An Agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia
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The purpose of adoption is to place children who have been permanently and legally separated from their birth parents with a new family. It is a social and legal process which gives new parent(s) the same rights and obligations as biological parents.

When you adopt, you expand your family by taking a child (or children) into your home as your own family member(s) and then care for and nurture them to adulthood and beyond. While foster care adoptions are the most frequent, there are several types of adoption such as international, stepparent, close relative, parental placement and adult adoption. This website is focused on foster care adoption.

Agency Versus Non-Agency Placements

Adoption procedures are governed by Chapter 12 of the Code of Virginia. There are only two types of adoptive placements that are allowed by Virginia law. These are agency placements and non-agency placements.

Agency Placements (placements through local departments of social services or licenced child placing agencies)

Agency placements occur when the child is in the custody of local department of social services (LDSS) or licensed child-placing agency. In this situation, all parental rights are terminated, custody with authority to place for adoption is granted to the agency, and the agency consents to the child's adoption.

The priority of the LDSS is to work with the family of origin or prior custodian to return the youth home. The goal is to place children home with their family of origin within 12 months and if the goal is changed to Adoption, it should be finalized within 24 months of a youth entering into foster care.

Non-agency Adoptions (parental, stepparent, adult, close relative and intercountry placements)

Non-agency adoptions involve children who are not placed in the custody of a local department of social services and are administered by License Child Placing Agencies (LCPA). In a non-agency placement, the birth parents or legal guardian(s) consent to the adoption and parental rights are terminated by entry of the final order of adoption. These types of adoptions are parental placement adoptions, step-parent adoptions, close relative adoptions and adult adoptions.

  • A parental placement adoption is one where the birth parent places the child own with the prospective adoptive parent(s).
  • A step-parent adoption is one where termination of parental rights of one parent has occurred and a new parent, such as a new spouse is adopting the child.
  • A close relative adoption is one where a close relative is adopting a youth.
  • Adult adoptions occur when a person over the age of 18 is adopted by one or more persons. LDSS are not involved in these adoptions unless the Circuit Court orders the LDSS or LCPA to provide a report of investigation or a suitability report.

Who can Adopt?

You can! You must be at least 18 years of age or older to be approved as an adoptive parent. Adoptive parents can be single, married, divorced or widowed but what is most important is that they have the time and energy to give a child a lifetime commitment.

The Commonwealth of Virginia does not prevent a person from becoming an adoptive parent based solely on their culture, religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, or marital/civil union or domestic partnership status.

Who are the children?

The children in foster care come from many different types of families and range in age from birth to 17 years of age. There are more than 4,800 currently in foster care in Virginia. Of those 4,800, over 900 children are ready for adoption right now.

Ready to take that first step? Click here for more information about Virginia’s waiting children.

My husband and I want to adopt and we have been told that we have to be foster parents first. Is this true or can we just be approved to adopt only?

If you are applying for adoption through a Licensed Child Placing Agency you can be approved to adopt without becoming a foster parent first. However, in Virginia, over 60% of our foster care youth are adopted by their foster parent.

I found a child available for adoption in Virginia but I reside in another state. What are the next steps?

Your first step would be to contact your local department of social services to secure an approved adoption home study from your state of residence. Then contact 1-800-DO-ADOPT to discuss the process of inter-state adoptions.

How can my new spouse adopt my child (their stepchild)?

Contact an attorney familiar with adoptions and work with your local circuit court to begin the adoption process. These types of adoptions are not managed by social services.

How are the costs of the child's health care paid?

Health care, such as Medicaid, may be available but is based on the child's unique set of needs.

How are the costs of the child's health care paid?

Services and assistance for children may be available based on the needs of the child. Joining an adoptive parent support group is a good way to get advice and assistance from experienced adoptive parents. Virginia also offers post-adoption services to support families, such as NewFound Families Virginia, North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) and UMFS.

Will a past conviction affect my eligibility to adopt?

It depends on the nature, severity of the offense and the length of time that has passed since the conviction. Applicants with barrier crimes cannot be approved as an adoptive parent.

Myth: It's easier and faster to adopt internationally than from U.S. foster care.

Fact: In 2011, there were 51,000 children adopted through U.S. foster care while only 9,320 children were adopted by U.S. citizens from all international sources combined.

New regulations governing international adoptions have made adoption from other countries more challenging for U.S. citizens. These regulations, which can be found on the U.S. Department of State’s Intercountry Adoption  website, are aimed at protecting the rights of children and birth parents, coupled with more aggressive efforts to locate adoptive resources inside of countries that have traditionally permitted their children to be sent abroad.

In most cases, it takes roughly a year to adopt a child from the U.S. foster care system. The average time it took to complete an international adoption in 2011 from Hague Convention  countries ranged from 79 days to almost two years.

In addition, most adoptions from U.S. foster care are free and any minimal costs associated with them are often reimbursable. In recent years, international adoptions from Hague Convention countries , service providers charged anywhere between nothing to $64,357, with half charging less than $26,559.

In Virginia, there are over 900 foster care youth in need of a “forever family”!

Myth: You have to have a lot of money and own a house to adopt from foster care.

Fact: You don’t need to own your own home, be wealthy, have children already, or be a stay-at-home parent to adopt. Most adoptions from U.S. foster care are free and any minimal costs associated with them are often reimbursable. In addition, there are many different types of post-adoption resources, such as medical assistance and financial adoption assistance, based on the special needs of a child to help support and sustain adoptions from the U.S. foster care system.

Myth: You can only adopt a child who is the same race and ethnicity as you.

Fact: Federal law prohibits the delay or denial of an adoptive placement based on the race or ethnicity of a child in U.S. foster care and the prospective parent or parents who are seeking to adopt them. The only exception to this law is the adoption of Native American children where special considerations apply.

The Child Welfare Information Gateway has a list of resources about information on transracial adoption and transcultural families 

Myth: All children in foster care have special needs and require special education.

Fact: Many children in foster care are regular children who unfortunately had to be removed from their families due to abuse or neglect.
The term “special needs” simply refers to children who qualify for adoption assistance due to specific factors or conditions such as:

  • Being an older child
  • Having a particular racial or ethnic background
  • Being part of a sibling group needing to be placed together as one unit
  • Medical conditions
  • Physical, mental, or emotional handicaps

Myth: You're not allowed to adopt children you foster.

Fact: While slightly more than half of all children who enter foster care return to their birth families, there are still thousands of children who cannot return home. In Virginia, over 60% of our foster care youth are adopted by their foster parent.

Myth: You can't adopt a neighbor's child or one you know personally or professionally.

Fact: When a child is removed from their home by a court order and is placed into U.S. foster care and then later becomes available for adoption (meaning their birth parents’ rights have been legally terminated), a caseworker will often explore connections the child already has with supportive adults in his/her life. This is known as case-file mining and is a proven best practice in finding temporary or permanent placements for children served by the U.S. foster care system.

Myth: If you're the relative of a child in foster care, the system won't place the child with you.

Fact: By law, both maternal and paternal relatives of children in foster care are considered the preferred placement resource for children so long as they are able to demonstrate they can adequately provide for the child’s safety and well-being. Find out more about being matched with a child.

Myth: You can't adopt if you're in the military.

Fact: Military families stationed overseas and within the U.S. are eligible to adopt children from the U.S. foster care system. Find out more about adoption resources for military families.

Myth: You have to be of child-bearing age to adopt.

Fact: Experienced parents and empty-nesters are encouraged to adopt. In most instances, you’re eligible to adopt regardless of age, income, marital status, disability, or sexual orientation.

Resources for Adoption


Guidance & Procedures

Guidance Manuals - Adoption


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