1. Response to Bridge adoption inquiry. When the Bridge adoption inquiry is received by the Bridge Resource Support Center, paragraphs (1) and (2) of this subsection are completed by the support center and the child welfare (CW) specialist proceeds to (3) of this Instruction. When the Bridge adoption inquiry is received by the local Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) office, the adoption specialist:
(1) responds within three business days of the inquiry by mailing a Bridge information packet to the prospective applicant;
(2) documents each inquiry in the KIDS Pre-Resource screen by noting the referral source;
(3) makes face-to-face or telephone contact within five business days after mailing the Bridge information packet and at two week intervals until the applicant's interest is determined;
(4) discusses with each potential applicant the:
(A) basic responsibilities and requirements expected of an adoptive parent;
(B) children in DHS custody available for adoption; and
(C) elements of the application and training process;
(5) discusses with the applicant his or her ability to meet the day-to-day needs of a child, such as providing a stimulating environment and ensuring a child the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities.
(A) When the applicant does not have the ability or willingness to meet the responsibilities and requirements, the adoption specialist explains the application may be denied.
(B) When the applicant wishes to make a formal application, the application is accepted and processed;
(6) carefully considers the responses of each potential applicant to the explanation of the focus and goals of DHS programs;
(7) obtains information regarding the person's particular circumstances, motivation, and ability to care for and adopt a child in DHS custody; and
(8) makes referrals to other program units, such as Oklahoma Child Care Services or the Office of Community and Faith Engagement when the applicant's needs or expectations may be better met through other sources.
2. Bridge resource assessment process. The adoption specialist ensures a safe environment, per Oklahoma Administrative Code (OAC) 340:75-7-15 and 340:75-7-18 for a child in DHS custody who requires an adoptive home by:
(1) completing the initial consultation with the family in the family's home;
(2) evaluating the prospective Bridge adoptive resource home to assess the location, condition, and ability to accommodate children requiring adoption using Form 04AF004E, House Assessment;
(3) evaluating each prospective Bridge resource adoptive parent and adult household member's child welfare and criminal background history;
(4) enrolling the Bridge resource adoptive applicant in pre-service training;
(5) completing and submitting Form 04AF009E, Referral for Bridge Resource Family Assessment, to the resource assessment contractor within 20 calendar days of receipt of the completed application, with:
(A) Form 04AF004E, House Assessment, completed at the initial home visit by the adoption specialist;
(B) Form 04AF001E, Bridge Resource Family Assessment Application;
(C) Form 04AF007E, Records Check Documentation Form;
(D) Form 04AD003E, Request for Background Check, for each application and adult household member;
(E) a copy of each KIDS Pre-Resource contact; and
(F) other forms or documents the applicant provides to the resource specialist;
(6) reviewing and assessing information received regarding the Bridge resource adoptive applicant during pre-service training;
(7) assuring the Bridge resource adoptive applicant completes the pre-service training timely;
(8) assisting the resource adoptive applicant with completing the self-study requirements, when applicable; and
(9) determining the outcome of the Bridge resource family assessment by:
(A) confirming in writing all decisions made regarding the assessment and application process;
(B) providing the adoptive applicant with an explanation of the reasons the assessment is denied, when applicable; and
(C) providing the adoptive applicant with a copy of the resource family assessment without the reference and verification sections when the assessment is approved.
3. Assessing the applicant through the interview process.
(1) The resource assessment contractor assists the adoptive applicant with:
(A) understanding the types of parenting issues faced by families who adopt children with special needs;
(B) gaining insight through feedback about the applicant's strengths, needs, and potential challenges associated with parenting the child with special needs;
(C) assessing the gender, age range, and race of child the applicant prefers to adopt, and the special needs the applicant feels he or she is capable of parenting. Special needs may include the:
(i) child being part of a sibling group;
(ii) child's age;
(iii) child's race;
(iv) child's mental physical, or emotional disabilities; or
(v) child being at high risk for developing a physical or mental disability; and
(D) completing Form 04AF018E, Child Needs Information Checklist, by explaining the conditions listed.
(2) When the applicant has applied to adopt a specific child, the assessment summary addresses:
(A) the applicant's relationship to the child;
(B) the child's needs; and
(C) whether the applicant can meet the child's special needs on a permanent basis and into the child's adulthood.
(3) When assessing an applicant, the most important criterion is the applicant's ability to parent a child not born to him or her. Factors considered in relation to the applicant's ability to parent an adopted child, include the applicant's:
(A) marital status;
(B) income level;
(E) health; and
(F) commitment to parent the child on a permanent, long term basis.
