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Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
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10/11/11  4:34 pm
Commenter: Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute

Comment From the Adoption Institute

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute is the nation’s pre-eminent adoption research, policy and education organization. The Institute is nonpartisan, nonprofit and independent of any other organization or cause. On the basis of a review of decades of relevant studies, professional and family experiences, and our own work on finding safe, permanent homes for children, the Adoption Institute strongly supports the proposed regulations for licensed child-placing agencies in 22 Va. Admin. Code § 40-131-170 (2011).


The Institute’s support is grounded in a core belief that all children benefit from being raised in families; the longer they remain in temporary/state custody, the greater the risk of harm to them in the near term and for the rest of their lives. Children in the child welfare system are therefore harmed by policies that reduce the pool of qualified adults available to foster or adopt them. Regulations that prevent the systematic exclusion of willing, capable parents are in the best interests of children. Such regulations help increase the number of adults who can nurture and support “waiting” boys, girls and youth who cannot return to their families of origin. 

The Institute wishes to emphasize that our position is not based on advocacy for any of the adults cited in the proposed regulations. Rather, we explicitly view this through the prism of what will best serve the needs of children. We also stress that our judgment is informed and supported by the research of the Institute, as well as that of many other scholars and professional organizations. What follows are general statements, supported by research and other concrete evidence – followed below by a more-specific examination of the arguments involved, again coupled with citations to support our conclusions:

  •  There are many more children in foster care awaiting adoption than there are families waiting to adopt them. The U.S. Children’s Bureau reports that over 107,000 children were in foster care awaiting adoption at the close of 2010. They had been waiting for permanent families, on average, for over three years, and 16% had been waiting five years or more.

Almost 1,600 Virginia children were waiting to be adopted at the close of 2009, the most recent year for which data were available. Although adoptions in Virginia have increased, Virginia continues to lag far behind other states in placing children for adoption. According to the State Website Virginia Performs, “Despite the growth in the number of adoptions, in 2009 Virginia had the lowest rate of public agency adoptions (35.9 adopted per 1,000 children) [Emphasis added]. Indeed, Virginia’s rate is less than half that of the nation as a whole – for which the rate is 77.1 – and is far lower than that of nearby states. The report notes “A supply of parents who are ready to adopt is a significant factor affecting adoption” of children in foster care.

From an empirical, human and child-centered perspective, it is clearly in the best interests of Virginia’s children to expand the pool of available adoptive parents.

  • Youth who exit foster care without permanent families are at serious risk, including poverty, early parenthood, homelessness, involvement with the criminal justice system, poor health and victimization. In 2010, 11% (or nearly 28,000) of the children who left foster care did so through emancipation – leaving care to manage on their own without a permanent family. In Virginia in 2009 (the most recent year for which data were available), 943 children exited foster care through emancipation. It is critical that we increase adoption, particularly of older youth, to reduce the negative outcomes for youth who “age out."
  • Most adopted children are adopted by their foster parentsPolicies that expand the number of eligible foster parents will increase the chances that waiting children have permanent families through adoption.
  •  Research evidence consistently supports that children adopted from the foster care system fare well, although many face challenges.
  • Research evidence consistently supports the finding that children raised by lesbian or gay parents fare well.

 Over 25 years of social science investigation finds that there are few differences in psychological well-being, school performance, and many other indicators of child and family functioning. The few differences that have been found favor those children raised in gay or lesbian households. Although this is a relatively new area of study, research also indicates that children adopted by gay/lesbian parents fare well.

  •  Lesbian and gay parents have demonstrated a willingness to adopt children from the child welfare system, including those children who are at risk of remaining in care without a permanent family.
  •  A host of professional child welfare and child-based organizations support efforts to end discrimination against gay/lesbian parents, including adoptive parents.

Such organizations as The American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Bar Association, the American Psychological Association, the Child Welfare League of America and many more support parenthood and adoption by lesbian and gay parents.

The best interests of children must be paramount when considering policies that deeply impact their lives. The Adoption Institute therefore supports 22 Va. Admin. Code § 40-131-170 (2011)

CommentID: 20726