Preplacement Adoptive Evaluations

Stephen Howard — Stone River Law

Real People. Real Solutions.

Preplacement Adoptive Evaluations

The Utah Adoption Act, Utah Code section 78B-6-128, requires a home evaluation prior to placement of a child for adoption. It also provides exceptions under which this preplacement adoptive evaluation may be waived. Requirements are different if the adoption is done through the foster care system.

Required Preplacement Evaluations

Section 78-6-128 of the Utah Adoption Act requires generally that a child may not be placed for adoption unless a preplacement evaluation has been completed. The evaluation is intended to assess both the prospective adoptive parents and the prospective home. There are, however, exceptions to this general rule.

Exceptions to the Rule

This same section of the Utah Adoption Act also provides a number of exceptions under which the evaluation may be delayed or waived completely.

Temporary Placement Prior to a “Preplacement” Evaluation

The first exception is listed under section 78B-6-128(1)(b) and states that “the court may, at any time, authorize temporary placement of a child in a prospective adoptive home….” This exception provides only temporarily postpones the requirement for obtaining the preplacement evaluation. The “preplacement” adoptive evaluation must still be completed, but may be completed after the child has been placed in the home. This exception most commonly arises in the context of a private adoption.

Exceptions for Relatives

The exceptions provided for under section 78B-6-128(1)(c) for relatives are sometimes referred to as “kinship” exceptions. The use of the term “kinship” in the context of a private adoption can be confusing, as the term has a different legally specific meaning in the context of foster parent adoptions. The exceptions provided under this section are perhaps better referred to as exceptions for “relatives.”

To qualify for this exception, certain requirements must be met. But it is important to note also that even if all of the requirements are met, the court still has discretion to require a preplacement evaluation.

First, a “pre-existing parent” must currently have legal custody of the child who is to be placed for adoption. If both parents have lost parental rights or are deceased when a petition to adopt is filed, this exception will not apply. Nor will it apply in cases where both parents have lost custody of the child and the child has been placed in the custody of the State or in the foster care system. At least one of the child’s parents must, at the time the exception is sought, still retain parental rights.

Second, at least one of the prospective adoptive parents must be related, either to the child OR to the pre-existing parent, as either a stepparent, a sibling (either half sibling or full sibling by blood or adoption), a grandparent, aunt or uncle, or as a first cousin.

Finally, although the preplacement evaluation may be waived the prospective adoptive parents must still comply with the requirements of obtaining a criminal background check and also obtaining a DCFS child abuse registry search.

One final note: Utah Code 78B-6-129 sets forth the requirements for postplacement adoptive evaluations, and incorporates by reference the exceptions established under Utah Code 78B-1-128(1)(c). This means that if the court waives the requirement of obtaining a preplacement evaluation, the statutes also allow the court to waive the postplacement evaluation.