Answering Your Questions

Adopting an Older Child or Teen from Foster Care
Home Study Services
Things to Consider Before Adopting
Adopting an Infant

Adopting an Older Child or Teen from Foster Care

How do I go about adopting from foster care?
There are several steps to receiving placement of a child who is waiting for a permanent, loving home:

1.    Attend an orientation to learn more about the process and complete a registration form.

2.    Complete a three-week training class to help prepare you for the special challenges of parenting a child or teen who has faced neglect/abuse.

3.    Complete a home study and receive approval.

4.    Complete the matching process with a child or teen.

5.    Make preliminary visits with your child.

6.    Welcome your child home and begin the six month supervisory period prior to legally finalizing the adoption. You will receive post-adoption services during this time.

How long does the process take?
The process of becoming matched with a child can take between six months to one year, sometimes less, depending on the timing of training classes, your personal schedule and the amount of time it takes to be matched with a child who is the best fit for your family. After the child is placed with you, counseling is provided to help with adjustments, and six months of supervision is required by the State prior to the legal adoption. Ongoing services are provided after the adoption is finalized in court.

How many children are waiting?
The number constantly changes, but currently about 1,100 children and teens are waiting and available to be adopted. CHS is currently recruiting families open to adopting a child or teen age 12 and older, large sibling groups of 3 or more, or children (of any age) with special needs who may need lifelong care.

Why do these children enter foster care?
Children enter foster care through no fault of their own. Often they are victims of abuse and/or neglect.

What are their special needs?
Special needs refer to the physical, behavioral and emotional needs that the children have stemming from the difficulty some of them have seen in their lives. All children who have experienced the trauma of neglect and/or child abuse, and have been separated from their biological family have some special needs. Others may be part of a sibling group, may be a minority or multiracial, or simply an older child or teenager.

Is it always necessary to keep the birth order in the family or can we adopt a child older than the children we already have?
Each family is different, but it is not always necessary to keep the birth order when adopting. The most important thing to keep in mind is doing what is best for your family. In some cases, an older child may fit in well with your family. In other cases, a younger child may be what works best. Our social workers will take the time to get to know your family and discuss all the options with you.

Can I adopt if I already have children? Can I adopt more than one child at a time if they are not siblings?
Yes, you can expand your family through the gift of adoption if you already have children, although we strongly recommend that any children already in your home be age 10 or older. No, you cannot adopt more than one child at the same time, unless you are adopting a sibling group. It is always best to devote your time and attention to one child at a time.

Are there age and salary requirements to adopt? Do I have to be married or own a home?
Whether you are single, married or divorced, you can adopt a child. Couples must have been married for at least three years. There are no specific income requirements, but you must be able to financially manage the addition of a child or children to your family and CHS will consider your finances during the home study process. It doesn’t matter whether you rent or own, live in apartment, a house or a mobile home, all you need is a home that is clean and safe. CHS does require applicants be at least 25 years old.

Can I adopt children from all over or just the children on your website?
CHS is dedicated to finding homes for all of Virginia’s children in foster care. CHS features specific children we are recruiting a family for, but we work with all of the Department of Social Services in Virginia. Our Foster Care Adoption program does not have the capacity to explore out-of-state children unless a family comes to us with an already approved match.

If I have a home study completed by another agency, can I still adopt through your agency?
You are welcome to have your social worker forward your home study to our agency if you feel you could be a match for one of our waiting children or teens.

How much does it cost?
CHS is currently recruiting families open to adopting a child or teen age 12 and older, large sibling groups of 3 or more, or children (of any age) with special needs who may need life-long care. Our training classes are offered at a cost of $150 per person, and the home study is provided at no cost. If you are interested in adopting a younger child, we do not have availability in our program at this time. Please reach out to a CHS social worker to discuss what other options there are for adopting children under age 12.

If I take the training at another agency that is closer to my home, can you still complete my home study?
Most agencies prefer to have you complete the training and the home study at the same place, but we understand there may be circumstances that prevent this from happening. Please call us at (800) 247-2888 and we can discuss your specific situation.

What kind of support will be available for my family and for the child during the adoption process and after the adoption is finalized?
Your social worker will provide support to you and your child throughout the entire process. It is important to be connected with resources in the community, and CHS will help you do this. CHS has a program specifically for supporting families after a child is placed in their home. You can read more about post-adoption services here.

What kind of support/services/benefits will children receive after turning 18?
Typically, after a child turns 18 the financial assistance from the state ends and the child is considered an adult. There are resources and services available, including opportunities for free tuition to community college for two years. CHS also offers lifetime counseling and referral support.

Does the state offer financial assistance?
Foster and adoptive families receive a monthly maintenance payment from social services to off-set the care of the child. Children adopted from foster care are also eligible for an adoption subsidy that is paid to the adoptive parents. This subsidy is based on the child’s emotional, physical and behavioral needs.

How will I be selected for a child?
During the training and home study process, families determine what type of child will best fit into their family. Many aspects of a child are considered, including age, race, behaviors, and emotional and physical needs. Your social worker will help you decide what type of child you can parent and then look at a child’s behaviors and needs in order to determine if that child is a good match. Families always have the ultimate decision in the matching process.

