It is considered the birthplace of the nation, and it is also the birthplace of hundreds of happy families who are completed through adoption. If you are considering adoption as prospective adoptive parents or an expectant mother in Virginia, you likely have questions about local adoption laws and processes. Whether you live in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Richmond, or anywhere else in the state, the following information provides an overview of the information you need to start the adoption process.
Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Adopting a Child in Virginia
Each state has its own laws regarding who can adopt and how adoptions must be completed. If you are considering adopting a child in Virginia, the following information will help you understand state adoption laws and qualifications.
What are the laws and qualifications for adopting a child in Virginia?
Any of the following may adopt:
- A resident
- A person with custody of a child placed by a child-placing agency
- An adopting parent of a child who was subject to a consent proceeding
- Intended parents who are parties to a surrogacy contract
- A husband and wife jointly
- A stepparent
A man and woman previously married to each other who had guardianship of a child and could have adopted the child while married to each other may adopt the child according to the provisions applicable to married couples.
What adoption expenses can be paid by adoptive families in Virginia?
Each state has its own regulations regarding the expenses that can be paid by adoptive families. In Virginia, payment of the following is permitted:
- Reasonable birth parent expenses, including:
- Medical expenses and insurance premiums directly related to pregnancy and hospitalization
- Mental health counseling for the birth parents
- Reasonable and necessary expenses for food, clothing and shelter when the birth mother is unable to work due to her pregnancy
- Reimbursement for expenses incurred incident to any court appearance, such as food, lodging and transportation
- Fees for legal services
- Transportation to any services provided
- Fees paid for reasonable and customary services provided by a licensed child-placing agency
- Home study fees, which cannot exceed the actual cost of the service
No person or child-placing agency can charge, pay, give or agree to give or accept any money, property, service or any other thing of value in connection with placement or adoption of a child. All parties must verify for the court that they understand that no financial agreement can be made regarding placement or adoption of the child. Any financial agreements or exchange of property among the parties, as well as any fees paid or charged, must be disclosed to the court.
What are the laws to become a foster parent in Virginia?
All prospective foster parents must do the following:
- Complete a one-time orientation meeting
- Work with a foster family recruiter to discuss foster parenting
- Complete a mutual assessment and home study process
- Attend training
For more information about becoming a foster parent in Virginia, contact your local department of social services.
What are the requirements to finalize an international adoption in Virginia?
Virginia will recognize foreign adoption decrees that have been issued in compliance with the laws of the United States and the country from which the child was adopted. The adoptive parents will not be required to readopt the child in Virginia.
The adoptive parents, if residents of Virginia at the time the adoption was finalized, may submit a form to the state registrar that includes:
- Evidence of the date, place of birth and parentage of the adopted person, provides information
- Information necessary to establish a new birth certificate
- A certified or notarized copy of the final order of adoption entered by the foreign court, as well as a certified or notarized translation if the original is not in English
- An affidavit from the adoptive parents indicating that they are receiving supervision from a licensed child-placing agency in the United States and have satisfied all postadoption requirements as required by the country from which the child was adopted
Upon receipt of this report, the state registrar will issue a new birth certificate for the adopted child.
Is it legal to use advertising or facilitators to adopt in Virginia?
Virginia regulates the activities of intermediaries such as facilitators by limiting the compensation they are allowed to receive. It is illegal for these people or agencies to receive payment for the placement of the child; reimbursement for actual medical or legal services are the only payments they are allowed to receive.
A physician, attorney or member of the clergy cannot charge any fee for recommending a placement of a child for adoption and cannot advertise that he or she is available to make such recommendations. An attorney may charge for legal fees and services rendered in connection with the placement.
Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Placing a Baby for Adoption in Virginia
If you are considering adoption for your child, you likely have many questions about what to expect throughout the adoption process, including your rights and role in the process. The following information provides the answers you need and outlines the laws for placing a baby for adoption in Virginia.
When and how can birth parents consent to the adoption?
In Virginia, the birth parents cannot execute consent until the child is at least in the third calendar day of life. A birth father may consent to termination of all parental rights prior to the birth of the child.
Written consent to the adoption must be filed with the adoption petition. The consent must be in writing, signed under oath and acknowledged before an officer authorized by law to take acknowledgments. In a direct parental placement, the birth parent must execute consent when they come before the juvenile and domestic relations court in person and in the presence of the prospective adoptive parents. The court will then accept the consent of the birth parent(s) and transfer custody to the prospective adoptive parents.
A birth father who is not married to the birth mother at the time of the child’s conception or birth and who has consented under oath and in writing to the adoption is not required to execute consent before the juvenile and domestic relations district court.
Who must consent to the adoption?
