Health & Family


Adoption is a boon to the community as well as to the families it brings together. While the majority of adoptions are by stepparents, the adoption of children from foster homes is especially important to the state. Children in foster care often have difficult lives, and the longer they wait for adoption, the higher the possibility of future problems. The state continues to work to improve the rate of adoption through outreach programs and family incentives.

Why is This Important?

The purpose of adoption is to place children who have permanently and legally separated from their birth parents with a new family. It is a social and legal process that gives new parent(s) the same rights and obligations as biological parents. Although there are many types of adoption -- public agency placements, private adoptions, kinship adoptions and stepparent adoptions -- one of the most pressing issues facing states today is adoption of children in foster care. Turbulence and uncertainty during childhood resulting from an extended stay in foster care can have lasting consequences.

How is Virginia Doing?

Public Adoptions in Virginia. See text for explanation. Children Adopted Out of Those Waiting in Foster Care. See text for explanation.

According to the Virginia Department of Social Services, in 2004 approximately 39 percent of adoptions were by stepparent adoptions, 20 percent were through public agency adoptions and 17 percent were parental placements adoptions. Both the number of adoptions involving the Department of Social Services and the percentage of adoptions from foster care have increased since 1999. According to U.S. Health and Human Services statistics, the rate of adoptions from foster care increased from 15 percent to 31 percent between 1999 and 2003, while the number of public adoptions increased from 320 to 525 between 1995 and 2004. This increase has occurred during a period when the total number of children in foster care has remained relatively constant (see Foster Care Indicator).

What Influences Adoption Rates?

A supply of parents who are ready to adopt is a significant factor, as is the readiness of children to be adopted. Financial incentives do impact the rate of adoption from foster care by making it feasible for many families to adopt. The difficulty with finding permanent homes for children with mental disabilities or other special needs poses an additional challenge to finding permanent homes for children who are waiting for adoption.

What is the State's Role?

The Department of Social Services provides oversight and services in the following areas: agency and non-agency placement adoptions, management of a statewide adoption resource exchange, adoption assistance to parents adopting special needs children, preservation of adoption records and disclosure of information from these records, and special initiatives to achieve adoption for children in foster care.

Data Definitions and Sources

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,


Recent State Initiatives

November is adoption month: November is designated as the month for highlighting adoption of children waiting for a permanent placement, promoting awareness about the need for adoptive families, educating the public about the adoption process, and providing national, state and local communication about Virginia's adoption program. Beginning in November 2006 and continuing into 2007, Virginia's adoption awareness theme will be "Imagine - A Family for Every Child" with emphasis on recruiting families for teens, tweens (children 9-12) and sibling groups.

As a result of legislation in 2006, Virginia is developing a Putative Father's Registry. This registry will give any man who does not have an established father-child relationship the opportunity to register if he would like to be provided with notice of legal proceedings.

Additional Information

One Church, One Child is a national minority adoption recruitment program.

The Adoption Exchange Association (AEA) connects representatives of state, regional and national adoption exchanges, placement agencies, parents, child welfare professionals, and concerned citizens across the United States. The AEA provides a forum which promotes the exchange of ideas and strategies, collaboration on issues of mutual interest, and increased effectiveness in utilizing resources to provide waiting children with permanent homes.

The Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support and education to adoptees and their families.

The National Child Welfare Resource Center for Adoption (NCWRCA) offers information to aid with special needs adoption programs and resources available through the NCWRCA. Also offered are links to other helpful organizations and publications with a particular emphasis on working with special needs adoption.