Adoption Support Services

Adoption is a lifelong experience full of joy and challenges. For parents who have just become adoptive parents to those who adopted years ago, UMFS is here to help.

Learn More About Our Adoption Services

Adoption Support Services

Adoption is a lifelong experience full of joy and challenges. For parents who have just become adoptive parents to those who adopted years ago, UMFS is here to help.

Why You May Need Adoption Help

Adoptive parents are certain to face challenging moments. Whether you adopt a youth from foster care or choose a private or international adoption, children and teens who are adopted face a daunting range of special emotional needs. UMFS adoption services are here to make life easier for you and the child or teen you adopt.


Benefits of UMFS Adoption Services

Experts to Help Form Healthy Attachments

Our adoption social workers, therapists, and adoptive parent liaisons can help you build on the strengths of the child and your family.

Support at School and Service Provider Meetings

We can provide a learning curriculum with behavior tips and go with you to meetings so you can get the skills to succeed as an adoptive parent.

Access to Community Resources

Our deep knowledge of the foster care system and adoption process means we can guide you toward the best people and tools for your unique situation.

Crisis Response and an Empathetic Ally at Anytime

UMFS adoption services don’t end once you’ve signed the final documents – we’re always here in times of stress and also times of joy.

UMFS Partners for Adoption

We have partnered with two well-established adoption programs that serve the needs of children and teens looking for a permanent home –– and the parents who wish to adopt them. Wendy’s Wonderful Kids operates nationwide while Adoption Through Collaborative Partnerships is based in Virginia.

Wendy’s Wonderful Kids

Through the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids® (WWK) program, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption provides funding to adoption agencies to hire recruiters who are dedicated to finding adoptive homes for children in foster care across the U.S. and Canada. 

These recruiters implement an evidence-based, child-focused recruitment model that has been proven to be up to three times more effective at serving:

  • Children who have been waiting in foster care the longest
  • Teenagers
  • Children with special needs
  • Siblings

Adoption Through Collaborative Partnerships (ATCP)

ATCP is a public-private partnership managed by UMFS and under contract with the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS). The ATCP program operates through a state-funded grant which partners with local DSS offices to increase adoptions of children and teens from foster care.

ATCP is a collaborative effort to recognize and eliminate barriers which prevent youth in foster care finding a permanent home, and to speed up the final adoption process. The goal of ATCP is to:

  • Achieve finalized adoptions
  • Provide child-specific home studies for recruited and matched prospective adoptive families 
  • Achieve identified adoption milestones with children, teens and families for successful placements

For More Information

Contact Rosemary Liberti at 804.353.4461 x1447 or

A Success Story About Adopting from Foster Care

Adoptive parents enjoy life with the two children they adopted from foster care.

Katherine and Patrick Leahey became interested in foster care and adoption through Katherine’s career in social work. She knew how many youth were in foster care because she often received calls about children who needed permanent homes. Patrick would say, “Well, they should just come here!”

Eventually, the couple signed up for an information session with UMFS. Then curiosity quickly became reality. 

In 2016, the Leaheys were approved as foster parents. In 2017, nine-year old Mitchell moved in with them. The adoption was finalized nearly two years later. Lastly, in 2021, the Leaheys adopted their daughter Bella.

Katherine and Patrick knew the roots of their family were growing the moment they met Mitchell and Bella as children in foster care at UMFS. Katherine said “from day one you feel like, ‘This is my kid. This is forever.’” 

Throughout the foster care and adoption process, UMFS provided unwavering support.

“What’s so cool and unique about our family is that none of us share the same DNA,” said Katherine. “And at one point, none of us shared the same last name. Now, we all do.”

How to Become a Foster-to-Adopt Family



Attend an Info Session

Learn more about the unique needs of youth in treatment foster care and the support you’ll receive so you can help them. 



Pre-Service Training

Complete 25 hours of required training to prepare your family to meet the needs of children and teens in care.



Home Study & Paperwork

UMFS conducts an assessment of a parent’s ability to provide a safe and nurturing family environment for a child.

*The whole process for becoming a foster parent typically takes about 4 months.

Adoption Services FAQ

What training, education, and support systems are available to foster parents who are hoping to adopt?

As part of UMFS adoption services, we can introduce you to competent adoption social workers, therapists, and adoptive parent liaisons that can build on the strengths of the child or teen you adopt and your family to provide healthy attachments. 

Other forms of our adoption help include: attending school or service provider meetings, providing curriculum with behavior tips, finding community resources, responding to a crisis, and lending an empathetic ear.

