Department of Family Services – Children and Families

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

TTY 711

12011 Government Center Parkway, Pennino Building
Fairfax, VA 22035

Oriane Eriksen,

Spotlight on the Adoption Unit

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Get to know the staff in our Adoption Unit. Their goal is helping children in the foster care system achieve permanency through adoption when reunification with their birth parents is not possible. They also help prepare our adoptive families to launch from the Department’s involvement, so that they can have normal life experiences and be prepared to manage whatever may arise in the future of their child’s life. Supervisor Michelle Cover answers a few questions about the unit. 

Foster Family News: What is your background as a manager?

Michelle Cover: I have been the Supervisor for the Adoption Unit in Fairfax County for over nine years. In addition, I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

FFN: What is your philosophy of social work? 

MC: I have several philosophies that guide my professional practice:

  • Everyone has value; no one individual has more worth than another.
  • Each child/youth deserves a loving, committed, and permanent family to be successful in life.
  • A healthy family relationship is primary in the early development of children.

FFN: How long have you worked in the field of social work?

MC: I have worked as a Social Work professional for over 25 years, primarily in the field of Child Welfare.

FFN: What is the name of your unit? 

MC: We are called the Adoption Unit.

FFN: What is the structure of your unit? 

MC: The unit is currently comprised of seven Adoption Specialists, one Supervisor and one Administrative Assistant.

FFN: What does your unit do, and what is the main goal of your unit?

MC: The main focus of our unit is to ensure that every child has the opportunity to grow up in a loving, permanent family. We work closely with our children, youth, and families through the adoption finalization process and provide all the information we have about the background history and long-term needs of each child we are working with. In addition, we coordinate services and support to optimize the functioning of the adoptive family.

We search and recruit for relatives, kin, and foster/adoptive parents for our children in need of a permanent, loving home. When safe and appropriate, we help children and youth remain connected with their biological families while also building healthy attachments to their adoptive parents and extended family members. 

The most important aspect of our work is to help prepare our adoptive families to launch from the Department’s involvement, so that they can have normal life experiences and be prepared to manage whatever may arise in the future of their child’s life.

screenshot of video call of Adoption Unit staff
From Left to Right: (top row) Rebecca Marksteiner, Michelle Cover; (second row) Cherell Montgomery, Hannah Park, Tamiara Johnson; (third row) Chelsea Holmes, Jessica Moser; (bottom row) Tela Jones and Kendall McFarland.   

FFN: Do you provide other supports to families?

MC: We help adoptive parents receive post-adoption support once their adoption is finalized so that assistance is available to them if needed in the future. We partner closely with our Adoption and Kinship Unit (formerly known as Post Adoption) to include their support through the adoption process and help educate families about how they can access assistance when needed.

FFN: Who does the unit serve, and approximately how many people does that include?

MC: We serve approximately 40–50 children and youth who are unable to be reunified with their biological parents and whose goal is to become a permanent part of an adoptive family (whether relative, kin, or foster/adoptive parents) through adoption.

FFN: How can they reach the unit?

MC: The Adoption Unit can be reached by calling our main number at 703-324-7639 and asking to speak with an Adoption Specialist.

FFN: When should they reach out to your unit?

MC: If anyone is interested in finding out more about adoption or getting detailed information about the children we serve, please reach out to us between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

FFN: What is one thing you want people to know about your unit?

MC:  Here a few things we would like people to know about our unit:

  • Adoption is not a linear process; we utilize creativity and explore options that are unique to the work we do.
  • Paperwork is a small piece of what we do; building family relationships long term is what is most important to us.
  • We strive to share our expertise in adoption to help support families, or colleagues and other professionals interested in understanding our work .
  • We believe in older youth adoption and help teens overcome their fears by exploring the positive impact that adoption will have on their lives.
  • We focus on preparing birth family, relatives and kin around adoption and utilize our clinical expertise to help them navigate the complex role they play in that process.

FFN: What is your favorite thing about the work you do?

MC: Here are a few favorite things about our work:

  • We enjoy bridging the relationship between birth family/relatives with the adoptive family.
  • We love empowering adoptive parents to be ready to take the lead in the care of their child/children.
  • We like to help build our adoptive families’ confidence and explore our teens fears.
  • We are thrilled about watching children heal from their past and begin to blossom once they are safely in their permanent homes.
  • The best part of our job is witnessing a Final Order of adoption and playing a role in families joining legally through adoption.

FFN: Is there any other question that you wish I had asked about your unit? If so, please provide an answer.

MC: During National Adoption Month in November, we celebrated adoptive families across the country. The Fairfax County Department of Family Services began a new series of adoption stories on the website. We also hosted our annual Adoption Event Celebration virtually. This event featured a keynote speaker, games, prizes, and the debut of our Annual Adoption video. It was a great opportunity for staff to reunite with some families who have moved out of the area. For those who were unable to make it, we hope to see you in future years.

Michelle was recently featured on a local news outlet during Adoption Month to discuss DFS’s support for adoptive families and children awaiting adoption. We shared the article on our Facebook page.

This article posting is part of the Foster Family News monthly newsletter designed to keep foster parents informed about all the new and notable happenings in Fairfax County.

Learn about what the Foster Care & Adoption program has planned for foster families - stay on top of trends, participate in trainings and learn about policy changes.

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