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?
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, www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/index.htm#afcars