Virginia foster care, adoption process explained

Average age of child adopted in Commonwealth is 7

ROANOKE – There are many questions around the process of foster care and adoption.

"I was an adoptee in foster care in the Eastern region," said Traci Jones, VDSS adoption program manager who has been through the foster care system. "That's pretty emotional to think about what my life could have been. I could have been in foster care, or aged out of foster care. But I was fortunate enough to have a family that was waiting for me, that was meant for me, that really raised me to be the person I am today."

That experience drives her as the Virginia Department of Social Services adoption program manager.

The average age of a child adopted here in the Commonwealth is 7. The average age of a child in foster care is between 8-9 years old.

"It was just eye-opening," said Anna Koehle, VDSS adoption supervisor.

Koehle has been in the field for 13 years, spending time in Lynchburg as a caseworker.

"This was my community, this was my home. So I felt almost an application to get in there and work with these people and get them what they needed and make sure these children had safety and permanency," said Koehle.

Every child who is available for adoption is currently in foster care until they can be reunified with their birth family, placed with relatives or adopted.

If you are interested in adopting out of foster care, you have to become foster parents first.

On average, a child spends two to three years in foster care. The federal mandate is a child spends only 24 months in foster care before being adopted.

"We could do better in that area in Virginia. I think right now we're about 18% as far as permanency for adoption. So we definitely have a ways to go and that comes with working concurrent planning more through the local agencies. Also the court system as far as a lot of times cases are appealed because parents have rights to continue to get their children back," said Jones.

To become a foster family:

  • Attend an orientation and six to nine weeks of classes that teach you about the kinds of situations you may face.
  • You will also have a home study, where your family meets with case workers to make sure you're a good fit to be a foster family
  • Fill out required paperwork

Once you're approved, you are certified to foster and adopt.

"80 to 90% of our adoptions are foster parents adoptions so that really speaks to the foster parents that we have across the state who are dedicated and committed to our youth in foster care," said Jones.

"They are extremely resilient, they are courageous. They are some of the strongest and most courageous kids you'll ever come across. They just need someone that's going to give them a chance and really get behind them and give them the love and support they need to be successful and have a good life," said Koehle.

There are many different agencies you can foster and adopt through.

Many times, if you foster a child, the adoption fees are paid by the agency and not by you.

If you hear of families paying thousands of dollars to adopt, it is usually through a private agency. It's not through foster care.

If you are interested in adoption, contact Connecting Hearts at 804-308-5946, mbolton@connectingheartsva.org or online by clicking here. The non-profit can answer your questions about the type of agency that may fit best with your family because every agency is a little different.