The birthplace of a nation is home to some of the finest schools in the country. Known for its comfortable climate, exquisite beaches, and rugged mountains, Virginia has everything nature-loving families could crave. It is also a great place to raise a child.
If you have wondered about adopting a child in VA, get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Here are some great places to start.
Adopting a Child in VA Through Foster Care
There are over 5,500 children in foster care in Virginia, and 1,100 of them are waiting for adoptive families. Many of the children who are already available for adoption are school-aged or part of a sibling group that need to be adopted together. They come from a number of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
If you are looking to adopt a younger child or infant, you may need to foster a child first. Virginia has a dual-licensing program, in which an individual who is licensed as a foster parent becomes licensed to adopt a child from foster care at the same time. Your social worker may be able to help you identify younger children who are more likely to become eligible for adoption in the future. They cannot, however, guarantee that the child will become available for adoption if parental rights have not yet been terminated.
One of the greatest benefits of adopting through foster care is its cost. Medical exams, safety classes, and court filings will not cost you more than $300. If you become a foster parent first, you will be given a monthly stipend of $471-$700 a month while the child is still in foster care, depending on the age and needs of the child. This money is provided so that you can meet your child’s basic needs, such as food, clothing, and child care. Foster children are given an annual clothing allowance. They are also automatically eligible for free health coverage through Medicaid as well as reimbursement for travel to and from medical appointments. Children in foster care are provided with free lunches in their public schools.
Children that require more services and supports are eligible for more coverage. This coverage may continue after children are adopted.
To begin your foster care adoption process, you can contact an agency such as Children’s Home Society, UMFS, or The Bair Foundation.
Who Can Adopt Through Foster Care?
You must be at least 18 years old and able to care for your own financial needs. You must have the time and energy to meet all approval requirements and provide a safe home for a child.
You do not need to be perfect to foster a child. In fact, social workers are looking for flexible workers who are willing to try new parenting techniques and eager to do what is best for children. A sense of humor and a kind heart are excellent starts. If your child will be school-aged, you will need to think about how she will be cared for after school if you and/or your spouse have a full-time job.
In order to become eligible to foster a child, you will need to attend an informational meeting and successfully complete preservice training. These will give you the basic knowledge about foster care and adoption. You will also talk about the unique needs, fears, and hopes of children who have been neglected and abused in the past.
You need to complete a home study, including three face-to-face interviews. Home studies are not as intimidating as they sound! Your home does not need to be a palace, but it should be a safe, clean environment to raise a child in. Make sure that your home is tidy when it is inspected by a social worker, but they will probably not be looking in every nook and cranny. There should be a separate room and a separate bed for each child. Children of opposite genders should have their own rooms.
A home study will give you a chance to learn a lot about yourself. You will talk about your own upbringing and your potential strengths as a parent. Home study discussions will give you a chance to formulate a reasonable discipline plan that will best suit your child’s needs as well as your parenting style. It will also enable you to talk about the ideal child for you to foster or adopt, including gender, age, and level of need.
Background reports will need to be completed, including fingerprinting, a child abuse check, and a DMV check. You will need to provide a report from your doctor, stating that you are in good mental and physical health. You should be able to submit the names of three non-family references who can attest to your good character. And you will have to produce financial records as proof of your income.
Completing the Adoption
Once you are approved to foster, a child will be identified and placed with you based upon your situation and the child’s needs. You will be provided with detailed information about the child, including any financial and medical resources that will be made available.
Once your child begins living with you, a social worker will make regular home visits and help with providing resources for counseling or intervention.
If you become a foster parent first, you will need to foster for at least six months before you can legally adopt your child. There are no restrictions on becoming adoptive parents based on marital status, previous children, income, or homeownership.
Post-adoption services can provide you with education, resources, advocacy, and even family fun retreats.
Before you know it, you and your new child will be bonding and finding things in common. You will also be uncovering new challenges and learning how to best navigate them. During this time, it is important to give yourself a lot of grace. Every step in the right direction is a reason to celebrate! Your child may begin to make progress in leaps and bounds, or a little at a time. It is important to let your child bond with you at his own pace, and trust that your hard work will eventually pay off.