(4) The adoption specialist or resource assessment contractor uses tools to assess the applicant's strengths and challenges related to parenting a child with special needs. These tools are used in connection with the narrative obtained through the interviews, and include the:
(B) Family Network Diagram; and
(5) The adoption specialist allows the applicant to determine the pace at which the assessment proceeds. Some applicants are ready to quickly move through the assessment, while others need more time to process information.
(1) The adoption specialist sends the applicant or provider, as appropriate, Forms:
(A) 04AF015E, Resource Family Reference Letter for Adult Children;
(B) 04AF014E, Resource Family Reference Letter for School Personnel;
(C) 04AF011E, Resource Family Reference Letter for an Employer;
(D) 04AF013E, Resource Family Assessment Reference Letter for Behavioral Health Professionals; and
(E) 04AF012E, Child's Behavioral Health Reference Letter.
(2) Personal references are contacted by the adoption specialist or resource assessment contractor in person or by telephone.
(3) References may be contacted for an interview when the reference fails to respond to the reference letter request or when information contained in the response requires clarification. No additional references are contacted without the specific written permission of the applicant.
(4) When voluntary references contact the adoption specialist to provide information, the information is included in the assessment summary.
(5) The reference information is not provided to the adoptive applicant as part of the completed assessment. When guarded reference information is received, the issues are fully explored with the applicant without revealing the source of the information.
5. Behavioral and physical health of the applicant and household members.
(1) When the applicant or household member has received treatment, counseling or therapy, Form 08HI003E, Authorization to Disclose Medical Records, is signed by the applicant or adult household member. When the person is:
(A) an adult, Form 04AF013E, Resource Family Assessment Reference Letter for Behavioral Health Professionals, is sent to the provider requesting information about the diagnosis and treatment the applicant or household member received; or
(B) 17 years of age and younger, Form 04AF012E, Child's Behavioral Health Reference Letter, is sent to the provider requesting information about the diagnosis and treatment the household member received.
(2) Form 04AF017E, Family Health History, is completed by the applicant. The narrative summary, completed by the adoption specialist or resource assessment contractor describes the applicant and household member's:
(A) health history;
(B) health insurance coverage; and
(C) assesses the applicant's ability to care for a child into the child's adult years.
(3) A statement from the family physician is required for all children in the home to verify the children are free from communicable diseases and are current on immunizations.
6. Age. When the age difference between the applicant and the child is more than 55 years, the adoption field manager and district director are consulted at the time of the local adoptive placement criteria staffing, per OAC 340:75-15-41.1.
7. Marital and significant relationship history. Documentation of the validity of the current marriage is necessary to determine eligibility to adopt and protect the legal status of the prospective adoptive child.
(1) When there is a child from a previous marriage, the child's role in the family is discussed and financial and emotional child support, when applicable, are documented.
(2) The ability of the applicant to develop and sustain healthy relationships is assessed and documented in the assessment summary.
8. Photographs. The applicant is encouraged to incorporate photographs, such as those of parents, relatives, home, work-space, school, pets, activities, other children in the family, and the neighborhood into a family Life Book. The Life Book must be 8 ½ X 11 inches and filed with the assessment.
9. Pre-service training. During pre-service training, information about the adoption process is provided to the adoptive applicant allowing the applicant to decide whether adoption is appropriate for the applicant's family.
(1) The dates the applicant attended pre-service training and a description of the applicant's response or reaction to the information provided is included in the Training section of the assessment summary.
(2) An exception to the training requirement is requested from the Adoption Services Program Unit program administrator.
10. (a) Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fingerprint-based records check process for the DHS applicant and adult household member, 18 years of age and older. Results of the fingerprint-based records check are received in approximately four weeks. The process the CW specialist follows for obtaining, sharing, and recording an OSBI name and records search and FBI national criminal history records search is outlined in (1) through (10) of this subsection. The adoption specialist or DHS contractor:
(1) submits Form 04AD003E to the Child Welfare Services (CWS) Fingerprint Processing Section;
(2) files a copy of Form 04AD003E in the resource record;
(3) submits Form 04AD003E for the OSBI name search and submits a separate Form 04AD003E with fingerprint cards for the OSBI records search and FBI national criminal history records search for every applicant and adult household member;
(4) assists every applicant and adult household member in obtaining fingerprints per current CWS procedure;
(5) stores fingerprint results for each applicant and adult household member in a locked file cabinet in a separate manila envelope with the name and resource number written on the outside; and
(6) enters the OSBI results and date of the FBI search in KIDS Criminal Background Check screen.
