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Virginia Adoption Law Blog

The Home Study Requirements

In Copeland v. Todd, the Supreme Court of Virginia pointed out that the standards of proof in contested adoption cases must be read along with eight other factors which the Department of Social Services, or private agency, must investigate and report upon pursuant to Code Section 63.2-1208.  Those factors are the following:

The Constitutional Rights of Birth Parents

The Constitutional Rights of Birth Parents are extremely important.  Parental Rights are recognized as fundamental rights under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United State Constitution.  Whenever a Court must consider whether the best interests of a child require an adoption which is objected to by a birth parent, this would appear to conflict with those important constitutional rights.  For this reason, the standards of proof which a court must consider before it can grant an adoption over the objection of a birth parent are very important.

Attachment and Bonding, Part 4

Some people ask why adoption is necessary.  Why, they ask, cannot there be some continuing visitation with birthparents?  The answer is that there can be in some situations and not in others, and that the decision should be made by the adoptive parents, who are the only ones sufficiently attuned to the individual needs of the child to be able to make that decision in a manner which is responsive to the particular needs of the particular child.  Judges usually cannot adequately make that determination.

Attachment and Bonding, Part 3

If the child has not developed a healthy attachment during the critical first five years of life, then it has been conclusively shown that the child will suffer from irreversible developmental consequences, such as reduced intelligence and increased aggression.  The condition known as "Reactive Attachment Disorder" will most likely result.  This condition comes in two forms, one which causes indiscriminate and dangerous relationshiops and one which prevents any relationships at all.

Attachment and Bonding, Part 1

The terms "attachment" and "bonding" are often confused.  Attachment refers to a child's emotional connection to caregivers.  Bonding refers to the caregivers' feelings and connection to the child.  Both are relevant under 63.2-1205, but attachment is of primary concern as it relates more directly to the best interests of the child.  It addresses crucial relationships from the point of view of the child's needs and experiences.

Tax Credit Saved

There is good news for families pursuing adoption.  The final version of the tax reform bill before Congress has preserved the adoption tax credit!

Standards of Proof in Contested Adoptions

While Circuit Courts in Virginia have long had the authority to grant an adoption without the Consents of the Birth Parents of the child, in 1995 the General Assembly adopted Section 63.2-1205 of the Code of Virginia, which establishes standards of proof which the Court is directed to consider in making this extremely important decision.  Because granting an adoption over the objection of parents means terminating their parental rights, many judges have commented that this is one of the hardest decisions which they are ever called upon to make.  It is therefore essential that the standards of proof be properly understood, not just with respect to their meaning, but also with respect to their purpose.

Choosing the Agency

There are many excellent child placing agencies in Virginia which you may contract with to prepare the Home Study.  It will make a difference, however, which one you choose.

Robert H. KLIMA, PC.

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McLean, VA 22102

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