Adopting a child can be one of the most rewarding experiences a family
can enjoy. However, following the proper legal procedure is vital to ensure
the adoption is successful. Working with an experienced adoption attorney
can make the process less stressful and streamlined.
There are four basic types of adoption in Washington State:
- Step-parent adoptions;
- Second parent adoptions;
- Foster parent (or guardian) adoptions; and
- Independent adoptions
What is the adoption process?
While each adoption involves a unique set of circumstances, the procedure
for most uncontested adoptions is quite similar. (If you are pursuing an
international adoption, there are additional laws that apply.)
1. Consent. Any person seeking to adopt a child born to another must obtain the biological
parents' consent. If an adoption involves a same-sex couple where
one partner became pregnant by way of donor sperm and/or egg, no consent
is necessary. The biological parent can agree to provide consent willingly,
by signing an affidavit that provides consent.
2. Filing the Petition for Adoption. Initial documents are prepared and filed to begin the adoption process
with the Court.
3. Post-Placement Evaluation. A social worker will be appointed by the Court to conduct a post-placement
evaluation. The social worker comes to your home, interviews both parents
about their background, employment, family status, relationship background.
It is also an opportunity to meet other children who will be siblings.
The social worker will also conduct criminal, abuse/neglect, and health
background checks on the parties. The social worker will then make a recommendation
as to whether or not the adoption should be approved. This recommendation,
along with the summary of the social worker's post-placement interviews
is written into a post-placement report. This report is provided to the
adopting parents' attorney and is filed with the Court.
4. Confirmation of Consent in King County. Adoptions in King County are required to have any consent of the biological
parents be confirmed to ensure that the consent is valid and was not obtained
by duress or coercion.
5. Noting the Finalization Hearing. Once a post-placement report recommending the adoption be approved is received,
a final hearing can be scheduled. Usually the county adoption services
and/or the judge's clerk will double check all the final documents.
The parties' attorney will be contacted to be advised any outstanding
documents or remaining items that need to be completed before finalization.
6. Finalization Hearing. The parties appear in court, along with the adoptive child and any siblings
or family members who would like to be present. The parties provide testimony
stating they believe the adoption is in the child's best interest.
The judge or court commissioner reviews all the final documents and, if
all is in order, signs them. At that time, the adoption is finalized and
complete. The child is now the legal child of the adoptive parent(s).
7. Documentation. After the Decree of Adoption is signed and entered with the Court, the
parties should obtain certified copies. The Clerk's Office will hold
the Decree for 30 days, at which time the Decree and state documents will
be forwarded to the Vital Statistics Division of the Department of Health.
A new birth certificate naming the adoptive parent(s) is created. In approximately,
6 to 8 weeks from the time of finalization, a copy of the birth certificate
is then mailed to the adoptive parent(s).
Independent and Foster-child Adoptions?
These adoptions require an initial pre-placement report also known as a
"Home Study" in addition to the post-placement report described
above. This must be conducted prior to the Petition for Adoption being
filed. Further, a temporary order of custody will be obtained 48 hours
after the birth parents provide consent. This temporary order states that
the adoptive parents will have legal custody of the child on a temporary
basis, which will remain in effect until the adoption is finalized. There
may be other legal documents and/or orders that are required to formally
adopt the child.