Here are the legislature's official summaries of the adoption-related bills enacted this session, with links to the complete texts. There is a general redesign of adoption procedures and the Putative Father Registry process; a law letting adoption/child welfare agencies exclude potential adoptive or foster parents in accordance with the agency's religious or moral beliefs; a right to a lawyer for indigent birth parents in contested adoption cases; easier procedural rules for international adoption; and a bill clarifying how the Interstate Compact on Placement of Children applies to parents putting their children in a Residential Facility.
HB 445 Adoption; various changes to procedures. Makes various changes to adoption procedures, including establishing a procedure for review of petitions filed for the purpose of obtaining a juvenile and domestic relations district court's assistance with the execution of consent to an adoption when the consent is executed pursuant to the laws of another state; expanding the venue for consent hearings in parental placement adoptions to include any city or county in the Commonwealth, provided that diligent efforts are made to conduct the hearing where the child was born, where the birth parents reside, or where the adoptive parents reside; eliminating the need for parental consent for an adoption in cases in which a birth parent has, without just cause, neither visited nor contacted the child for a period of six months immediately prior to the filing of a petition for adoption or a petition to accept consent to an adoption; adding language setting forth requirements for establishment of a date of birth for a child adopted from a foreign country; and clarifying the requirements for stepparent adoptions. The bill also makes changes to the process of registering with the Putative Father Registry.
SB 349 Child-placing agency; shall not be required to participate in placement of child for foster care.; conscience clause. Provides that, to the extent allowed by federal law, no private child-placing agency shall be required to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would violate the agency's written religious or moral convictions or policies. In addition, the bill provides that (i) the Commissioner of Social Services shall not deny an application for an initial license or renewal of a license, nor revoke a license, of any private child-placing agency and (ii) no state or local government entity shall deny a private child-placing agency any grant, contract, or participation in a government program because of the agency's objection to performing, assisting, counseling, recommending, consenting to, referring, or participating in a placement that violates the agency's written religious or moral convictions or policies. The bill provides that the refusal of a private child-placing agency to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in a placement that violates its written moral or religious convictions or policies shall not form the basis of any claim for damages. This bill is identical to HB 189.
HB 451 Adoption; appointment of counsel if parent is determined to be indigent. Provides that a parent who does not consent to the adoption of the parent's child, but whose consent to the adoption is required, shall be appointed counsel upon the parent's request if such parent is determined to be indigent. The bill also provides that the court shall provide written notice to the birth parent withholding consent of the parent's right to counsel prior to any hearing or decision on a petition for adoption. As introduced, this bill was a recommendation of the Boyd-Graves Conference.
HB 285 Foreign adoption; procedure to obtain State certificate of birth. Provides that in certain foreign adoptions, adoptive parents seeking to obtain a Virginia certificate of birth for the adopted child may provide either certified or notarized copies of the final order of adoption entered by the foreign court and a certified translation or a notarized copy of a certified translation of the final order of adoption in cases in which the original order is not in English. Under current law, the documents must be certified. The bill also provides that an affidavit indicating that the parents have received supervision from a licensed or approved child-placing agency in the United States and have satisfied all post-adoption requirements as required by the foreign country from which the child was adopted shall be sufficient to satisfy the requirement that parents receive supervision from a licensed or approved child-placing agency prior to receiving a Virginia certificate of birth for a child adopted from a foreign country. The bill also clarifies that only adoptive parents who are residents of the Commonwealth at the time of the adoption may obtain a Virginia birth certificate via this procedure.
SB 366 Interstate Compact on Placement of Children; interstate placement of children. Provides that regulations adopted by the State Board of Social Services cannot prohibit the placement of a nonresident child in a children's residential facility in the Commonwealth by a custodial parent who assumes full financial responsibility for the child prior to final approval of the placement pursuant to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children when the placement is made without the involvement of a public officer or agency.