Adopting a Child in VA Through a Private Agency
If you have your heart set on adopting an infant and are uncomfortable with the risks of foster care adoption, private agency adoption may be right for you. Popular Virginia agencies include Adoptions From The Heart, The Barker Adoption Foundation, and Bethany Christian Services.
The cost of adopting an infant, however, is significantly higher and can be as much as $40,000. This includes home study fees, legal fees, and agency fees.
There are ways, however, to offset the cost of your adoption once it has been finalized. A federal adoption tax credit of $14,080 per child can be deducted from your taxes after you have adopted. While you will not be getting a check for this amount, it is money that you will not have to pay in taxes, and you have up to five years after your adoption to claim it. Fees that can be deducted include home study fees, agency fees, and travel. Any reasonable and necessary adoption fees qualify.
In order to become eligible for the tax credit, your combined family income needs to be less than $211,160 per year. If you make between $211,160 and $251,160, you may be eligible for partial credit.
Some folks can also get employer assistance when adopting. Some companies have healthcare plans that offer a flat amount per child, just as they would for infertility treatments. Check with your human resources department to find out what your options are.
Other families may apply for an adoption grant. These may be unique to your specific situation, so there could be a grant for couples adopting siblings or those adopting children with special needs. Do your research, and you may be surprised at what is available!
Private agencies will require a home study and background checks the same way that foster care agencies do. In addition to these requirements, you may be asked to supply an album of photos or an online gallery that showcases your family and your favorite sports teams, traditions, or pets. When birth mothers are considering prospective parents for their infants, something in your home or family may cause them to identify with and choose you.
Adopting an infant through an agency may take at least two years. Most agency adoptions are now open, meaning that you will have at least some contact with the birth mother throughout your child’s lifetime. This could mean sending texts or pictures on birthdays or holidays, or something more involved like phone calls or visits. You and your adoption agency should be able to work out an arrangement that works for both you and the birth mother.
Adopting a Child in VA Through a Private Lawyer
Adopting an infant through a private lawyer is also popular in Virginia. This can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $40,000. Be sure to choose a lawyer who has experience working in adoption, and who you are comfortable working with. Make sure your lawyer listens carefully to your needs and concerns.
The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys is a great place to start. These professionals have distinguished themselves by completing at least 50 adoption proceedings, including ten interstate placements. They must adhere to the highest standards of ethics and professionalism. The state of Virginia currently has thirteen attorneys who are members.
Adopting through an attorney may involve a little more legwork on the part of the parent. You may find yourself placing ads in papers or answering phone calls from birth moms. The right attorney will walk you through the process with care and skill.
Adopting a Child in VA Internationally
International adoptions are the most expensive adoption option. Some families, however, prefer international adoption because of the possibility of a closed adoption and the ability to experience a culture outside of their own. The adoption tax credit, employer assistance, and adoption grants can also be applied towards international adoption.
While many countries no longer place children internationally, some still do. Currently, popular countries include China, Bulgaria, and India. Before choosing an agency, do some research and find out about the types of children that are available for adoption in each country. Find out about travel requirements and discuss with your employer how many days you will be allowed to leave for travel. Talk to parents who have adopted from the country before and ask how long the process took and if they felt the information they were given about the children they adopted was adequate.
Popular international agencies in Virginia include The Barker Foundation, American World Adoption, and Adoptions From The Heart. They should have references you can speak to about their experience. If you choose an agency from another state, they should be able to find you an agency in Virginia that can conduct your home study.
International adoption involves traveling for at least a week. You will want to plan out your trip and make sure to dress and act in a way that represents the U.S. well. International adoption affords you and/or your spouse the opportunity to experience another culture while you are adopting a child. Soak it all in! The traditions, cuisine, and lifestyle of another country can be educational and wonderful. And you will have a much better idea of how to incorporate your child’s former traditions into your new family life.
International adoption can take anywhere from two to five years and may involve more than one trip. Your patience and willingness to “go with the flow” will strengthen your character and make you the best adoptive parent possible.
Adopting a Child in VA
Virginia is a place where you can be proud to adopt a child. With the right attitude and careful planning, you will be a new family before you can say “a trip to the beach!”