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Private Organization Accreditation

Debt Education and Certification Foundation (DECAF), a private non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, provides high-quality financial education and counseling, with nationwide outreach throughout the U.S. DECAF is HUD-approved, and recognized as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work for in Texas.
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VOLUNTEER TESTIMONIAL

Anita Paukovits

Volunteer Roles: Peer Reviewer

Being a COA peer reviewer has clearly played a role in my professional development and has made me a better administrator at my own agency as a result!  To be part of a professional network that is on the cutting edge of program, practice, fiscal responsibility, and insuring Best Practice across the field is an amazing opportunity.
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Purpose

Adoption programs establish permanent family relationships for children in need of permanency, and increase the well-being, functioning, and stability of children, birth parents, adoptive families, and adopted individuals.

AS 6: Home Study Practice

Home study preparers use a standardized home study process to collect and analyze information and determine the eligibility, capabilities, and suitability of prospective adoptive parents. 

Interpretation: The term home study includes both the process of assessing the prospective adoptive parents and to the written report. The process is ongoing; home studies may need to be updated periodically or when there are significant changes.

Note: Foster Care to Adoption programs will implement FKC 18 and AS 6.

 NA The organization provides post placement and/or post-adoption services only.

Rating Indicators
1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice standards.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted, however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations (HR 6.02) and training (TS 2.03); or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • A number of client records are missing important information  or
  • Client participation is inconsistent; or
  • One of the Fundamental Practice Standards received a rating of 3 or 4.
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing; or  
  • Two or more Fundamental Practice Standards received a rating of 3 or 4.

Table of Evidence

Self-Study Evidence On-Site Evidence On-Site Activities
    • Home study procedures
    • Homestudy tools
    • Procedures for background checks
No On-Site Evidence
    • Interviews may include:
      1. Program director
      2. Relevant personnel
    • Review case records

  • AS 6.01

    Home study preparers use a defined method and tools for home studies and the program has systems in place to reinforce the consistent application of the method and tools through initial and periodic training and ongoing supervision.

    Interpretation: While practice should be consistent with the program model, tools, and standards, decisions about how the home study is conducted in each case, including, who must be interviewed, how each interview is conducted, the content of interviews, and visits to the home, are clinical decisions that should take into account the unique needs and circumstances of the prospective adoptive parent(s) and the child if the child is already identified or living in the home.


  • FP
    AS 6.02

    The homestudy process includes:

    1. the receipt of self-reported information and documents from the prospective adoptive parents;
    2. at least one individual in-person interview with each prospective adoptive parent and one joint interview;
    3. age and developmentally appropriate interviews with each child and adult living or frequently in the home;
    4. age and developmentally appropriate interviews with each child or adult child of the prospective adoptive parents living outside the home;
    5. at least two visits to the prospective adoptive family’s home and during one or more of those visits a safety assessment of the home and an observation of family members interacting together;
    6. criminal background and child abuse and neglect registry checks in accordance with applicable law and regulation;  
    7. a review of information and documents relating to any previous unfavorable home studies, denied adoption petitions, disruptions, dissolutions, or placement of other children out of the home;
    8. written references and interviews with individuals providing references; and
    9. periodic updates and updates when there are significant changes in circumstance to ensure relevant information and documents are current.

    Interpretation: Individuals living in the home share common areas, sleep in the home, and have lived there for more than two weeks. Individuals frequently in the home can include, for example, a child care provider.  

    In person interviews provide the best opportunity for engagement of the person interviewed and provide additional information through observations and interactions during the interview and are preferred, but have only been specifically required for the prospective adoptive parents.  It can sometimes be appropriate to interview other individuals through a videoconference or over the phone.  When the agency is unable to complete an interview, it makes a clinical determination if the interview is necessary given the circumstances, other steps that can be taken to obtain relevant information, and documents that decision and its efforts in the case record.

    People who provide references should be interviewed to validate the reference and can provide additional information or verification of other information collected through the home study process.   

    While best practice generally requires at least two visits to the home to effectively engage the family in the home study process, make the necessary observations, and effectively collect all the required and necessary information, the agency should conduct additional visits when it deems necessary.  

    Tribes and local Indian organizations may also be able to provide valuable support in assessing and approving adoptive families for American Indian and Alaska Native children.

