When Judy Bingham first explored the idea of fostering, she really only envisioned welcoming one child into her home. That was, in fact, before she received a call from her local department of social services informing her that three siblings were in need. She still vividly recalls her husband waving his hands behind her whispering, “No, no!”
The memory is something they both laugh about today as the proud, adoptive parents of those children from that fateful call. “We really didn’t want these kids to become separated,” Bledsoe said. “Now we can’t imagine our lives without them.”
In Virginia, there are currently 4,800 children in foster care in Virginia, more than 600 of which are permanently and legally separated from their birth parents. These children are waiting for safe, permanent homes with a loving family to call their own.
Many misconceptions exist about the foster care and adoption process, but the facts remain that you don’t have to be rich, own your home, or even be married to adopt in Virginia. Apart from time and energy, the most important requirement is that you are willing to provide a lifetime of love to a child so they may grow and thrive as adults.
It’s okay – and quite frankly, normal – if you’ve never considered adoption before. Some seasoned foster or adoptive parents will share that they always knew they would welcome an adopted child into their world, but many others can attest that sometimes the right timing and the right child find their way in to your life and alter your original path for the better.
WHO ARE VIRGINIA’S WAITING CHILDREN?
The average age of children in care of the Virginia Department of Social Services is 8. Pre-teens are the largest population of the more than 600 youth who are legally available for adoption.
Virginia’s waiting children are in foster care due to no fault of their own. They have colorful stories sometimes tinged with loss, financial instability, abuse or neglect. Many of the real-world problems we hear about every day on a national scale, inevitably trickles down to localities, communities and of course, families. When parents are afflicted or embattled, vulnerable children are often displaced, and their lives disrupted.
These children are siblings, teens, only children, extroverts, introverts, readers, math enthusiasts, musicians, athletes, bookworms, and more. They may have unique hobbies and individual personalities, but all have the goal of finding a home with a family that will support them in achieving their dreams.
WHAT IS THE ADOPTION PROCESS LIKE?
The first step in learning more about the adoption process is to call 1-800-DO-ADOPT or submit an inquiry to www.adoptuskids.org/states/va/browse.aspx.
Once your initial inquiry is submitted, you’ll have the opportunity to attend an orientation where you’ll learn details about the foster care and adoption process. There’s also an application process and thorough training for foster/adoptive parents that will provide you with tips, best practices and resources to be successful in this new role.
While completing a home study with your local department of social services, you’ll have the opportunity to discuss your goals, expectations, fears and anticipation before submitting your final paperwork. When approved, you are then contacted for a placement based on the best fit for your family and the child coming into your home.
Whether you’re interested in adopting down the line or not, meeting one of the many great youth in care doesn’t have to be an immediate commitment. The foster care period of the adoption process benefits both you and the child. It’s a period of getting to know one another and experiencing the world together to see if you’re a right fit.
A PARTNERSHIP FOR LIFE
Adoption is a collaborative, community-based effort and your local department of social services is your partner every step of the way. The process to becoming a foster or adoptive parent isn’t an overnight journey (nor should it be to ensure safety and compatibility for all). Throughout these steps and even after an adoption is finalized, the Virginia Department of Social Services ensures there are tools, resources and support networks available to help you and the child(ren) in your care be successful.
Resources can include foster and adoptive parent training, family counseling, support groups, case management, crisis intervention, adoption search and more.
You don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent for a child in need.
Start your journey today by visiting AdoptVa.com.
Content for this article was provided by the Virginia Department of Social Services.