Can I pick the child I want to adopt in Virginia?
How to adopt a child through the foster care system
Adopting from Foster Care in Virginia
You've done all the research, and you're ready to dive into the world of adoption services. You may be wondering if you can pick the child you would like to adopt. The answer is a little complicated.
The Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS) reports about 60% of foster care youth are adopted by their foster parent(s). These children likely entered the foster parent's home with a permanency goal* of returning home to the birth parents. Then, throughout their foster care experience, the goal was changed to adoption because all other strategies to return the child home had not been successful.
When this happens, the local Department of Social Services will ask the child's current foster families if they are interested in adoption before reaching out to any other adoption resources. The foster parent(s) already have a wealth of knowledge and affection for the youth. It would limit the amount of changes the child would need to make.
If that foster parent says no, then the Department of Social Services will begin to reach out to their resources to search for a forever family for the youth to start the adoption process.
What are the methods for searching?
The Virginia Department of Social Services family service worker can reach out to their pool of resources such as:
- locally licensed foster parents
- child-placing agencies
- private foster care agencies or adoption agencies
- list the youth on sites such as AdoptionVA.org and AdoptUsKids
These sites were created to help connect prospective adoptive families with children in foster care available for adoption.
What does this look like on the prospective adoptive parent's end?
To adopt a child from the Virginia foster care system, you're going to need to be licensed with either a local department of social service or a private agency. During this process, you will attend training, complete a home study, and learn about the process of adopting through foster care.
If you're solely focused on adopting, placement of a youth in your home may take time. As mentioned, foster parents adopt most children from foster care. The journey from first entering care to having adoption as a permanency goal can take up to or longer than thirteen months. Ask the professionals you are taking this journey with, and keep an open mind about your plan to foster to adopt.
When completing your home study, you'll talk with the person conducting your home study about your life, your family members, your interests, and why you want to adopt, among several other things. The department of social service workers will use this to determine if you and a particular youth will be a good match for each other.
How will you be informed of a youth available for adoption?
If you're with a fostering agency, either private or public, you may receive calls where someone will describe a youth in need of a family. Another option is to search online on a site such as AdoptionVA.org or AdoptUSKids.org.
You and your family service worker can join in an effort for you to be considered for the child. You must consider the child's needs and strengths and determine if you can assist that child. Children in foster care have been through difficult times. Many of them have behavioral, attachment, and mental health challenges that you will need to be equipped to support.
Ultimately, the goodness of fit between you and the child will be determined by the Department of Social Services worker for the youth. If it is a good match, the adoption process will be the first step in advocating for and providing a supportive and loving environment for the child to grow.
* Permanency goal: What the Department of Social Services is working toward for the youth. Foster care is a temporary solution. Examples include: return home, relative placement, and adoption.
Learn more about Foster to Adopt.