How to Adopt a Child in Washington State
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.
- Washington State Department of Social and Health Services
- Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, by Sherrie Eldridge
- Talking with Young Children About Adoption, by Susan Fisher M.D. & Mary Watkins Ph.D.