In Virginia, consent must be given by:
- The mother
- Any man who is an acknowledged father, an adjudicated father, a presumed father or has registered with the Putative Father Registry (see “What rights does the father of the baby have in Virginia adoptions?” for more information)
- The child-placing agency or the local board having custody of the child and the right to place the child for adoption through court commitment or parental agreement
- An agency outside of Virginia that is duly authorized to place children for adoption
- The child to be adopted if he or she is age 14 or older
When is parental consent not needed in Virginia?
Consent is not required when:
- A birth father denies, under oath and in writing, the paternity of the child
- The birth father is convicted of rape, statutory rape, incest, or an equivalent offense, and the child was conceived as a result
- Any person has had his or her parental rights terminated by a court
- A birth parent, without just cause, has not visited or contacted the child for six months prior to the filing of the adoption petition
The failure of the nonconsenting party to appear at the scheduled adoption hearing, in person or by counsel, after receiving proper notice, will constitute a waiver of any objection and right to consent to the adoption.
When does the birth parents’ consent become irrevocable? If a birth parent revokes consent, is the child automatically returned to the birth parent?
Consent is revocable prior to the final order of adoption upon proof of fraud or duress, or, after placement of the child in an adoptive home, upon written, mutual consent from the birth parents and prospective adoptive parents.
A valid entrustment agreement terminating parental rights is revocable by either of the birth parents until 10 days after birth and 7 days after the date of execution of the agreement. The agreement is also revocable if the child has not been placed in the physical custody of the adoptive parents at the time of revocation. The revocation must be in writing, signed by the revoking party and delivered to the child-placing agency or local board to which the child was entrusted.
In a direct placement, consent is revocable by either birth parent for any reason up to 7 days from its execution. The revocation period may be waived in writing at the time of consent provided that the child is at least 10 days old and the consenting birth parent acknowledges having received independent legal counsel.
What rights does the father of the baby have in Virginia adoptions?
In Virginia, a man is presumed to be a child’s father, and therefore has parental rights, if:
- He is or was married to the child’s mother and the child is/was born during the marriage or within 300 days of their date of separation, as evidenced by written agreement or decree of separation, or within 300 days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity or divorce
- He and the child’s mother attempted to legally marry each other before the child’s birth, even if the marriage is or could be declared invalid, and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days of the end of the marriage
Such presumptions can be rebutted by sufficient evidence that would establish the paternity of another man or the impossibility or improbability of cohabitation with the birth mother for a period of at least 300 days prior to the birth of the child.
A man who desires to be notified of an adoption proceeding or a proceeding of termination of parental rights regarding a child he may have fathered should register with the Putative Father Registry before the birth of the child or within 10 days after the child’s birth.
Failure to register waives all rights of a man who is not an acknowledged, presumed or adjudicated father to withhold consent to an adoption proceeding, unless the man was led to believe through the birth mother’s fraud that the pregnancy was terminated, the mother miscarried or the child died when in fact the child was born and is alive. A man will not waive his rights by failing to register if a father-child relationship has been established or if he commences a proceeding to adjudicate his paternity before a petition to accept or waive consent, a petition for adoption, or a petition for the termination of his parental rights is filed with the court.
Any man who has engaged in sexual intercourse with a woman is deemed to be on legal notice that a child may be conceived and the man is entitled to all resulting legal rights and obligations. Lack of knowledge of the pregnancy does not excuse failure to register in a timely manner.
A parent-child relationship between a child and a man may be established by:
- Scientifically reliable genetic tests, including blood tests, which affirm at least a 98 percent probability of paternity
- A voluntary written statement made under oath by the father and mother acknowledging paternity and confirming that prior to signing the acknowledgement, the parties were provided with a written and oral description of the rights and responsibilities of acknowledging paternity and the consequences arising from a signed acknowledgement
Home Study and Post-Placement Requirements in Virginia
The adoption home study is one of the most important steps in the adoption process, and many adoptive and foster parents in Virginia have questions about the home study requirements in their state. This guide includes the information you need to prepare for your adoption or foster care pre- and post-placement assessments.
What is included in the Virginia home study process?
In Virginia, the home study must include the following:
- At least three interviews, including at least one interview in the adoptive family’s home
- For married applicants, at least one joint interview with husband and wife
- In parental placements, at least one meeting between the birth parents, adoptive parents and the agency social worker
- At least two nonrelative references
- Criminal records and Child Protective Services Central Registry searches
- A physician’s statement reflecting the applicants’ current health
- An assessment of the applicants’:
- Significant life experiences
- Relationships with family members and friends
- Work history and community involvement
- Capacity to accept an adopted child as an equal member of the family
- Parenting ability
- Motivation to adopt
- Willingness to accept the circumstances of the child’s birth family history
- Ability to help the child deal with adoption-related issues
- Home environment
- Access to community resources
- Financial circumstances
Who is included in the home study process?
In Virginia, all household members will be interviewed as part of the home study, including children when appropriate.
Who will conduct the home study?
