict

RCW 74.15 Care of children, expectant mothers, persons with developmental disabilities

Policy

  1. The home study process must be initiated on any individual who wants to care for children placed out-of-home regardless of whether the applicants intends to be licensed. Home studies are not required for youth participating in the Extended Foster Care Program.
  2. The home study referral must be made within 30 days of the start of the placement per the 45274. Placements with Unlicensed Relative or Suitable Persons policy.
  3. The home study must include an assessment of the character, competence and suitability of the applicants as well as the physical setting of the placement.
  4. The DLR worker must interact with the applicants in a manner that is culturally competent and solution based.
  5. The DLR worker must have a discussion about cultural awareness and competency with the foster parents to educate the foster parents on the importance of meeting the child’s cultural needs.
  6. The DLR worker must assess the applicant’s ability to care for children in out-of-home care by reviewing or completing the following:
    1. Application packet
    2. Background Authorization DSHS 09-653
    3. Administrative Review’s collateral information for crimes and/or negative actions, if applicable;
    4. Condition of the home;
    5. Applicant interviews;
    6. Applicant’s children’s interviews (including adult children and other children residing in the home); and
    7. Other collateral contacts, as applicable.
  7. The DLR worker must contact or document at least two attempts to make contact with all adult children.
  8. The DLR worker will obtain at least three references. No more than one reference may be related to the applicants by birth, marriage or former marriage as noted in 5201. Emergency Planning for Licensed and Unlicensed Caregivers.
  9. The DLR worker must complete a minimum of three in-person contacts, with two visits in the applicant’s home.
  10. The DLR worker must complete a joint interview if there are two applicants; and a separate individual interview for each applicant and each household member (including children).
  11. Licensed providers and all household members must have influenza and pertussis vaccinations when licensed for children ages birth to two years, unless a medical exemption has been approved for influenza.
  12. Licensed and unlicensed providers and all household members must have pertussis vaccinations prior to taking placement of children birth to two years.
  13. The DLR worker must complete the required number of licensed or unlicensed home studies per DLR Performance Goals located on the Children’s Administration (CA) intranet under DLR Programs.
  14. An adoption home study update is required when:
    1. There is a change within the family, e.g. divorce, someone new moves in the home, a medical condition or significant change affecting the caregiver’s ability to care for children.
    2. The needs or characteristics of a child considered for adoption is significantly different than when the family was assessed in a previously approved home study.
    3. The family previously adopted a child and is now adopting another child, unless the child (subject of the current adoption) was residing in the home during the previous home study and assessed. 
    4. The local court requires an update.
  15. All home studies and adoption home study updates must be approved, denied or withdrawn in writing.
    NOTE: Denied foster home licensing applicants have a due process right to an administrative hearing.  Denied unlicensed, suitable other, or adoption only home study applicants do not have an appeal process or a due process right to an administrative hearing.