Why aren’t younger children available for adoption from foster care? How can I adopt a child 12 years old or younger?
Most children entering care today are age 10 and older. The Department of Social Services works hard to prevent children from coming into foster care and works to find family members to care for the child. Younger children in foster care are usually adopted by their foster parents. If you want to adopt a younger child, it is important to be open to being a foster-to-adopt parent. Our social workers would be happy to talk with you about this option.

Will I have to go to court and/or need an attorney?
No, CHS has an attorney who works to finalize our adoptions. There is no need to appear in court.

What is the best way to prepare my family for the possibility of adoption? And how can I learn more?
The best way is to prepare yourself with education and information. There are many good Web sites and resources about adoption. We recommend reading the following books:
Parenting the Hurt Child by Greg Keck, Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay and Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter. In addition, these Web sites have valuable information:  www.nacac.org, www.adoptuskids.org, and www.davethomasfoundation.org.

Home Study Services

What is a home study?
A home study allows the agency to get to know you and for you to find out more about adoption. The process educates and prepares families for adoption and helps social workers determine whether you are ready to adopt. It’s a time when social workers gather information about you so that we can match you with a child whose needs you can meet. In Virginia, state law requires that you have an approved home study before you adopt a child. Our social workers will check references, as well as medical and financial histories. Criminal background checks, Child Protective Services and DMV checks also will be made.

How long does it take?
A home study involves three visits with a social worker. On average, a home study takes about three months.

How much does it cost?
There is no charge for a home study through the Foster Care Adoption program.

What if I’ve had a home study completed by another agency? Do I have to start over at CHS?
We will request a copy of the original home study. But in order to be an approved family at CHS, the agency will conduct a new home study.

If I’m adopting for a second time, do I need to complete another home study?
If your first adoption has been finalized and you wish to adopt for a second time, our agency will need to complete a new home study.

How long is a home study good for?
Once the home study has been completed and approved, it is good for three years. After that, it will need to be updated.

Things to Consider Before Adopting

Are you comfortable taking control and being in charge?

Can you tolerate rejection or delay in having your child express love for you?

Are you ready for a 100 percent lifelong commitment? Your daily life and routine will change.

Can you financially support a child?

Are you truly accepting of adoption and open to seeking resources to help you discuss it with your child?

Can you truly accept a child’s background, no matter how challenging it may be?

For married couples, is this something you BOTH want, or is this decision being driven by one spouse?

Adopting an Infant

I’m interested in adopting an infant. What are the steps?
Everyone wishing to adopt an infant is invited to attend a CHS orientation to learn more about what’s involved. After you attend an orientation you can submit an application, which we will review. Once your application is approved, you will complete a home study evaluation, which also must be approved to proceed. CHS also requires you to complete a training course for adoptive parents. You are then qualified to adopt, and you will join other parents on our list of waiting families. Once you are selected to adopt an infant and you welcome the baby into your home, you will be monitored by CHS to ensure everyone is adjusting well. When all legal processes are completed, CHS will finalize the adoption.

Tell me about the different types of adoption.
Parental placement: The birth parents place their child directly with the adoptive family. The agency does not take custody.
Agency placement: The adoptive family accepts a child who is in the custody of the agency. The adoptive family and the birth parents may meet on a non-identified basis, or they can exchange identifying information. They may share letters and pictures directly, or have the agency act as an intermediary.
Family/relative adoption: The agency provides the home study to the adoptive family as well as counseling services to the birth parents.

How long does the adoption process take?
It is difficult to give an exact amount of time since it varies from family to family. After a child is placed in your home, there is a minimum period of six months before the finalization process can begin. You can, however, be certain that your CHS social worker will be there to support you throughout the entire process.

How much does it cost to adopt an infant?
Fees vary, depending on the type of adoption. You can view the fee schedule by clicking here.

How long do birth parents have to change their minds? Is there any chance the birth parents or other family members will try to get the child back?
The birth parents have seven to 10 days to revoke their entrustments depending on when they were signed. The baby has to be 10 days old for the entrustments to be in effect. Once parental rights have been terminated and the child is in the adoptive home, the birth parents cannot get the child back unless they can prove fraud or duress. Once the adoption is finalized, they have no option to file a petition requesting the child’s return.

What if the birth mother doesn’t know who the birth father is?
If the birth mother does not know who the father is, she will sign an affidavit stating that. CHS will then have to file a petition in juvenile court to terminate parental rights of the unknown birth father.

What are the requirements to adopt?
Whether you are single, married or divorced, you can adopt a child. There are no specific income requirements, but you must be able to financially manage the addition of a child or children to your family. And it doesn’t matter whether you rent or own, live in apartment, a house or a mobile home, all you need is a home that is clean and safe. CHS does require applicants be at least 25 years of age.

What is the background of the infant?
We place healthy infants of all races, as well as children with special needs. Special needs includes medical challenges, babies born exposed to drugs or alcohol and children with a family history of mental illness or retardation.

How much contact will there be with the birth mother?
When the birth parents choose the adoptive family, the amount of contact is up to the families involved. The identities of each family can be kept confidential, or you can have a more open relationship.

What kind of support will be available for my family and for the child during the adoption process and after the adoption is finalized?
At CHS, we believe adoption is a lifelong process. Our services include counseling for not just birth parents, but adoptive parents and adoptees for their entire lives.

Will I need an attorney?
Yes, in most cases.