Adopting in Virginia: A Complex Process
According to the most recent data provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, just over 130,000 children were legally adopted between 2007 and 2008. Virginia adoptions accounted for nearly 3,000 of those cases.
The United States has a long history of adoption and in 1851, Massachusetts passed the first modern era code related to adoption. Prior to the 1851 Adoption of Children Act, relatively little regard was given to the child insofar as their welfare was concerned. Beginning in the late 1800s however, public policy shifted and today the well being of a child in an adoption case is of the utmost importance.
Under Virginia law, the following agencies or people may place a child for adoption:
- A licensed in-state or out-of-state adoption agency;
- A local board; and
- A child’s parent or legal guardian.
Essentially, Virginia adoption boils down to agency placement and non-agency placement. Depending on the person or entity placing the child, your adoption process will vary.
Agency adoptions result when a child’s biological parents have surrendered or have been forced to surrender a child to social services or a licensed child-placement agency. Although the agency prioritizes placing the child back with the biological family if possible, after two years in the custody of the agency, the agency should decide to allow the child to be adopted.
Sometimes a biological parent or a guardian will choose to surrender their child or children directly to prospective adoptive parents. These situations are called non-agency adoptions and often occur with a close relative or family friend wishes to adopt the child.
Who May Adopt in the State of Virginia?
To adopt a child in Virginia you must be at least 18 years of age but you will not be discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity, culture, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, you may adopt regardless of your marital status.
Virginia law does prohibit violent sex offenders from adopting a child, but other offenses may not be a bar to adoption so long as the court finds that the best interests of the child are met.
What are the Legal Effects of Adoption?
Once birthparents are divested of their legal rights and obligations to a child through a final order of adoption by the court, all other relatives will similarly be divested. Sometimes adoptions are contested for this reason, and you can read more on our previous discussion about that here. Once the court finalizes the adoption, the adopting parents will be considered the child’s parents just as if they were the biological parents.
Adopting a child is a wonderful experience, but not only can it be an emotional time, it can also be a legally complex time. The legal process to adopt oftentimes requires wading through a lot of red tape and being sure that you’ve provided the court with the evidence required to show that you are fit to become an adoptive parent. The family law attorneys at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy, PC are experienced Virginia adoption attorneys who can and will help you through the adoption process.