    Note: Home studies including background checks should be updated periodically so that they remain valid in accordance with applicable requirements. A significant change in circumstance can include a change in: residence, employment or financial resources, additional children or adults residing in the home, criminal history, abuse history, medical status, etc. Updates for a significant change in circumstance are best completed as soon as possible, but may be postponed in certain circumstances, for example, if an additional change is expected or the prospective adoptive parents expect a significant amount of time to pass before their home study will be used.


  • AS 6.03

    The homestudy includes a psychosocial assessment of each prospective adoptive parent’s:

    1. motivation and expectations relating to adoption;
    2. personal characteristics such as adaptability, coping skills, communication, and problem solving;
    3. caregiving abilities and experiences especially for children or adults with significant or complex needs, including knowledge and skills relating to discipline techniques;
    4. willingness and ability to support a child’s continued connection to his or her birth parents, siblings, and relatives and racial, ethnic and cultural heritage; and
    5. previous experiences with foster care or adoption.

     Interpretation: The assessment of knowledge and skills relating to discipline techniques should include an assessment of the risk of prospective adoptive parents’ use of interventions that can be harmful to children, especially children with a history of trauma. Some examples of interventions which can be harmful include but are not limited to:

    1. corporal punishment;
    2. interventions that involve withholding nutrition or hydration or that inflict physical or psychological pain;
    3. the use of demeaning, shaming, or degrading language or activities; and
    4. forced physical exercise as punishment or in excess.

  • AS 6.04

    The home study includes a psychosocial assessment of each prospective adoptive parent’s:

    1. previous history of and services related to infertility, miscarriage or death of a child;
    2. personal history of trauma, abuse or neglect, alcohol or drug use;
    3. current status and history of physical and mental health;
    4. significant family history, status of marital and family relationships, and family lifestyle;
    5. education; literacy and language skills;
    6. employment history and financial status; and
    7. the community and social environment.


  • AS 6.05

    The home study process engages prospective adoptive parents in an open and transparent self-assessment of their strengths and capabilities to provide lifelong care and support to children who have experienced trauma and loss and the program provides education and support and continued assessment throughout the home study and preparation process to help prospective adoptive parents confirm for themselves if adoption continues to be an appropriate goal.


  • AS 6.06

    The information gathered during the home study process is carefully considered, in a timely manner, to determine if:

    1. if any further assessment is needed;
    2. what additional counseling, training, or preparation is needed;
    3. the family’s ability and readiness to successfully complete an adoption;
    4. the family’s eligibility and suitability for adoption;
    5. the specific characteristics and special needs of children the family would be suitable to care and provide for.

    Interpretation: These assessments and determinations should be clearly documented in the record. 

    Interpretation: The assessment should include evaluation of information about the other children and adults living or frequently in the home.   

    Note: The program should have a system or approach that recognizes that there can be subjective aspects to its assessment and has appropriate mechanisms in place to ensure that its determinations are well justified.


  • AS 6.07

    When the program has reason to believe that the prospective adoptive parents may not meet the required eligibility criteria or certain factors may not be able to be adequately mitigated to demonstrate suitability, the program communicates the specific concerns to the prospective adoptive parents as early as possible and attempts to resolve the concerns, and if it is determined that approval cannot be given and the application has not been withdrawn, the home study report is completed and prospective adoptive parents receive a written explanation of the reasons for the decision and the procedures for appeal.   

    Interpretation: Factors that may need to be mitigated and could delay the completion of the home study process include, for example: healthcare and housing needs especially in kinship or relative adoptions.  

    Eligibility criteria of countries and states may differ and the program must evaluate all applicable criteria.  The program must ensure required eligibility factors are clearly and accurately addressed in the home study.  While some jurisdictions are willing to waive eligibility criteria in unique circumstances, it is best to receive those waivers in advance and in writing.   


  • AS 6.08

    A written home study report is completed in a timely manner and contains complete, accurate and current information addressing all applicable eligibility criteria, suitability, and all other required information.

    Interpretation: Home studies are completed within timeframes established by the program which take into account the needs of children awaiting permanency.  

    Interpretation:  The Safe and Timely Interstate Placement of Foster Children Act requires generally, the completion with 60 days and acceptance of such studies received from another State within 14 days.
     

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