Virginia legislators recently voted their approval of three new bills related to adoption. One of the bills would ramp up background checks for adoptive parents in the state.
According to an official press release from the Virginia House of Delegates Republican Caucus, House Bill 227 received bipartisan support from House legislators. The bill, initially proposed by Republican delegate Christopher Stolle, would require circuit courts to conduct "national criminal history background checks”
on all adoptive parents. The results of this thorough background check would tell circuit courts whether an additional investigative step was necessary before finalizing the adoption.
House Bill 227 was inspired by a recent case in Virginia Beach, where a young adopted woman was found dead after a drug overdose. Following the incident, authorities investigated and discovered the girl’s adoptive parent had a criminal history with multiple felony convictions. A thorough background check before the adoption would have uncovered these red flags.
Stolle called background checks for adoptive parents “a common-sense step” to make sure the state isn’t placing children with dangerous parents or families. He said he is hopeful House Bill 227 will prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
Circuit courts have the option of ordering an investigation or report on an adoptive parent before entering a final order of adoption. Often, this step is skipped, which means the state doesn’t know everything about adoptive parents before making final adoption decisions.
Under House Bill 227, circuit courts would still have the ultimate power to decide whether to conduct an investigation of adoptive parents. However, before deciding to order or skip the investigation process, each court would be legally required to conduct and consider the results from a national background check. The goal of this requirement is to prevent courts from overlooking important information or neglecting their duty to ensure the safety and well-being of adopted children.
Currently, the text of the legislative bill does not specify what Stolle means by “national criminal history background checks.” Based on the language, the intention is likely to screen adoptive parents through the FBI’s multi-jurisdictional criminal record database.
House Bill 227 passes through the House of Delegates alongside two other pieces of legislation aimed at protecting adopted children.
The second bill, House Bill 241, changes how long the state requires a child to live with a close family member before the family member is eligible to apply for adoption. Previously, the law required a three-year window to pass before the family member could start adoption proceedings. The new bill, aimed at helping children adjust and find stability in new homes, will change the waiting period to two years.
The third bill, House Bill 291 is meant to streamline access to adoption files for adopters and adoptees. Going forward, people involved in adoptions will be able to gain easier access to files relevant to their cases.