Teresa M. McDonough, MSW, Director,Catholic Charities,Diocese of Arlington
Faith based adoption service provider comments
Teresa M. McDonough, MSW, Director, Center for Adoption and Pregnancy Services, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, Inc.
22VAC40-131-170. Program statement and description
B. The licensee shall prohibit acts of discrimination based on race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, or family status to:
1) Delay or deny a child’s placement; or
2) Deny an individual the opportunity to apply to become a foster or adoptive parent.
COMMENT: We feel this does not allow faith-based agencies to follow their beliefs in regard to sexual orientation, religion and family status when approving families for foster care and adoption, thereby impacting their ability to continue to operate in this state. Faith-based agencies serve an important role in the Commonwealth of Virginia by relieving the government of its burden in providing services to pregnant women. The loss of these services would negativity impact the Commonwealth. It would also negatively impact birthparents’ ability to work with an agency that shares their beliefs, and their desire to place their child in a similarly faith driven family.
This provision also is not consistent with the Code of Virginia, which does not allow for the finalization of adoptions by unmarried couples, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. Furthermore, our federal and state laws allow for religious freedom. Government should not prevent religious organizations from functioning in accordance with their beliefs.
22VAC40-131-190. Home Environment
R. Possession of any weapons, including firearms, in the home or independent living arrangements shall comply with federal and state laws and local ordinances.
COMMENT: Meeting this standard is overly burdensome, as it mandates that agency staff be knowledgeable about weapons complying with federal and state laws, as well the numerous local ordinances. This is beyond our field of knowledge.
22VAC40-131-210. Provider training and development.
A. The licensee shall ensure that pre-service training is provided for resource, foster, treatment foster, short-term foster, and adoptive family home providers. This training shall address but not be limited to the following core competencies:
COMMENT: Licensees that work in infant foster care and infant adoption do not face the issues of other agencies placing older children. The suggested training in the proposed standard is not appropriate for foster families caring for newborns for a short period of time and/or families who are adopting newborns and adopting internationally. We suggest that adoption agencies that place newborn infants for the majority of their work may provide training to their families in the areas they deem appropriate for that family. International adoption, particularly Hague adoptions, have training requirements for prospective adoptive parents that must meet benchmarks that are completely different from the core competencies listed in this standard. Requiring the training areas outlined in this standard for newborn and international adoptions will be overly burdensome in terms of time and expense to families and agencies. In addition, the child placing agency may require additional training as appropriate once the child is identified.
22VAC40-131-230. Monitoring and re-evaluation of provider’s homes.
B. When an approved provider’s home does not have any children placed in the home the licensee shall:
COMMENT: While frequent home visits and contact with provider homes may be beneficial for families fostering older children, it would be overly burdensome and unnecessary for agencies working in infant adoption and intercountry adoption. There is already a standard that agencies need to be informed of significant changes to the home prior to placement which would require a home study addendum, and this standard is sufficient. We understand that your goal is to have the same standards for foster care and adoption. However, this extra visit creates serious issues for families adopting internationally. It will adversely affect dossier preparation and the USCIS process. Please consult with a Virginia Hague accredited adoption service provider in order to understand the Hague process.
22VAC40-131-250. Intake, acceptance, and placement.
E. Prior to placement of a child for adoption, the licensee shall secure written authority to make the placement. The written authority shall be in the form of one of the following:
1. An order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction documenting the termination of parental rights and responsibilities of each parent;
2. A notarized entrustment agreement signed by both parents or other person having of the child;
3. An order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction approving the transfer of the child's custody from one agency to another
COMMENT: We would suggest adding another acceptable condition:
4. A notarized entrustment agreement signed by one parent when no other parent or individual has the legal right to consent to the adoption.
REASON: the addition of number 4 above is in accordance with Va. Code 63.2-1233 - exceptions to consent in court. Otherwise agencies have to pursue court action in every termination of parental rights when an individual’s consent is not required by law. The Putative Father Registry, previously established, addresses the fact that the consent to an adoption by a putative father who fails to register with the Putative Father Registry is unnecessary and such a father has lost his right to object to the adoption of the child.
S. When the licensee accepts a child for placement from a parent or other individual having legal custody of the child, the licensee shall:
1. Obtain an entrustment agreement and follow the requirements as set forth in 63.2-903 and 63.2-1817 of the Code of Virginia
COMMENT: Add an additional code: 63.2-1233 of the Code of Virginia, as this also pertains to this standard.
22VAC40-131-340. Service plans.
C. In the case of a short-term foster care placement of a child, the licensee shall develop an implement the service plan within 72 hours of the child’s placement and the short-term placement plan shall include a description of the child’s needs and services to be provided to the child during the duration of his short term placement
COMMENT: Please clarify – if it is a short term placement, does the service plan need to include all of the elements cited in E 1-7 of this section? If so, this is not appropriate for newborn infant adoption when the child is in care for a very brief period of time.
Please also clarify – if a child is in care less than 72 hours, is a service plan needed?
22VAC40-131-490. Adoption counseling and services for birth parents.
E. If the birth mother or both birth parents choose to place the child with the licensee for adoption, the licensee shall secure a termination of parental rights in accordance with §§ 16.1-277.01 and 16.1-278.3 and other relevant sections of the Code of Virginia related to termination of parental rights.
COMMENT: Please add: For the sake of infant adoption programs, the licensee has the right to resolve all parental rights by operation of the law.
REASON: Current law does not require licensees to go to court to terminate parental rights unless right is unresolved. This would add a great expense to agencies. Please consult the Code sections referencing the Putative Father Registry.
22VAC40-131-520. Selecting an adoptive home.
C. The licensee shall consider the following when selecting an adoptive home for a child:
2. The ages of the adoptive parents in relation to the age of the child.
COMMENT: This is inconsistent with the proposed section, 22VAC40-131-170 which addresses issues of age discrimination. We do agree that age is a consideration in the selection of adoptive families in infant adoptions.
D. The adoptive placement agreement required by this chapter shall not be signed until the child is legally free for adoption.
COMMENT: Please clarify what determines “legally free” - and consider that currently a placement agreement can be signed with a notarized entrustment signed by a birthmother and with the appropriate result from the search of the Putative Father Registry – see 63.2-1233 of the Code of Virginia.