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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 parents 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 often have lasting consequences.

How is Virginia Doing?

Adoption Rates by State. See text for explanation.

The number of adoptions nationally -- both those involving government social services and adoptions directly from foster care -- has fluctuated in recent years, but overall decreased about one percent between 2005 and 2014. During the same time period, however, Virginia's public adoptions increased from 525 to 632, a rate of increase of more than 20 percent.

Still, despite the growth in the number of adoptions, in 2014 Virginia had the second lowest rate of public agency adoption in the nation  -- 33.8 adoptions per 100,000 children. Tennessee (77.7) and North Carolina (50.9) had significantly higher adoption rates, while Maryland (25.5) was lower. The national average in 2014 was 68.8. West Virginia again led the nation in the rate of adoptions, with 224.1 per 100,000 children.

Percentage of Foster Kids Adopted from Public AgenciesVirginia's low adoption rate is largely due to the fact that it has the lowest rate in the nation of children placed in foster care. In addition, approximately 48 percent of Virginia foster children are reunited with their families. Among foster care children who remain and are waiting for adoption, Virginia has placed an increasing percentage in adoptive homes. In 2014, this rate was 42.0 percent, lower than the national rate of 48.5 percent. Peer states Maryland (69.1%), North Carolina (53.6%), and Tennessee (43.5%) all had higher placement rates than Virginia.

Reasons Virginia Children Exit Foster Care

Reason   2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Reunited with parent or primary caregiver No. 987 1,102 972 910 888 808 760
% 30% 31% 29% 28% 30% 29% 28%
Living with other relatives No. 563 683 605 621 463 479 541
% 17% 19% 18% 19% 16% 17% 20%
Adopted No. 654 661 692 770 812 694 753
% 20% 19% 21% 24% 27% 25% 28%
Emancipated (aged out) No. 1,013 1,029 1,015 829 743 691 580
% 31% 29% 30% 26% 25% 25% 21%
Living with guardian No. - - - - - - -
% - - - - - - -
Transferred to another agency No. 29 31 31 83 74 131 92
% 1% 1% 1% 3% 2% 5% 3%
Ran away No. 25 20 20 6 3 1 1
% 1% 1% 1% <1% <1% <1% <1%
Died No. 7 6 6 5 3 9 8
% <1% <1% <1% <1% <1% <1% <1%
Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation, National Kids Count; Child Trends analysis of data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS)

What Influences Adoption Rates?

A supply of parents who are ready to adopt is a significant factor affecting adoption rates, as is the number and 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
Adoption Rates per 100,000 Population, by State. See text for explanation. Percentage of Foster Kids Adopted. See text for explanation.
Page last modified April 26, 2016

State rankings are ordered so that #1 is understood to be the best.

Data and Definitions

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,


There is no federal definition for a child waiting to be adopted. The definition used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services includes children and youth through age 17 who have a goal of adoption and/or where parental rights have been terminated. It does not include children 16 years old and older whose parents' parental rights have been terminated and who have a goal of emancipation. States' own definitions may vary from that used here.

Adoptions as a percentage of children waiting for adoption is computed as adoptions in the reported year as a percentage of the number of children waiting to be adopted that were reported in the previous year.

See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Virginia Performs.

At a Glance:
Adoption in Virginia

Performance Trend: Trend is maintaining.
State Influence:  

National Ranking: Virginia is a national leader in how few children end up in foster care; however, its success in getting those children adopted ranks just 49th in the nation.

Related Agency Measures
State Programs & Initiatives

The Virginia Department of Social Services and its local partners provide a range of foster care and adoption-related services.

Virginia's new Putative Father's Registry is an online database of men who have registered in order to be kept abreast of the adoptive status of children they have fathered, but with whom they have not established any legal parental relationship.

Additional Information

Originally chartered by the Virginia General Assembly in 1900, the Children's Home Society of Virginia (CHS) works to place at-risk children of all ages in loving adoptive homes. CHS also offers "search and reunion" services for adult adoptees and has launched a new initiative aimed at continuing support and services for 18-25 year olds who have aged out of foster care programs.

The Adoption Exchange Association connects representatives of state, regional and national adoption exchanges, placement agencies, parents, child welfare professionals, and concerned citizens across the United States.

The Center for Adoption Support and Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support and education to adoptees and their families.

November is National Adoption Month: Every November, the Commonwealth highlights adoption to increase public awareness and participation in the adoption process, particularly for those in permanent foster care. National Adoption Day is celebrated on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

National Adoption Month logo

One Church, One Child is a national minority adoption recruitment program.