In an agency placement, the agency will approve or deny adoptive applicants based on agency standards. In a parental placement, the agency will make a recommendation to the court based on an assessment of the home study to determine whether the placement is in the best interests of the child.
On what grounds will the home study not be approved in Virginia?
The home study will not be approved for a person seeking to adopt if that person has been convicted of a sexually violent offense or an offense requiring registration as a sex offender.
Applicants will not be approved if they have been convicted of any of the following:
- Murder or manslaughter
- Malicious wounding by mob
- Threats of death or bodily injury
- Felony stalking
- Sexual assault
- Drive-by shooting
- Use of a machine gun or sawed-off shotgun in a crime of violence
- Crimes against nature involving children
- Taking indecent liberties with children
- Abuse and neglect of children
- Failure to secure medical attention for an injured child
- Possession of child pornography
- Abuse and neglect of incapacitated adults
- Delivery of drugs to prisoners
- Escape from jail
- Felonies by prisoners
- Any felony violation relating to possession or distribution of drugs
When should the home study be completed? When must the home study be renewed?
Virginia home studies are valid for a period of 36 months from the date of completion, but an additional state criminal background check may be required to finalize an adoption if more than 18 months have passed since the completion of the home study.
What is a post-placement study in the adoption process? What are the post-placement study requirements for Virginia?
A post-placement study is conducted by a child-placing agency after an adoption petition has been filed. A report will include a recommendation as to the action to be taken by the court on the petition. The report will assess the following:
- The petitioner’s financial, moral and physical ability to properly care for and train the child
- The child’s physical and mental health
- The birth parents’ reasons for choosing adoption and their attitude toward to proposed adoption
- The circumstances under which the petitioner received physical custody of the child
- Fees paid by the petitioners or on their behalf in connection with the adoption
- Whether the adoptive parents have received the necessary background information about the child and his or her birth family
What are the home study requirements for stepparent or relative adoptions in Virginia?
For a stepparent adoption, the home study only needs to be completed if the court determines that there should be an investigation before a final order of adoption is entered.
When the child has continuously lived with a grandparent, great-grandparent, adult nephew or niece, adult brother or sister, adult uncle or aunt, or great-uncle or great-aunt for less than three years, the adoption proceeding, including court approval of the home study, is subject to parental placement adoption provisions with the following exceptions:
- The birth parents’ consent does not have to be executed in court or in the presence of the prospective adoptive parents
- A meeting between the agency social worker, birth and adoptive parents is not required
- No hearing is required
- A post-placement study will not be made if the home study report is filed with the court unless the court orders one
- The probationary period may be omitted
When the child has lived with the relative for three or more years, the parental placement provisions will not apply.
What are the home study requirements to adopt a child from another state?
Any interstate adoption placement is subject to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). The child will not be sent to the adoptive family’s state until the appropriate public authorities in their state notify the sending agency, in writing, that the proposed placement does not appear to be contrary to the interests of the child.
What are the requirements to adopt a child that is currently in my care?
A foster parent may adopt the foster child in their care when:
- The child has resided in the foster home continuously for at least 18 months
- The birth parents’ rights to the child have been terminated
The court will accept a petition filed by the foster parent and order a thorough investigation by a licensed child-placing agency. Upon completion of the investigation and filing of consent of the agency having custody of the child, the court may enter a final order of adoption. If the court determines the placement is in the best interest of the child, visitation requirements may be waived.
To start the home study process, contact one of these trusted Virginia home study providers:
- Loving Families
Adoption Home Studies by Loving Families, Inc., is a small child-placing agency that will work with your placing agency to complete your home study within five to six weeks.
- Cradle of Hope Adoption Center
Cradle of Hope Adoption center is a licensed, nonprofit, Hague-accredited adoption agency providing home study, placement and post-adoption services to families adopting domestically and internationally.
Visit 1800HomeStudy.com to learn more about Virginia home study providers.
Virginia Adoption Professionals
If you would like more information about adoption, or if you are ready to begin the adoption process, you should contact an adoption professional for additional guidance and support. These local adoption professionals can help ensure that you meet all of the legal and home study requirements for adoptions in Virginia:
- American Adoptions
- Adoptions from the Heart
- The Barker Adoption Foundation
- Family Life Services
- The Datz Foundation
- Adoptions Together
For more information about foster care in Virginia, visit:
Things to do in Virginia
If you are adopting a child from Virginia, you will likely find yourself spending time there at some point in the adoption process. Whether you are visiting prospective birth parents or waiting for ICPC clearances to return to your home state, here are a few fun ways to enjoy all that Virginia has to offer:
- Arlington National Cemetery (Arlington)
- Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello (Charlottesville)
- Historic Jamestowne (Williamsburg)
- George Washington’s Mount Vernon (Mount Vernon)
- Busch Gardens (Williamsburg)
- USS Wisconsin (Norfolk)
For more information about traveling to Virginia, visit www.virginia.org.