A Virginia Appeals Court Judge Recently Held That Foster Parents Do Have Standing for Filing an Adoption
A Virginia Appeals Court Judge recently held that foster parents do have standing for filing an adoption. Traditionally, adoption petitions can be filed by grandparents, stepparents, and a variety of other forms of relatives, so long as the person has a “legitimate interest” in the care of the child. However, this recent decision to include foster parents as having a legitimate interest in adoption adds a new class of possible adopters.
In 2014, a couple agreed to care for a child in the foster care system, knowing that the child would eventually be given back to the biological parents. The foster parents developed a strong interest in the child’s health and development, going so far as seeing to it that the child had a necessary liver transplant.
“Legitimate Interest” as Defined by the Virginia Code
The couple later filed for adoption of the child. A circuit court held that the couple did not have a “legitimate interest” pursuant to Virginia Code § 20-124.1 which defines who is considered to have a legitimate interest. However, this provision says that the term should be “construed broadly.” The judge in the appeals case found that a foster parent could and should be considered as someone to have a legitimate interest in the child’s well-being.
Foster Care Parents Functioned as the Child’s Parents
For nine months, the foster care parents functioned as the child’s parents, helped her through a medical issue, and ensured proper medical care was provided for her. This, therefore, constituted a legitimate interest, allowing the foster parents to file for adoption of the child.
In custody and adoption cases, the Court makes sure to consider and rule in favor of the best interests of the child. Attorney Van Smith and his colleagues at Smith Strong, PLC have experience in helping guide clients through the adoption process, whether you are a foster parent, step-parent, or blood relative.
Special thanks to co-author and fellow researcher, Hayden-Anne Breedlove for her contribution with this article. Hayden-Anne Breedlove anticipates graduating from the University of Richmond School of Law in May of 2019.