Having a family of your own is something that most people assume will happen in due course. But sometimes, life does not happen the way you think.
Maybe you have not found the right person to have children with yet. You may be struggling with infertility, or have been told that becoming pregnant is simply not an option. You may already have a family, but want to expand your family. You may have become a foster parent family, and want to make that foster situation a permanent one. You may be related to a child who needs a new home because of issues and problems in his or her immediate family.
Whatever your reasons to adopt, The Hutchinson Law Center can help you with:
While Virginia does have rules regarding adoption, nearly anyone can adopt, including:
You must be over the age of 18 to adopt, and have sufficient income to support a child.
Once you and your partner/family have decided to adopt, you can contact a private adoption agency, or the Adoption Resource Exchange of Virginia.
After an orientation, you will need to attend the required PRIDE training through the Virginia Department of Social Services (the same as prospective foster parents) and fill out an application for adoption. Once you have completed this step, you will be required to participate in a home study and family assessment.
After the assessment is complete, you will be able to review the profiles of children who are available for adoption. Once you have selected the child or children you would like to adopt, the placement process begins with visitations between you, your family and your prospective adoptive children. When the adoption worker believes that the child is ready, he or she will arrange to move the child into your home.
The adoption worker will continue to visit your home and the child to make sure that everyone is adjusting. The child must live in your home for a minimum of six months, and have at least three visits from the adoption worker before an adoption is finalized.
We highly recommend working with an adoption attorney to have your child’s adoption completed and final, to make sure that everything is done exactly as the law requires. As your adoption attorney, we can also alert you to potential problems and help you resolve them.
Sometimes when a family needs help, close relatives will step in and take over care of a child or children, and may become their guardians. Long term, adoption may be a suitable resolution to the child’s living situation. These are called “close relative adoptions” or “kinship adoptions,” and are simpler than standard adoptions. They include adoption by:
The process is much the same as a standard adoption, and the court will require the signed, written consent of the birth parent or parents to terminate their parental rights. But even though they legally become your child, it is still possible for the birth parents to have an active role in their lives if you choose open adoption.
You will also be able to take care of the child or children as your own, without requiring permission from one or both biological parents. This includes medical care, emergencies, school activities, and other places a parent’s consent and/or signature is required. The child can also be added to your health insurance, receive inheritances and your Social Security.
If you remarried after a divorce or becoming widowed, your new spouse may take over the role of a parent. In some cases, the new spouse may be the only mother or father the child knows, especially if the birth parent does not have or maintain a relationship with the child or children. Adopting stepchildren is a step towards being a cohesive family unit, and includes:
Part of the process involves obtaining consent from the child’s other biological parent, and/or terminating their parental rights. If the other parent is unavailable or refuses to consent, the adoption can go through, although it may take longer. The court will base its decision on the best interests of the child.
When you and your spouse make the decision to become a family, we will work with you through the steps involved:
Stepparent adoptions are not a requirement. But for a child or children with little to no relationship to their other biological parent, the benefits of adoption will go far beyond sharing the same last name.
Children who have been in foster care for various reasons are also available for adoption. Over 5,500 Virginia children are currently in foster care, with about 1,100 waiting for an adoptive family. Foster care adoptions are the most frequent adoptions in Virginia.
While most people think of adopting children as infants, the reality is that there are older children who need and want to become part of a loving family. Some have special needs, or were removed from their family residence for neglect, abuse, or other family challenges. Children are placed in foster care for their own safety as well as to give them a home with support and understanding while the parents work to resolve their issues. While the goal is to return them to their families, many children cannot go back to their parents, and are awaiting an adoptive family that can offer a permanent home.
With nearly 10 years’ experience in family law, Hutchinson Law Center will work with your adoption from start to finish. Whether you’re just starting the process, ready to adopt a foster child, or need help with a family or stepparent adoption, call us today at (757) 367-8888 or email us using our contact form.