(b) OSBI RapBack service. OSBI record of arrest and prosecution (RAP) reports are maintained by OSBI. RapBack is a service offered to Oklahoma non-criminal justice government agencies for non-criminal justice purposes, such as Bridge resource parent application, continued approval decisions, and trial home reunification.
(I) The RapBack service is not associated with national criminal history and details only subsequent Oklahoma arrests after an individual's fingerprints were submitted to OSBI and FBI for non-criminal justice purposes.
(i) RapBack provides a yearly Oklahoma criminal background check for active resource parents.
(ii) The FBI does not have a RapBack service and continued fingerprinting for national criminal history records checks is necessary for active Bridge resource parents every five years.
(2) RapBack reports are received and distributed by the CWS Fingerprint Processing Section to the Adoption Services where the report:
(i) is reviewed, scanned, and placed in the KIDS Resource File Cabinet; and
(ii) emailed to the assigned resource specialist and supervisor.
(3) The resource specialist:
(i) obtains the disposition of the criminal arrest or charge detailed on the RapBack report;
(ii) contacts the resource parent to address and assess the information;
(iii) determines whether a written plan of compliance, an abuse or neglect referral, or closure of the home is warranted;
(iv) ensures the safety and well-being of the child placed in the resource home; and
(v) documents the information in the KIDS resource case in the Criminal Background screen.
(4) Adoption and DHS Legal Services provide consultation regarding RapBack information and related action steps.
(5) RapBack reports received on a person in a closed resource home are scanned and placed in the Resource File Cabinet by Foster Care.
(6) Foster Care maintains an electronic log of RapBack reports.
(c) Dissemination of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) information. When FBI criminal history is found regarding the applicant or adult household member, the information is not dispersed to non-governmental agencies. The subject of the FBI criminal history information may access the information by mailing a letter of request with a return address, to the CWS Fingerprint Processing Section.
(d) Tribal applicants. Tribal applicants in the process of certification to serve children in DHS custody are included in the process outlined in this Instruction to Staff (ITS).
11. Exception to fingerprinting procedures.
(1) When the prospective caretaker's fingerprint impressions are rejected by the FBI due to low quality fingerprint characteristics or an individual does not have fingers, an alternate procedure to conduct a name-based check of the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is conducted by the FBI to obtain a national criminal history record check. The alternative results are used for limited and case-specific situations. The alternative background check results are not acceptable when fingerprint impressions are of low quality due to lack of technological capacity or use of improper techniques.
(A) Individuals without fingers must submit fingerprint cards with the identifying information completed stating the reason the individual does not have fingers.
(B) When the individual has no fingers or has low quality fingerprint characteristics, the CWS Fingerprint Processing Section submits a request to the FBI for a name-based check of the NCIC.
(C) When the NCIC name-based check results are obtained, the CWS Fingerprint Processing Section submits a written request for an exception to the fingerprint requirement to the Foster Care Program Unit, designated as the DHS Director's designee for this purpose.
(2) Individuals with a severe disability that prevents the person from caretaking are not required to submit a fingerprint card and a national criminal history records search is not conducted.
(A) The CW or resource specialist submits an email to the CWS Fingerprint Processing Section requesting an exception to fingerprinting for the severely disabled non-caretaker.
(B) The CWS Fingerprint Processing Section conducts an OSBI criminal history check only and submits the request for an exception to the Foster Care Program Unit for approval.
(C) When the CWS Fingerprint Processing Section receives a determination regarding the exception for the prospective caregiver or non-caregiver, the appropriate CW specialist is notified by email and a copy of the document granting the permanent exemption to the fingerprint requirement is mailed to the CW specialist.
(D) Foster Care enters a KIDS contact with the determination.
(E) The CW specialist places the written determination in the paper file.
12. Juvenile-Online Tracking System (JOLTS) information. The information obtained from a JOLTS search regarding the child, 13 through 17 years of age, living in the applicant's home is used to determine if that child poses a risk to a child in DHS custody. The adoption specialist consults on a case-by-case basis with the adoption supervisor and the Adoption Services field manager.
(1) When determining whether to proceed with the application process, the Adoption Services field manager considers the:
(A) nature and seriousness of the JOLTS history;
(B) time elapsed since the JOLTS history;
(C) circumstances of the JOLTS history;
(D) child's ongoing involvement with Office of Juvenile Affairs, Juvenile Bureaus, and law enforcement agencies; and
(E) child's degree of rehabilitation.
