Standards for private organizations

2020 Edition

Adoption Services (AS) 5: Birth Parent Assessments and Child Background Studies

The program conducts assessments and collects information to evaluate service needs, facilitate matching and permanency, and to ensure information will be available for future use.

Interpretation

The term child study includes both the process of assessing the needs of the child and to the written report which is generally included in the referral information provided to prospective adoptive parents.

NA The organization provides home study services only.

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

2020 Edition

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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.
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
  • In a few rare instances, urgent needs were not prioritized; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Culturally responsive assessments are the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; 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
  • Urgent needs are often not prioritized; or 
  • Services are frequently not initiated in a timely manner; or
  • Applicants are not receiving referrals, as appropriate; or 
  • Assessment and reassessment timeframes are often missed; or
  • Assessment are sometimes not sufficiently individualized; 
  • Culturally responsive assessments are not the norm, and this is not being addressed in supervision or training; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent; or
  • Intake or assessment is done by another organization or referral source and no documentation and/or summary of required information is present in case record. 
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.,
  • There are no written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.  
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Procedures for child assessments
  • Procedures for identification and collaboration in ICWA cases
  • Procedures for birth parent assessments
  • Copy of assessment tool(s)
  • Indian Child Welfare Act information provided to families
  • Copies of tribal state agreements, when applicable
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Persons served
  • Review case records

 

AS 5.01

Assessments are conducted and information is collected in a strengths-based, culturally- and linguistically responsive manner to identify services and resources that support the achievement of agreed upon goals and increase engagement in service delivery.


 

AS 5.02

The organization gathers and reviews records and information about both birth parents and their extended families from birth parents or other individuals, including:

  1. preferences for the child's placement and wishes for the child;
  2. preferences for openness or the child maintaining connections with siblings, family members, or other individuals;
  3. birth mother and father medical and social history, including mental health and substance use history;
  4. birth parents' relationship history;
  5. support provided by birth mother and father during the pregnancy and care, visitation and custody of the child;
  6. dated photographs, videos, and/or a physical description of birth parents; and
  7. information about the child's grandparents and siblings. 

Interpretation

A birth parent’s social history should include information about: marital status, family history, tribal affiliation, employment, education, religion, interests, and talents. 

When the program is unable to obtain this information, it makes reasonable efforts to obtain the information up until the time when the adoption is finalized and documents efforts to obtain the missing information in the case record. 

In foster care adoptions, information from the foster care record should be obtained before the record is sealed, and appropriate information should be shared with the prospective adoptive parents.

Interpretation

In the case of an American Indian or Alaska Native child, information gathered should also include the child’s Certified Degree of Indian Blood and tribal membership card. To protect an American Indian or Alaska Native child’s rights to tribal enrollment or membership, the state agency, court, and private agency if applicable must also coordinate the preparation and maintenance of confidential records on all state adoptions of American Indian and Alaska Native children that include:

  1. a copy of the final adoption decree or order;
  2. the birth name and birthdate of the Indian child, their tribal affiliation, and the name of the child after adoption;
  3. names and addresses of the birth parents;
  4. names and addresses of the adoptive parents;
  5. name and contact information for any agency having files or information related to the adoption;
  6. any affidavit signed by the biological parent(s) requesting confidential identity; and
  7. any information relating to tribal membership or eligibility of the adopted child. 
The Bureau of Indian Affairs is also authorized to receive and maintain these records and to release them at the request of an American Indian or Alaska Native adoptee, their adoptive or foster parents, or an Indian tribe when the American Indian or Alaska Native child has reached age 18. 

Interpretation

In child-focused recruitment programs, the worker must conduct an in-depth review of the records and information obtained which should also include all significant people in the child’s life, past or present. 

 

AS 5.03

The organization gathers and reviews records and information about the child from the youth, birth parents, or other individuals who have custody or are responsible for care of the child, including:

  1. dated photographs or videos of the child;
  2. history and records of prenatal care and the child’s birth;
  3. date the child entered into care, the circumstances of the child’s entry into care and a history of all past and current placements;
  4. history of abuse or neglect;
  5. assessment of past trauma;
  6. the child’s medical and social history including any significant illnesses, injuries, or diagnoses, hospitalizations, other special needs; 
  7. all available medical records for the child including developmental status and data, test results, immunization records, dental records, and psychological records;
  8. results of a current medical examination;
  9. history and records of the child’s education; and
  10. contact information for organizations, medical professionals or facilities, or others involved in providing services to the birth parents and the child.

Interpretation

In child-focused recruitment programs, the worker must conduct an in-depth review of the records and information obtained, which should also include the child’s:
  1. next court date;
  2. most recent assessment;
  3. history of services received and needed;
  4. strengths, challenges, and desires; and
  5. preparedness for adoption.

 
Fundamental Practice

AS 5.04

When the child study is for a youth, the program engages the youth in an assessment of:
  1. their goals;
  2. their understanding of and interest in adoption; 
  3. their concerns; and
  4. ways in which they can be involved in the process.
NA The program does not work with youth considering or planning for adoption.

 
Fundamental Practice

AS 5.05

The organization identifies American Indian and Alaska Native children and has a process to ensure outreach and collaboration with the tribe or Indian organization to:

  1. determine jurisdiction;
  2. ensure compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act;
  3. provide the family with information regarding their rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act;
  4. facilitate participation in assessment and service planning to determine the most appropriate plan for the child; and
  5. maintain connections between the child, the child's extended family, and his or her tribe.

Interpretation

 All programs must have established procedures for identifying American Indian and Alaska Native children to determine if the child or his/her biological parent(s) are members of a federally recognized Indian tribe, or if the child is eligible for membership in a federally recognized Indian tribe. Physical appearance, blood quantum, or perceived presence or absence of cultural cues within the family are not appropriate determinants of ICWA applicability. The organization should document efforts to identify and contact children’s tribes and if tribes are unknown the organization should contact the regional office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to identify, locate, and notify the child’s tribe.