Frequently Asked Questions
- What happens after I have the baby? What are my options?
- You can place your baby for adoption with an approved family, someone in your extended family, or raise your child yourself. As you talk with a counselor you will see more clearly what is best for you and for your child. We can also provide you with medical, financial, legal, parenting and housing referrals.
- What if I am not sure what I want to do once the baby is born?
- Our agency has short-term placements, called interim infant care, that we provide to parents who need time to make a permanent decision. By discussing your feelings with a professional counselor you may decide you are ready to parent or make an adoption plan. In either case, there is no charge for this service.
- What do I have to sign?
- If you request interim infant care, you will sign an agreement. This agreement allows your baby to remain in care for 89 days. If you are planning to place your child for adoption, you would sign an Entrustment and Release Agreement voluntarily terminating parental rights. You would also sign an affidavit concerning the birth father.
- I’m no longer seeing the father, so he doesn’t have anything to do with this, right? Do you have to contact him or his family?
- If you are not involved with the birth father, the agency will try to locate him based on the information provided. If we are able to make contact, we will discuss with him the plan of adoption for the baby and see if he is in agreement. If he is, he will sign a Release and Entrustment Consent. If we are unable to find him we will have to file a petition in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations court requesting the court to terminate his rights because his whereabouts are unknown.
- What if I don’t know who the father is?
- If the birth father is unknown, the agency will file a petition in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court to terminate his rights based on identity unknown.
Can I choose the adoptive family?
- Yes. You can choose the type of family that you would like for your child. We have a book of families with pictures and profiles you can look through. You may also have the option of meeting them.
- Do you think the adoptive family will want to meet me? Do I have to meet them?
- The adoptive parents are happy to meet the birth mother if she requests a meeting. The agency can arrange it. If she chooses not to meet, that is okay as well.
- How much will the adoptive family know about me?
- You decide how much you want the adoptive family to know about you. They may know your full identity or not, depending on what you decide is best for you and your child. They will know your medical history as it pertains to the child. You can also write the family a letter about yourself or ask your counselor to tell them about you.
- Can I name the baby?
- Does the baby have to go into interim infant care? How long will the baby stay there? Can I visit the baby?
- The baby can be placed directly with the adoptive parents unless the agency feels there is a chance the birth parent will request the child’s return. If the baby goes into interim care, the baby could remain there for two to three months, depending on the legal situation. We believe that babies should be placed as quickly as possible with their permanent family. While the baby is in the private home, the birth parent can request visits with her child at the agency.
- How soon will the baby be placed with the adoptive family?
- At CHS, we believe that babies should be placed as quickly as possible with their permanent family.
- What if I wanted to get the baby back? How long do I have to change my mind?
- The birth parent has seven to 10 days to revoke the signed entrustment.
- Do you need to contact my family?
- No, any decisions made concerning the baby are up to the birth parents.
- Do I have to come to court?
- The court appointed attorney will speak to you by phone and let you know whether you need to appear. In most cases, if the birth mother has signed an entrustment, she does not have to appear in court.
- Will I be able to find out how my child is doing after placement?
- Yes, you can request pictures and updates. In some types of adoption there is more contact. You can discuss your wishes with your counselor when you meet.
- How will I know my child will be with a good family?
- All families who adopt in Virginia must, by law, have an approved adoptive home study. We have a list of loving families who have been thoroughly screened and are educated about adoption issues. During the home study, the social worker gets to know the prospective adoptive parents very well. You can feel secure knowing these families have provided references along with medical, educational and financial histories. Criminal and driving records are also checked.
Adopting an infant
- I’m interested in adopting an infant. What are the steps?
- Attend an orientation.
You can view upcoming dates here.
Submit an application Complete a home study
Receive home study approval
Welcome your child home
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.
International adoption -- Our social workers conduct home studies for those interested in adopting a child from another country. We work closely with your international agency to make sure all requirements are met and follow-up services are provided.
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 Children’s Home Society 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. CHS holds regular orientations at our Richmond and Fredericksburg offices, where you can learn more. You can request a fee schedule by calling (800) 247-2888.
How long do birthparents 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.
What is foster-to-adopt?
- This program meets the child’s need for immediate care and a permanent home. The opportunity for a child in foster-to-adopt to return to his or her birth parents is limited, but parental rights have not yet been terminated. Foster-to-adopt parents make a commitment to adopt the child if and when those rights are terminated.
- How do I go about adopting a child from foster care?
- There are five 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 an eight-week training class to help prepare you for the special challenges of a child who has faced neglect/abuse.
3. Complete a home study and receive approval.
4. Complete the matching process with a child.
5. Make preliminary visits with your child.
How long does the process take?
- The process usually takes six to nine months – sometimes less –depending on the timing of training classes, your personal schedule and the amount of time it takes you to select a child. After the child is placed with you, counseling is provided to help with adjustments, and six months of supervision is provided for additional support. Ongoing services are provided after the adoption is finalized in court.
How many children are waiting?
- The number constantly changes, but currently about 1,300 children are waiting and available to be adopted.
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.
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, but it is always best to devote your time and attention to one child at a time, unless you are adopting a sibling group.
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. 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 old.
Can I adopt children from all over or just the children on your Web site?
- 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 works with all the Department of Social Services.
If I have a home study completed by another agency, can I still adopt through your agency?
- Yes. You are welcome to have your social worker forward your home study to our agency.
How much does it cost?
- We are currently recruiting families open to adopting a child 10 and older, and the training and home study are provided at no cost. If you are interested in adopting a younger child, CHS has designed a program that allows you to complete training and a home study for a small fee.
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.