(2) The resource specialist documents JOLTS information on Form 04AF007E, Records Check Documentation Form, including the Adoption Services field manager's determination whether to proceed with the application process.
13. Criminal background check for active or retired military applicants or adult household members. A background check from Family Advocacy is requested for an active or retired military applicant and adult household members. Information obtained through Family Advocacy, completed Form 04AD003E, Request for Background Check, and other information systems checks is:
(1) reviewed thoroughly by the adoption specialist or resource assessment contractor;
(2) discussed with the applicant or adult household member; and
(3) included in the written assessment summary in the Verification section.
14. Assessment of criminal and child welfare background history information. The Assessment of Background Information of Bridge Resource Applicants guide developed and provided by the DHS Legal Services, November, 2013, or as subsequently amended, is utilized by adoption specialists, supervisors, and others to assess the applicant or household member's arrest, criminal, child abuse and neglect, or other concerning history including, but not limited to, protective orders, traffic offenses, money judgments, or multiple marriages.
(1) When an applicant or household member has a child abuse and neglect history, consideration is given to the:
(A) nature of the referral;
(B) assessment conclusion or investigation finding;
(C) nature and seriousness of the alleged or confirmed abuse or neglect in relation to the current request to adopt;
(D) time elapsed since the referral;
(E) circumstances under which the abuse or neglect occurred;
(F) degree of rehabilitation, including verifiable documentation;
(G) number and disposition of referrals; and
(H) evidence that indicates whether a child would be at risk if placed in the home.
(2) When an applicant or household member has a child abuse and neglect history, consultation with, and prior approval of, the area adoption supervisor and Adoption Services field manager is required at the application stage to proceed with the application process.
(3) When the applicant or household member has a history of arrests or convictions, excluding those convictions that result in automatic denial of the application:
(A) proof of disposition of the arrests or convictions is required;
(B) the circumstances surrounding each arrest or conviction are thoroughly explored with the applicant; and
(C) prior to consultation with the adoption supervisor or Adoption Services field manager, an evaluation is conducted considering the:
(i) type of arrest or conviction;
(ii) elapsed time since the arrest or conviction;
(iii) length of the deferment or length and type of sentence imposed;
(iv) completion date of the deferment or sentence;
(v) assignment of a probation or parole officer and the officer's information;
(vi) positive or negative changes the applicant has made in his or her lifestyle and a description of how and why the changes occurred since the arrest or conviction;
(vii) applicant's or household member's self-evaluation regarding how the experience may help children or youth placed in the home; and
(viii) provisions for the safety and well-being of a child in the home due to the applicant's or household member's arrest or conviction history.
(4) A homicide includes any type of murder or manslaughter, or other charge involving the death of a person.
(5) When the applicant or household member has an arrest history, consultation with, and prior approval of, the area adoption supervisor and Adoption Services field manager is required at the application stage to proceed with the application process.
(6) When the applicant or household member has a history of arrests, proof of disposition of the arrests is required and the circumstances surrounding each arrest are thoroughly explored with the applicant or household member.
15. Certain felonies prohibit applicant approval. DHS does not grant exceptions for felony convictions listed in OAC 340:75-7-15(h)(1), for a prospective or approved Bridge resource parent or for anyone residing in the prospective or approved Bridge resource home. When the applicant has a felony conviction that does not fall within the immediate denial protocol, the process listed in (1) through (4) of this Instruction is initiated and completed within two business days.
(1) When the supervisor and adoption specialist believe further interpretation of the criminal history is needed, the resource supervisor requests the adoption and foster care field managers review the history and approve or deny continuation of the assessment process.
(2) When the field managers believe further guidance is needed, a request for review and decision is made to the adoption and foster care field administrators. When the resource is a kinship resource, the district director is included in the review process.
(3) When assistance is needed, the field managers or administrators, as applicable, consult DHS Legal Services regarding interpretation of the criminal history. When the resource is a kinship, the deputy director for the region is included in the review.
(4) The supervisor and designated field manager or designated field administrator, when applicable, selects the type of history review in the Criminal Background Check screen in KIDS resource case by selecting the appropriate type of review and approval, if applicable, and documents comments regarding the review in the KIDS resource case Contacts screen with the purpose of Assessment.
16. Child abuse and neglect information.
(1) Child Abuse and Neglect Information System (CANIS) or KIDS search. A CANIS or KIDS search is required for all DHS and private adoptive applicants.
(A) The Adoption Services Program Unit completes all CANIS or KIDS searches for DHS applicants and the DHS applicant's adult household members.
