Adoption is a boon to the community as well as to the families it brings together. While the majority of adoptions are by stepparents, adopting children from foster homes is especially important. Children in foster care often have difficult lives, and the longer they wait for adoption, the higher the possibility of future problems. Virginia continues to work to improve its 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 parent with a new family. It is a social and legal process that gives new parents 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 due to an extended stay in foster care can have lasting consequences.
How is Virginia Doing?
Adoptions nationally have decreased in recent years -- both those involving government social services and adoptions directly from foster care. According to U.S. Health and Human Services statistics, the national number of adoptions from public agencies dropped more than 11 percent between 2009 and 2011. However, Virginia's public adoptions increased from 663 to 755 during that same time -- a period when the total number of children in foster care actually declined. Virginia, in fact, has the lowest rate in the country for children placed in foster care.
Still, despite the growth in the number of adoptions, in 2011 Virginia had the fourth lowest rate of public agency adoption in the nation (40.7 adopted per 100,000 children). North Carolina (64.0) and Tennessee (51.7) had significantly higher adoption rates, while Maryland (39.4) was a bit lower. The national average in 2011 was 68.3.
What Influences Adoption Rates?
A supply of parents who are ready to adopt is a significant factor affecting adoption rates, as is the readiness of children to be adopted. Financial incentives improve the rate of foster care adoptions by making them more feasible for many families. Finding permanent homes for children with mental disabilities or other special needs remains an additional challenge.
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
- assistance to parents adopting special-needs children
- oversight of adoption records and disclosure laws
- special initiatives to achieve adoption for children in foster care.
State rankings are ordered so that #1 is understood to be the best.
Data and Definitions
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/index.htm#afcars
See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Virginia Performs.