In addition, there are many systems in place to help you succeed first as a foster parent and then as an adoptive parent:

  • Thirty hours of pre-licensing training and foster parent classes
  • Nine hours of post-licensing training
  • Local in-person and online support groups
  • 24-hour on-call support
  • Counseling
  • Reliable respite care so you can take a break and attend to your other needs
  • Financial assistance to cover all or most of the costs of adopting children from foster care and to fund their medical and mental health needs

Providers of Therapeutic or Treatment Foster Care (TFC) get additional foster parent training and support to meet the needs of children and teens with specific emotional, behavioral, psychological, or medical needs, possibly due to past trauma or abuse.

Is it common to adopt a child or teen from the foster care system?

Yes, in Virginia, 70% of youth in foster care are adopted by their foster parents. Read more about becoming an adoptive family and the differences between fostering and adoptions: Foster Care vs. Adoption and Adopting From Foster Care in Virginia.

Depending on the adoption program, you choose, you may need to foster a child for six months before you can adopt.

Can I pursue adoption in Virginia without being a foster parent?

In Virginia, you may adopt a child or teen without first being a foster parent. However, there are many reasons why you may choose to foster to adopt in Virginia and become “dual-licensed.”

  • If you are already approved as a foster parent when you are matched with a child or teen, you can avoid the delay of completing additional paperwork and processes before the youth is placed into your home.
  • If you are “dual licensed,” an adoption agency may choose you over other parents and families seeking to adopt from foster care.  
  • You will be able to maintain financial assistance for the child or teen without a break while you become licensed to provide foster care and then licensed to adopt and access post-adoption financial support. 
  • Adopting from foster care may be a less expensive route than other paths to adoption such as through a profit adoption agency.


What are the benefits of fostering before adopting?

There are many proactive reasons to consider fostering a child or teen before you start the adoption process. Here are a few empowering ways that adoption from foster care can benefit both you and the youth:

  • If you have not yet experienced parenthood, being a foster parent allows you to share your love and home with a child or teen in need as soon as possible.
  • Even if you end up adopting a different child or teen, you will gain valuable experience in forming a relationship with a child or teen who has experienced trauma.
  • You can gain experience parenting children and teens from different age groups, from infant to 18.
  • You and your family can begin to bond right away, in case there’s a chance it will become permanent.
  • You have the opportunity to assess if you, other members of your family, and the child or teen in foster care will be compatible long term. 
  • If you prove to be a good match to adopt the child or teen from foster care, then the youth will make fewer moves between different homes and therefore experience less disruption.
  • During the foster care period, you may be able to form relationships with the child or teen’s family members, and you may maintain these connections even after the adoption is finalized.
  • A child or teen in foster care needs to live with their potential adoptive parents for six months before adoption so if you’re already licensed to provide foster care, the total adoption process may be shorter.
  • During your time as a foster parent, you can gain valuable knowledge about the resources and services available to support you. 
  • Being a foster parent shows adoption agencies that you have the skills and dedication needed to become an adoptive parent.
What are the requirements to become a foster parent and adoptive parent?

Foster families come from all walks of life. They’re teachers, nurses, social workers, bookkeepers, chefs, and more. They are people who have realized that they have room in their homes, room in their schedules, and room in their hearts for a child in need.

Prospective foster parents need to meet these prerequisites to begin the foster parent process:

  • 21 or older
  • Stable form of income
  • Ability to pass a Child Protective Services and Criminal History Search
  • Valid driver’s license and reliable transportation
  • Personal references
  • Physical space in your home
  • Emotional space in your life
  • Medical information

There are no specific religious requirements or restrictions to participation.

What is a typical child or teen in foster care like, and what have they been through?

Children and teens in foster care can be any age, from infant to 18. The average age of a child in foster care in the U.S. is eight. The youth in foster care represent all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. They are frequently part of a sibling group or teens.

When it comes to children who need therapeutic foster care, the child may have experienced financial hardship leading to malnutrition or suffered from neglect or abuse. The children may have mental health issues or may suffer from post-traumatic shock syndrome (PTSD) due to what they have experienced.

The UMFS foster care program does not accept children or teens who are currently at risk for harming themselves or others.

What is foster care?

Foster care is when a child or teen goes to live with a foster family because their birth parents, birth mother, or primary caregivers are unable to care for them. This may be due to anything from financial stress to drug abuse, and the caregivers may have been reported to child welfare.

Foster parents provide a safe, stable, temporary home for children in foster care in order to provide the best opportunity for the children to thrive. The foster family may have additional biological children of their own or additional children in foster care. The average length of time a child spends in foster care in the U.S. is 12 months. 

The goal for each child and teen in foster care varies. Whenever possible, the youth return to their primary caregivers. If returning home is not possible, the youth may be adopted or seek other foster care services. 

At 18 or 21, the youth ages out of the system and may seek other support systems to thrive as an adult. But many face homelessness and unemployment.

Learn More

Next Steps on Your Adoption Journey With UMFS