Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2005

SJR 331 - Joint Subcommittee to Study the Adoption Laws and Policies

May 24, 2005

The joint subcommittee is charged with performing a comprehensive review of Virginia's adoption laws. Members are Senators Jay O'Brien (chairman) and Frederick M. Quayle and Delegates Michèle B. McQuigg (vice-chairman) Robert Hurt, Benjamin L. Cline, and Robert H. Brink. Citizen members are Frederick Helm, Barbara Jones, and Jack Knapp. The Commissioner of the Department of Social Services, Anthony Conyers, serves ex-officio.

Issues under study include review of foreign adoption procedures, as well as review of adoption statutes identified as needing improvement by the Virginia Department of Social Services' Child and Family Services Review. The goal is to determine whether Virginia's adoption laws can be rewritten or reorganized to provide clear and consistent guidance to persons using the laws.

Senator O'Brien acknowledged that current adoption laws are cumbersome and confusing, and that input from the public and subcommittee members is vital to identifying ways to improve the adoption process in the Commonwealth.


Staff provided an overview of Virginia's adoption laws, a review of recent legislative and executive branch studies, and a review of recent adoption legislation. Virginia has two types of adoption processes: agency adoptions and parental placement adoptions. The former allows for more anonymity, and the latter requires more openness. The majority of Virginia's adoption laws are set out in Chapter 12 of Title 63.2 of the Code of Virginia. Stepparent adoptions are the most common in Virginia, followed by agency placements and other parental placements. Numerous executive and legislative branch studies have been conducted over the past 30 years, examining ways to best protect the interests of children, streamline the adoption process, and reorganize adoption statutes. There has been a marked increase in adoption-related legislation.

Child and Family Services

Vickie Johnson-Scott of the Division of Family Services at the Virginia Department of Social Services briefed the subcommittee on the status of the Child and Family Services Review. Department recommendations regarding the adoption process include: shortening from 90 to 60 days the length of time that agencies are permitted to submit their report to the court and adding provisions regarding birth parent responsibilities.

Adoption Agencies' Presentations

Linda Cullen of Catholic Charities, Kevin Broderick of Latter-day Saints (LDS) Family Services, and Rebecca Ricardo of Coordinators2inc represented their respective private adoption agencies. Each suggested ways to improve Virginia's adoption laws, focusing on the areas of openness of adoption records, as well as openness during the adoption process. Alternatives to the current system would allow for either closed (agency) adoptions or open (parental placement) adoptions.

The rights and responsibilities of birth fathers were also discussed in depth, in addition to the need to streamline the Virginia birth certificate process for foreign adoptees.

Legal Process

Rodney Poole, Esq., of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, shared his experiences as an adoption attorney in Virginia, elaborating on the problems and improvements in Virginia's adoption laws that he has witnessed over the past 20 years. Mr. Poole urged the joint subcommittee to hold as many public hearings as possible, time and appropriations permitting, in order to formulate policy recommendations. Mr. Poole offered that confusion could be greatly eliminated by centralizing adoption laws into one title of the Virginia Code. Currently, provisions are spread among Titles 63.2, 16.1, 32.1, and others.

Public Comments

Stanton Phillips, Esq., an adoption attorney in Vienna, spoke briefly during the public comment period. Mr. Phillips has participated in a number of the previous adoption law studies conducted in Virginia. He offered his assistance to the subcommittee throughout the study process, as did the other presenters. See the study website for full-text of all presentations.

Work Plan

A meeting was held on June 22, 2005, in Richmond. The members discussed the possibility of holding a meeting outside of Richmond in order to gain more public participation.

Next Meeting

The joint subcommittee will meet twice in the fall. The dates will be posted on the General Assembly website and the study website.

The Hon. Jay O'Brien

For information, contact:
Jeff Gore or Jessica French
DLS Staff



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