“Every Child Deserves A Home.” That fundamental belief drives The Children’s Home Society of Virginia. Chartered by the Virginia General Assembly in 1900, The Children’s Home Society is one of the oldest adoption agencies in Virginia. They also offer post-adoption support for all families, whether or not you adopted through their agency.
We had many questions about adoption for Anna Yates, post-adoption social worker at The Children’s Home Society of Virginia. If you are curious about the adoption process and life post-adoption, be sure to join us during our Facebook Live chat! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for details.
What makes Children’s Home Society of Virginia stand out?
We are a permanency-driven adoption agency focused on providing expert care for youth, (primarily teens and older children) and families throughout their lifetime. Our staff are experts on the trauma that adopted children often experience that can change the course of their development. While many of the children matched with our families are adopted from the foster care system, Children’s Home Society of Virginia is not a foster care agency. Instead, we focus on children who are already “legally free” for adoption through biological parents making an adoption plan for an infant or because a child in foster care cannot return to their biological family. We believe every child deserves a family, and we promote permanency and healthy families.
We do this by providing relevant training and ongoing support to assist with specific challenges associated with raising a child who has experienced loss and trauma. We know that children who have been through losses of their caregivers and other difficult experiences will thrive when they’ve had the chance to build healthy relationships and positive life experiences. Helping them requires a parenting style that focuses on connection, trust and healthy attachment rather than relying on restriction or punishment of negative behaviors. Parenting a child who has experienced traumatic loss is rewarding and worthwhile, but it is difficult. We developed a comprehensive, long-term post-adoption support program after recognizing the need for ongoing support for adoptive families because a child’s reaction to traumatic experiences may be delayed for years or it may pop up during different times throughout their life.
If a family needs post-adoption support, how can they get it? Is it limited to families who have adopted through Children’s Home Society of Virginia?
How are foster care and adoption the same and how are they different?
Foster care is designed to be a temporary home for a child while their family works on correcting the issues that lead to the removal from that first family. The primary goal of foster care is to reunite a child with their biological family. Many parents can use the time that their children are in foster care to make positive changes so that they can reunite their family. Foster parents do not have legal custody of the children, but rather work alongside their local Department of Social Services and the child’s biological family during the time that the child is placed in their home. While foster parents do sometimes have the opportunity to adopt children they have provided foster care for, finding a child to adopt is not the point of foster care and should not be the sole reason for deciding to become a foster parent.
Adoption is about providing a permanent home for a child who can no longer return to biological family because that family made a specific adoption plan for their infant, or because foster care could not reunite them with their biological family. Adoptive parents have all the same legal rights as they would if they had born the child into their family. This means the parental rights of the biological family have been terminated through the court system and the adoptive parents are now permanently committed to providing a lifetime of care for that child. Many adoptive families also have some level of connection with a child’s biological family, but the adoptive family is responsible for decisions regarding that child.
There is value in being a temporary caregiver through foster care and providing a permanent home through adoption. Choosing which route to go is personal. It’s important for individuals and families to have a good understanding of their own expectations for choosing either and understanding the differences between foster care and adoption. Knowing your own end goal can help you decide whether one choice is better for you and your family.
I understand that every situation and every individual is different. On average, how long does a typical adoption take?
In general, if a child is “legally free” for adoption, meaning that the biological parents no longer have parental rights and there is no longer chance of reunification, then at the bare minimum it takes six months for an adoption to be completed. This is because a child must have lived with their pre-adoptive family for six months before the court system can approve the adoption. However, there are often many reasons that this process takes longer, such as delays in court proceedings or back-logged paperwork due to the high caseloads at many local departments of social service agencies. Most adoptions take longer than six months to finalize. It’s more realistic to expect a child to be in your home for about a year before the adoption will be final.
Can anyone adopt? What are the restrictions?
While there are restrictions to adoption, it is a much more inclusive process than many people may realize. You need to show you can provide a nurturing and stable home environment for child. The home study process is in-depth and challenges individuals and couples to test their personal histories, the physical environment of the home, their parenting styles, plans for childcare, and many other factors. Besides completing a home study, anyone adopting needs to complete a criminal background check. This does not mean you have to have spotless record and never have committed even a minor criminal offense. However, there are some serious offenses they consider “barrier” crimes to being approved as an adoptive parent, which include many felony level offenses or offenses against children.
Many people think only hetero-normative two-parent families can adopt, but this is not true. Both single men and single women can adopt, as well as same-sex couples and couples who are married or unmarried. There are no restrictions based on sexual orientation, age, gender or any other demographic. What’s important is being able to provide a permanent, stable family. There are many children who are waiting for permanent families through adoption and many of them, depending on their personal history, may benefit from finding an adoptive family that does not look like the “traditional” family. Anyone interested in adopting, who believes they can provide a healthy home environment, should reach out and learn more about the process.
What are the costs associated with adopting a child? Are there places we can look for financial support?
The biggest cost of adopting a child is the added cost of having another person in the home, such as higher utility costs, food costs or transportation costs. There are sometimes fees associated with home studies, trainings, other administrative costs or court costs. However, when you adopt a child from the foster care system, there is financial help available from the government to help offset these costs. This includes both ongoing adoption assistance payments and an adoption tax credit that can be claimed the year in which you adopted. The purpose of this is to help lower financial barriers to adopting foster care youth, so that good, loving parents don’t shy away from adoption just because of financial concerns. This does not mean you will never spend your own money on an adopted child, but it helps. CHS works with families to understand the costs associated with adoption and navigating through the system to get the support they need.
How many area children are waiting for families?
Currently in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a little over 1,600 youth in foster care seek permanent adoption. About 80 of those youths are from the Greater Fredericksburg region. Virginia ranks 49th out of 50—second worst in the nation—for youth who age out of foster care without finding permanency families.
How can the community support Children’s Home Society?
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