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 free tuition to community college for two years, after a child turns 18. CHS also offers lifetime counseling and referral support.
Does the state offer financial assistance?
- Children adopted from foster care are considered “special needs,” and there is 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 5 years old or younger?
- Most children entering care today are 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 child younger than 5, 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 process.
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 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? From $1,500 to $2,500.
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 two years. After that, it will need to be updated.
Things to Consider Before Adopting
- Are you comfortable taking control and being in charge?
- If adopting an older child, 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?
Becoming a Foster Parent
- What are the requirements?
- To provide interim infant care, you must:
1) Have a loving and nurturing home environment that is smoke-free.
2) If the foster parent is married, he or she must be married for three years.
3) The parents must be at least 25 years old.
4) One parent must be available to meet the child’s day-to-day needs.
5) An agency-approved pediatrician must be used for medical care.
6) The foster parents are responsible for taking the child to the doctor for routine checkups and sick visits.
7) The parents must be able to take a child of any age (infancy to preschool) and of any racial heritage or sex.
8) The foster parents must have an agency-approved home study and meet other licensing requirements.
Can I adopt a baby from interim infant care?
- As a foster parent providing interim infant care, you will not be able to adopt an infant placed in your home. If you are interested in becoming an adoptive parent, the agency would close your home as a foster home and update the home study to approve you as an adoptive home.
Why does a person have to be a stay-at-home parent to provide interim infant care?
- The agency feels that infants who come into care have already experienced separation from their biological parent(s). We do not want the child to experience yet another separation by going to child care.
How long does the baby stay in interim care?
- Infants can be in interim care up to five months, depending on the circumstances.
Do you provide interim infant care to special needs infants?
- We do provide interim care for special needs infants. These special needs can be anything from premature birth to being born exposed to drugs and alcohol.
What is a foster care home study and how long does it take to become approved?
- A foster care home study is a series of interviews and documents that must be submitted to the agency. A social worker is assigned to the family to conduct the home study. The home study can take two to three months to complete depending on how quickly interviews can be scheduled and documents received.
Is financial and medical compensation provided?
- Yes, a monthly stipend and clothing allowance are provided to meet each child’s needs.
- How is my birth family contacted?
The social worker will send letters to the birth parent(s) and try available phone numbers. If this is not successful, the social worker will utilize relatives or other means of technology to reach out to the birth family.
How long does it typically take to find and speak with my birth parents?
- It varies with each case. It can range from a few days to months. Sometimes, birth parents cannot be located right away. Also, it can take time for the birth parent to respond to contact efforts.
How often do birth parents want to meet?
Whether or not a birth parent wants to meet depends on many circumstances. The birth mother, for example, may not want to disclose information because she never told anyone about the adoption. There is no way to know whether a birth parent will want to meet until contact is made.
What if my birth parents don’t want to correspond with me? Can I still learn information on their medical backgrounds?
We can provide medical background information that we had at the time of an adoptee’s birth. This can be done through a heritage summary or medical summary. Current medical information is only available if the birth parents are willing to share it.
Tell me how the process works. What are the steps I need to take to get started?
- To initiate a search, the first step is to file an Adoptee Application for Disclosure with the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS). This form can be downloaded here. The form should be completed, notarized and returned to VDSS, 801 East Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219. Once the application has been processed, VDSS will issue CHS a Letter of Appointment. This assigns our agency to locate and advise the birth parents and adult birth siblings of the adoptee’s request for contact. Prior to CHS beginning your search, you must complete our Client Sheet and Service Fee Agreement and send the completed forms, along with a $500 check, to our office. Once we have received this information, a social worker will contact you to begin your search. If a birth parent is located and is in agreement, only non-identifying information may be exchanged, with our agency acting as the intermediary. Before disclosure of identities can be made, both the adoptee and birth parents must agree, then a Report of Inquiry is made to the VDSS requesting permission to disclose. Disclosure means that the identifying contact information is shared between the adoptee and birth relatives. This action will not be conducted until VDSS gives permission. If the birth parent is located and is not in agreement to disclose information or if the birth parent is deceased, the search process ends and a report is made to the state. If a birth parent is deceased and it can be determined that an adult sibling was aware of the adoption, then the sibling can be contacted and made aware of the adoptee’s desire for contact. The adult birth sibling does not have to agree to contact.
What is the cost?
- The cost for a search is $500 and includes the social worker’s time to conduct the search, the technology needed for the search and counseling services. This fee covers the cost of pulling the record and sorting through the file to locate the birth family’s identifying information. It also offsets the cost of technology used to locate current contact information for the birth family, as well as the social worker’s time spent contacting the birth family, facilitating the exchange of non-identifying information, medical information and the reunion. The fee also pays for the counseling that is provided to the adoptee and the birth parents throughout this process.
What information can I learn about my past without searching for my birth parents?
You can request a heritage summary to learn about your past. The heritage summary contains medical and background information about the adoptee's birth family. In most instances, the information included in a heritage summary would be the age, appearance, race, religious beliefs, education, cultural/ethnic background, a general description of employment history and hobbies or interests of the birth parents.
What if I’m a birth parent looking to reconnect with the child I placed for adoption years ago?
- If you placed a child for adoption in the state of Virginia:
1) You may write a letter to your birth child and the agency will place it in the adoption file. If and when the adopted child contacts the agency, the letter will be shared with him/her. Having a letter on file can give the adoptee the confidence he or she needs to begin the search and reunion process.
2) If you have serious and documented medical information to share with the adoptive family, CHS will contact the adoptive family to share this information. During this time, the social worker can relay the birth parent’s willingness to reconnect. The decision to initiate the search and reunion process is then left to the adopted child.