5110. Completing the Home Study

Approval:      Connie Lambert-Eckel, Acting Assistant Secretary

Original Date: September 2015

Revised Date: July 1, 2018

Sunset Review: July 1, 2023

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. DLR may decline a home study application if a child is not placed in the home and Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is not seeking placement with the applicant or if there are identified safety concerns.
  2. Home studies are required regardless of whether the applicant intends to be foster care licensed or an unlicensed caregiver.
  3. Home studies are not required for youth participating in the Extended Foster Care Program.
  4. 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.
  5. The home study must include an assessment of the competence and suitability of the applicants as well as the physical setting of the placement.
  6. The DLR worker must interact with the applicant in a manner that is culturally responsive and solution based.
  7. The DLR worker must have a discussion about cultural awareness and humility with the foster parents to educate the foster parents on the importance of meeting the child’s cultural needs including, but not limited to, religious affiliation, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
  8. 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.
  9. The DLR worker must contact or document at least two attempts to make contact with all adult children.
  10. 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.
  11. The DLR worker must complete a minimum of three in-person contacts, with two visits in the applicant’s home.
  12. The DLR worker must complete a joint interview if there are two applicants and a separate individual interviews for each applicant and each household member (including children).
  13. The interviews and assessment of the home and family may be discontinued once the determination has been made to deny the home study.
  14. 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.
  15. Licensed and unlicensed providers and all household members must have pertussis vaccinations prior to taking placement of children birth to two years.
  16. 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.
  17. 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 adopting another child that is outside the recommendations on the previous home study.
    4. The local court requires an update.
  18. 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 or declined unlicensed, suitable other, or adoption only home study applicants do not have an appeal process or a due process right to an administrative hearing to challenge the outcome of the home study.

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 DLR receives an application and background authorization forms for all household members age 16 and older.
    3. Complete background checks on individuals age 16 and older, including those living on the premises, and other requirements in the 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 they cannot be eligible for foster care reimbursements unless they become licensed foster parents, but that alternatively 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 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 references must be unrelated to the applicant. If an adult child is the third reference, that adult child must complete the Adult Child Reference Questionnaire DSHS 15-286A.
    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 any child safety hazards are identified in the home of an applicant seeking licensure. Complete a plan in the home study addressing the hazards for an unlicensed applicant.
    16. If fire safety hazards are identified and cannot be remedied by the applicant, require the applicant to:
      1. Complete a fire safety inspection by the local fire department. Fire safety inspections are completed at the applicant’s expense. In rare situations, the department may elect to pay for a fire safety inspection for a relative or suitable other.
      2. Provide documentation to the department.
    17. Staff with DLR supervisor if any parenting concerns or barriers to the home study are identified or if the applicant is being required to provide additional information or complete evaluations.
    18. Request and obtain additional information from the applicant or complete an evaluation if concerns are identified in the personal statements, interviews, or any other time during the home study process. Evaluations must be completed at the applicant’s expense. In rare situations, the department may elect to pay for an evaluation for a relative or suitable person.
      1. Obtain a release signed by the applicant allowing information sharing before, during, and after the evaluation.
      2. Provide all information to the evaluator before the scheduled evaluation that is related to the worker’s concern and document the evaluation results and recommendations in the home study.                                    
    19. 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.
    20. Obtain approval from the DLR supervisor 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 applicant at their home.
      1. Complete background checks on individuals age 16 and older, including those living on the premise, and other requirements in the 6800 Background Check policy.
    2. Conduct interviews with minor and adult children and any other household members.
    3. Complete new references or a follow-up call discussing the applicant’s ability to parent with the references identified for the previous home study.
    4. Complete a Household Safety Inspection for Unlicensed Placements and Adoption Home Study Updates DSHS 10-453, whether licensed or unlicensed.
    5. Complete an Emergency Evacuation Plan DSHS 16-204, unless there have been no changes from the previous plan.
    6. 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.
    7. 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 who is not seeking licensure:
    1. Use the Shared Decision Making Matrix.
    2. Request a staffing with DCFS staff if DCFS referred the family for the home study.
    3. Obtain approval from the DLR supervisor or DLR area administrator to deny the home study.
    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