Adoption and Guardianship Assistance - Virginia

Date: September 2023

What specific factors or conditions does your State consider to determine that a child cannot be placed with an adoptive family without providing financial assistance? ("What is your State definition of special needs?")

A child with special needs is defined as a child that has at least one of the following needs or circumstances that may be a barrier to placement or adoption without financial assistance:

  • Six years of age or older and has been in foster care for 18 months or longer
  • Member of a minority or mixed racial heritage
  • Close relationship with one or more siblings
  • A physical, mental, or emotional disability existing prior to adoption
  • Hereditary tendency, congenital problem or birth injury leading to substantial risk of future disability
  • A child with a hereditary, congenital problem or birth injury that could lead to a future disability
  • Emotional ties with foster parents with whom the child has been living with for at least 12 months


What is the maximum amount a family may receive in non-recurring adoption expenses from your State? (Adoptive parents can receive reimbursement of certain approved, "one-time" adoption expenses incurred in the process of finalizing a special needs adoption.)

The total amount of reimbursement for non-recurring expenses is based on actual cost and can not exceed $2,000 per child per placement


Does your State enter into deferred adoption assistance agreements? (In some States, adoptive parents can enter into an agreement in which they choose to defer the receipt of a Medicaid card, the monthly monetary payment, or both and can elect to receive the Medicaid card and/or monetary payment at another time.)

Virginia offers an adoption assistance agreement with a zero dollar payment. Adoptive parents may enter into an adoption assistance agreement, but decline financial assistance and services until they are needed. Medicaid may be included for an eligible child. This agreement enables the adoptive parents to request an addendum to the agreement during the duration of the agreement to address the child’s special needs and family circumstances of the adoptive parents. This agreement shall be used when the child solely has the special need factors of hereditary tendency, congenital problem (including substance exposure), or birth injury and there is no evidence the child currently has a disability. The adoptive parents may request assistance if the child’s problem or disability manifests in the future.


When can adoption assistance payments and benefits begin in your State?

Adoption assistance payments and benefits may begin in Virginia on the first calendar day of the month following the month in which all parties sign the agreement. A final order of adoption is not necessary to begin making payments or reimbursing expenses.


How are changes made to the adoption assistance agreement in your State?

  • When can a parent request a change in the adoption assistance agreement?
  • How does a parent request a change in the adoption assistance agreement?
  • What if a parent does not receive the change they request in the adoption assistance agreement?

The adoptive parents may request a change to the existing adoption assistance agreement at any time during the duration of the agreement based on changes in the child’s special needs or the family circumstances of the adoptive parents. A change in non-recurring adoption assistance cannot be reassessed as they are a one-time only expense.

For changes to the agreement, adoptive parents may submit an Addendum Request to the Virginia adoption assistance agreement to the local Department of Social Services (DSS) with which they established the agreement. Adoptive parents and the local department will assess, negotiate, and agree upon new terms of adoption assistance and sign an addendum to the Virginia adoption assistance agreement that documents the agreed upon revised terms.

To request a change, the family is directed to contact the agency that is a party to the agreement. Virginia’s Department of Social Services (DSS) local DSS agency.


What types of postadoption services are available in your State, and how do you find out more about them?

Postadoption services in Virginia are administered by the Department of Social Services (DSS).

Virginia also offers post-adoption services to support families, such as FFF – Formed Families Forward, Center for Adoption and Support (C.A.S.E), DePaul Community Resources and UMFS.

Many private organizations offer a variety of respite options. See the ARCH National Respite Network Respite Locator Service, search by state to locate Virginia's respite programs.

Note: Not all services may be available in all cases. Contact your adoption assistance worker or post adoption services contact for information regarding process, eligibility, availability, and duration of services.


What mental health services are provided by your State?

Public mental health services for children in Virginia are administered through the Community Services Boards which are local components of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS). The Community Services Boards provide the following services: case management, day treatment/partial hospital, crisis intervention, intensive in-home services to children and adolescents, therapeutic day treatment for children, and psychological rehabilitation. The Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) covers costs of some mental health services. You can also call the DMAS Recipient Helpline at (804) 786-6145 for help finding a provider.

Note: Not all services may be available in all cases. Contact your adoption assistance worker or medical assistance specialist for information regarding process, eligibility, availability, and duration of services.


Does your State provide additional finances or services for medical or therapeutic needs not covered under your State medical plan to children receiving adoption assistance?

Any medical service needed by the child as a result of the child’s physical, mental or emotional disabilities are available. Medicaid is used and any additional health needs are covered through Special Service Payments funded by the state. The local department agrees to make special service payments, from State funds to provide necessary services to meet a child’s documented special needs. Funds are available for special services which are unavailable through the family’s private insurance or through an alternate resource. Services include the following examples: medical care, physical equipment, remedial educational services, psychological and psychiatric evaluations and treatment, and residential treatment. Receipts for services must be submitted for payment to Virginia DSS within six months of the end of the month services were received.

Note: Not all services may be available in all cases. Contact your adoption assistance worker for information regarding process, eligibility, availability, and duration of services.


What is your State's process for applying for a fair hearing? (A fair hearing is a legal, administrative procedure that provides a forum to address disagreements with agency decisions.)

Any applicant or recipient of adoption assistance aggrieved by any decision of the Department of Social Services (DSS) in granting, denying, or discontinuing adoption assistance may appeal the decision. An applicant aggrieved by the failure of the local department to make a decision within a reasonable time may ask for a review of the process. Appeals shall be processed in accordance with Virginia legal requirements and written procedures at the time of the appeal shall be used. Adoptive Parents may request a fair hearing within thirty days after receiving written notice of the local department's decision. A person acting on behalf of an adoptive parent may act as an authorized representative and request the hearing. Requests for appeals are submitted in writing to:

Appeals and Fair Hearings Unit
Virginia Department of Social Services
801 East Main Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

When the hearing officer determines the appeal request is valid, a formal Administrative Hearing is conducted. The hearing officer is an impartial person charged by the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) to hear appeals and decide if the local department followed policy and procedure in making a decision. The local department prepares a Summary of Facts and sends a copy to the adoptive parent, and the hearing officer prior to the hearing.

Adoptive parents may seek further review of the decision by the appropriate circuit court. They have thirty days from the date of service to provide notice of their intent to file an appeal with the circuit court. They must send written notice of intent to appeal the hearing officer’s decision to:

Virginia Department of Social Services
801 East Main Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

In addition, adoptive parents must file a petition in circuit court in the locality where they live in order to perfect the appeal. The hearing officer’s decision is the final administrative action.


Does your state, territory, or tribe offer a guardianship subsidy or assistance (monthly payments and medical coverage) program?

Yes. Assistance is available regardless of the child’s title IV-E eligibility.

  • Does the guardianship assistance program differ from the adoption assistance program? Yes
  • If so, how does it differ? Eligibility criteria differ in regards to special payment services (State funds); these benefits are only available for adoption assistance.


What are the eligibility criteria for a child to receive guardianship assistance?

Information about kinship guardianship criteria may be found in the Virginia Child and Family Services Manual.


Do families have to meet a kinship definition to receive guardianship assistance? If yes, how is kinship defined?

Yes. Prospective relative custodians (which also include fictive kin are eligible if they meet all of the following requirements. The prospective relative custodian(s) shall:

  • Be related to the youth by blood, marriage, or adoption
  • Have a strong commitment to permanently care for the youth
  • Be an approved relative foster and adoptive parent for the youth for at least 6 consecutive months
  • Be willing to obtain legal custody of the youth


If a specific question is not displayed, the State or Territory did not provide a response to that question.