(B) Child Protective Services Programs Unit conducts a CANIS or KIDS search for the private prospective adoptive applicant.
(C) CANIS or KIDS search results are forwarded to the agency or other person authorized, per Section 7505-5.4 of Title 10 of the Oklahoma Statutes, to conduct home study investigations.
(2) CANIS or KIDS information and the DHS applicant or adult household member. Information obtained and documented on Form 04AF007E, Records Check Documentation Form, is:
(A) reviewed thoroughly by the adoption specialist and the resource assessment contractor;
(B) discussed with the applicant or adult household member; and
(C) included in the Verification section of the assessment summary.
(3) Out of State Child Abuse and Neglect Registry checks. When a state that maintains a child abuse and neglect registry does not respond appropriately to a DHS information request, the adoption supervisor notifies the adoption field manager, who contacts the Administration for Children and Families regional office for assistance.
(A) When information cannot be obtained from another state, the adoption specialist documents in the resource record the name of the state and the efforts made to obtain the information in the resource record.
(B) The documentation is entered in the KIDS system in the resource case under "home/crime."
(C) The prospective adoptive parent is not approved without the results of the state-maintained child abuse and neglect registry check when a registry is maintained in the applicable state.
17. Child abuse and neglect registry not available in Oklahoma. The state of Oklahoma does not maintain a child abuse and neglect registry as referenced in the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act.
18. Lawful residency. A resource can be approved when at least one applicant in the household is lawfully residing in the United States (U.S.). The applicant lawfully residing in the U.S. is considered the head of household. The resource specialist assesses all adult household members prior to placement per OAC 340:75-7-15. The Foster Adoption Services field manager provides approval for all placements.
(1) When the home is an approved foster care resource, the resource specialist verifies the requirements per OAC 340:75-7-12. When all requirements for foster care are met, then the adoption specialist reviews for any missing adoption requirements. Following completion of adoption requirements, Form 04AF037E, Bridge Resource Family Conversion Addendum is completed.
(2) When the home is not an approved foster care resource, the resource specialist, in addition to the policy requirements for assessing an applicant lawfully residing in the U.S.:
(A) conducts a home visit and face-to-face meeting with all adult household members;
(B) completes the required background checks. When the applicant is without a U.S. Social Security or other tax identification number, the specialist must assess and verify (i) through (vi) by interviewing and contacting the applicant's references regarding:
(i) employment, location, and length of employment;
(ii) relationships and roots in the community;
(iii) stability of household, including length of time at the current residence;
(iv) prior residence in the community, Oklahoma, and U.S.;
(v) length of residence in each location; and
(vi) length and type of relationship with the child’s kin, when applicable; and
(C) evaluates safety issues in this home by assessing:
(i) the applicant's child care responsibilities;
(ii) any concerns expressed about the applicant by individuals and family; and
(iii) the applicant's family network and current connections to extended family and non-blood kin.
19. Foreign country criminal and child abuse and neglect records searches. When the prospective resource adoptive parent resided in a foreign country within the last five years, the adoption specialist contacts the adoption supervisor and field manager for direction.
20. Water safety. The resource specialist completes Form 04MP061E, Water Safety Checklist and Agreement for Bridge Resource Applicant or Parent.
21. Weapon safety. The resource specialist completes Form 04AF040E, Weapon Safety Agreement for Bridge Resource Family.
22. Approval of resource applicant.
(1) The requirements of a Bridge resource home are explained to the family. The family is advised that children in foster care are not moved to place an adoptive child in the home. All children in the home, including children in foster care placement, are considered when making placement decisions regarding an adoptive placement.
(2) When a resource specialist and supervisor assess and determine approval of the adoptive home that includes an applicant lawfully residing in the U.S. is appropriate, the following occurs:
(A) the resource specialist submits an email to the Adoption field manager for the child’s case with the home assessment and the reasons this resource would be considered an appropriate placement, including the information obtained through the background check and interviews; and
(B) when the Adoption field manager has concerns with the recommendation, the Adoption field manager consults with the Adoption field administrator for further direction.
23. Notice of denial of resource applicant. The adoption specialist consults with the adoption field manager when determining whether to deny an application, when needed.
(1) When possible, the adoption specialist makes face-to-face contact with the resource applicant to clarify the reason for application denial.
(2) A letter is sent to the resource applicant stating the reason for denial of the application in clear, concise language as outlined in OAC 340:75-15-88(c) and relevant DHS rules or procedures are cited and attached.