Adoption exists only by statute in Virginia. While there are a variety of circumstances in which prospective adoptive parents can adopt a child, this article will address only some of the more important aspects of so-called parental placements.
Parental placement, in short, means the placement of a child in an adoptive home by the child’s parent or legal guardian. A married couple or an unmarried individual is eligible to receive placement of a child for adoption. While some fairly recent changes in the Virginia Code have made such placements easier to accomplish than in the past, pitfalls yet remain. Parents looking to adopt other than through an agency should be well aware of the procedures&emdash;and risks—involved.
The birth parent(s) or legal guardian of the child may place the child for adoption directly with the adoptive parent(s) only after executing a valid consent to the proposed adoption before a Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. That consent will not be accepted until the Court is satisfied that certain requirements have first been met. It must be determined, among other things, that the consent of the birth parent(s), and the decision of the adopting parent(s) to adopt, are informed and uncoerced, and that the parties have exchanged identifying information and any other information necessary to promote the welfare of the child.
Any financial agreement or exchange of property among the parties, and any fees charged or paid for services related to the placement, must also be disclosed to the Court; the parties must be found to understand that no binding contract regarding placement of the child can exist. Finally, a licensed or duly authorized child-placing agency must have conducted a home study of the prospective adoptive home and provided the Court with a report containing its recommendation regarding the suitability of the placement.
When the Court determines that all the requirements have been met and the child is at least ten days old, the birth parent(s) must execute their consent to the proposed adoption before the Court in person and in the presence of the prospective adoptive parents.
These requirements may seem daunting enough. The real risk, however, lies in the fact that the consent of the birth parent(s) is not executed until the child is at least ten days old and can be revoked by either consenting birth parent for any reason for up to fifteen days from its execution. For the prospective adoptive parent or parents, whose hopes of adopting have soared upon the birth of the child and who may have already paid for agency and legal fees, medical expenses directly related to the birth mother’s pregnancy and hospitalization, and expenses for the medical care of the child, the possible revocation of consent may be too much of a chance to take.
Parental placement adoptions are not necessarily just for gamblers. There are those, certainly, which are finalized without any problems. The point here is that there are alternatives to adoption and adoption procedures, and parents looking to adopt should be aware of those options before becoming involved in a situation that may end in disappointment.
If you are considering adoption, or if you want more information on the subject, we suggest that you contact an attorney with experience in this field. At RRMDK, we will be happy to give you the advice or information you need.