Procedures

  1. New Home Study
    The DLR worker must:
    1. Review the completed Family Home Study Application DSHS 10-354, supporting documentation and forms to confirm all information is complete.
    2. Launch the home study icon in FamLink when an application and background authorization forms for all household members age 16 and older are received.
    3. Complete all of the following:
      1. Background checks on all household members age 16 years and older using the Background Check Authorization form DSHS 09-653.
      2. Fingerprints on all household members age 16 years and older, unless they have previously been completed.
      3. Household members under the age of 16 years may be required to complete a background check to ensure safety of a child placed in a licensed home. Requests for a background check on a household member under the age of 16 years old must be staffed with a supervisor. If the supervisor approves a background check on a youth under the age of 16, and the youth has lived:
        1. In Washington state for the previous three years, an in-state background check is required.
        2. Outside of Washington state in the previous three years, a national background check is required.
      4. A FamLink person search and CA file review on all persons, regardless of any age living in the home, or who are being cleared to provide substitute care for children.
      5. An out-of-state child abuse and neglect registry check per 6800 Background Check policy.
    4. Notify the applicant by phone, email or mail the Incomplete Application DSHS 15-433 for a full license or the Expedited Incomplete Application DSHS 15-433A for an expedited license within one week of application receipt. Indicate whether their application is complete or if more documentation is needed.  
    5. Follow-up with the applicant a minimum of every 30 days if there are outstanding application materials.
    6. Inform relatives not seeking licensure that foster care reimbursements can only be issued to licensed foster homes, but that they can apply for child-only Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
    7. Obtain a copy of any previous home studies if completed outside of CA. The DLR worker must obtain a signed release of information and request a copy from the agency or person who completed that home study. If unable to obtain the previous home study the DLR worker will document their efforts to do so.
    8. Contact Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) regarding any barriers in completing the home study, for families referred by DCFS for a home study.
    9. Review the completed Personal Information DSHS 15-276 to assist in formulating questions for the interviews. 
    10. Conduct applicant and household member interviews.
    11. Complete the Family Home Study DSHS 10-043, using the Family Home Study Guide as a reference.
    12. Complete the Reference Questionnaire DSHS 15-286 on at least three people designated by the applicant, two must be unrelated to the applicant.
    13. Complete and document in FamLink the Verification of Indian Status DSHS 15-128 if an applicant is Native American and provides Tribal verification. 
    14. Complete the Foster Home Inspection Checklist DSHS 10-183 for all applicants requesting licensure. If the relative or suitable other or adoptive applicant is not seeking licensure, complete Household Safety Inspection for Unlicensed Placements and Adoption Home Study Updates DSHS 10-453.
    15. Complete the Licensing and Safety Supervision Plan For Site Specific Conditions DSHS 10-419 if the home presents child safety hazards for an applicant for licensing. Complete a plan in the home study addressing the hazards for an unlicensed applicant.
    16. Staff with DLR supervisor if there are parenting concerns, barriers to the home study or if requiring the applicants to provide additional information or complete evaluations.
    17. Require the applicant to provide additional information or complete an evaluation if concerns are identified in the personal statements, interviews or other times during the home study process. Evaluations required are at the applicant’s expense or in rare situations can be paid by DCFS.
      1. Obtain a release signed by the applicant allowing information sharing before, during and after the evaluation.
      2. Provide all the information to the evaluator prior to the scheduled evaluation related to the worker’s concern and document the results or conclusions in the home study.                                    
    18. Use the Home Study File Checklist DSHS 10-182 for licensed homes or the Unlicensed File Checklist DSHS 10-182A for unlicensed homes to confirm home study requirements are met.
    19. The DLR supervisor will review and approve all home studies for finalization in FamLink in a timely manner.
  2. Adoption Home Study Update
    The DLR worker must:
    1. Complete a minimum of one in-person contact with the applicants at their home.
    2. Complete all of the following
      1. Background checks on all household members age 16 years and older using the Background Check Authorization form DSHS 09-653.
      2. Fingerprints on all household members age 16 years and older, unless they have previously been completed.
      3. Household members under the age of 16 years may be required to pass a background check to ensure safety of a child placed in a licensed home. Requests for a background check on a household member under the age of 16 years old must be staffed with a supervisor. If the supervisor approves a background check on a youth under the age of 16, and the youth has lived:
        1. In Washington state for the previous three years, an in-state background check is required.
        2. Outside of Washington state in the previous three years, a national background check is required.
      4. A FamLink person search and CA file review on all persons, regardless of any age living in the home or are being cleared to provide substitute care for children.
      5. An out-of-state child abuse and neglect registry check per 6800 Background Check policy.
    3. Conduct interviews of minor and adult children, and any other household members.
    4. Complete new references or a follow-up call discussing the applicant’s ability to parent with the references identified for the previous home study.
    5. Complete a Household Safety Inspection for Unlicensed Placements and Adoption Home Study Updates DSHS 10-453, whether licensed or unlicensed.
    6. Complete an Emergency Evacuation Plan DSHS 16-204, unless there have been no changes from the previous plan.
    7. Obtain an Applicant Medical Report DSHS 13-001, Financial Worksheet DSHS 14-452 and Marital History DSHS 09-979 if the initial home study was not completed as a unified home study.
    8. Complete a Home Study File Checklist DSHS 10-182 for licensed applicants or Unlicensed File Checklist DHS 10-182A for unlicensed applicants.
  3. Upon Approval or Denial of the Home Study
    The DLR worker must:
    1. Maintain an original and a copy of the home study in the provider or licensing file.
    2. Provide a second original home study to the CA Adoption worker when requested.
  4. Home Study Denial on Unlicensed Home
    The DLR worker must complete the following when considering a home study denial for an applicant not seeking licensure:
    1. Use the Shared Decision Making Matrix
    2. Request a staffing with DCFS staff if they referred the family.
    3. The home study denial must be approved by the DLR supervisor or DLR area administrator.
    4. If the denial is approved, send the applicant a copy of their denied home study or denial letter. The denial letter must be approved for use by the DLR supervisor. A copy of the denied home study or letter goes in the licensing file and to the referring DCFS caseworker.
    5. Document information obtained in the home study icon in FamLink.
    6. Document information about the denial in the home study recommendations section.
    7. Approve the home study in FamLink and the supervisor will enter a provider note stating that the home study was denied with a description of the basis for the denial.
      1. See Denials for applicants seeking licensure see 5160. Adverse Licensing Actions

Forms

Applicant Medical Report DSHS 13-001

Background Check Authorization DSHS 09-653

Expedited Incomplete Application DSHS 15-433A (located on the CA intranet)

Family Home Study DSHS 10-043

Financial Worksheet DSHS 14-452

Foster Home Inspection Checklist DSHS 10-183

Home Study File Checklist DSHS 10-182

Household Safety Inspection for Unlicensed Placements and Adoption Home Study Updates DSHS 10-453

Incomplete Application DSHS 15-433

Licensing and Safety Supervision Plan For Site Specific Conditions DSHS 10-419

Marital History DSHS 09-979

Personal Information DSHS 15-276

Reference Questionnaire DSHS 15-286

Unlicensed File Checklist DSHS 10-182A

Verification of Indian Status DSHS 15-128