Thinking of starting or expanding your family? Congratulations!
You’re ready to unconditionally nurture, protect and love a child.
This can be an extremely exciting, overwhelming and emotional time for you. But the rules and regulations around adoption can sometimes seem unclear and frustrating.
If you’re looking to adopt in Washington, I want to help. I’ve put together the steps involved in the Washington state adoption process.
Who Can Start The Washington State Adoption Process
If you are at least 18 years old and legally competent, you can begin the adoption process.
Your marital status doesn’t matter. You can be a home-owner or rent your property. Whether you already have children or not is irrelevant.
As long as you’re ready to be a parent, you can begin the Washington state adoption process.
The Different Ways To Adopt A Child In Washington State
You can pursue adoption through a public or private agency.
The Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families is your public agency option. The children who are ready for adoption through the DCYF are usually already within the foster care system. They tend to be slightly older (6 years old and above) and may be more likely to have physical or psychological disability issues.
If you’d like to discuss this adoption route further, the staff at your local child welfare office should be able to answer any questions.
Alternatively, you can use a private agency licensed by the DCYF to adopt a child. Processes may be quicker but more costly. The best way to do this is to contact a range of agencies and decide which is best to work with for you and your family.
When choosing a private adoption agency, it’s best to look for short and accurate time expectations as well as price estimates for all stages of the adoption process.
Before you can go any further in the Washington state adoption process, you need to complete an adoptive home study.
This home study is done to check that you are able to provide a stable, safe and nurturing home for a child.
If you’re progressing your adoption with the DCYF, this home study is done by the Division of Licensing Resources. If you’re working with a private adoption agency, they will coordinate the study.
Whichever method, you’ll be assigned a specific licensor who will complete your home study.
Firstly, you’ll need to complete a number of forms. These include:
- An application form, which the DCYF or private agency will provide
- Criminal history checks
- Child abuse and neglect inquiries
- Personal information
- History of marriages and divorces
- Medical checks
- Financial statements
Your agency will help you to find, complete and send these forms to your licensor.
You’ll also need to provide three references; the licensor will send these people a questionnaire to complete. It’s important to remember that only one of your references can be a family member.
Once these forms have been submitted, your licensor will meet with you at least twice. These meetings will be in your home so that the licensor can confirm that it meets requirements.
Your licensor will talk with you and anyone else in the home to get a better understanding of the environment that you live in and the lifestyle that you lead. The licensor will also discuss the process of adoption in general with you, including the lifelong commitment of adoption and the potential questions and challenges that an adopted child may face.
Once all of these steps have been completed, the licensor will summarize their findings in a written report and recommend if you’re considered fit to adopt.
It’s important to note that applicants will be permanently disqualified from adopting a child if they have been convicted of child abuse or neglect, a crime against a child or a crime involving violence. They’ll also be disqualified if they have been convicted of any other physical assault, sexual offense, drug conviction or felony conviction in the past five years.
Child Selection, Visitation And Placement
Once your Home Study has been approved, you’re ready to welcome a child into your family.
You can find your newest family member in two ways; a social worker from the DCYF or private agency you’re working with may contact you about a specific child, or you can contact them about a child that you’d like to adopt.
Visitations are then planned. You’ll begin by meeting at a neutral location which is safe and comfortable for the child. This will usually last for a couple of hours.
These visitations will gradually get longer and may include overnight stays in your home.
Eventually, the child will move into your home permanently. This process can then take between two weeks and several months and is unique to every family.
Legal Finalization of Adoption
Once your child is living in your family home, it’s time to legally finalize the adoption. This is the final step in the Washington state adoption process.
Within 60 days, your social worker will complete a post-placement report. This will be used to check that the placement is in the child’s best interest. It will involve collecting information about everyone’s mental and physical well-being and family life.
If this report is satisfactory, the DCYF provides a Consent to Adopt, legally allowing the child to be adopted. Your social worker and attorney will work with you to prepare the documents needed. You will go to court, where the adoption will be legally finalized.
If you’re looking for legal support to finalize your adoption, or for legal advice on adoption in general, the team at Ashby Law are ready to help.
Costs Associated With The Washington State Adoption Process
The joy of welcoming a child into your family is priceless. But it is sensible to remember that the process of adopting a child in Washington state can be costly.
You can be charged for your home study, placement, post-placement support and legal work. The amount is dependent on a number of factors, including fees charged by the DCYF, your private agency or legal team.
You might be able to have some adoption costs reimbursed by the Washington State Adoption Support Program, but this is decided on a case-by-case basis.
That being said, the fees for adopting children currently in foster care are significantly lower than adopting a newborn or internationally. Therefore, DCYF charges tend to be lower than private adoption agencies.
Begin Your Washington State Adoption Process
I hope that this has helped to clarify the Washington state adoption process. As long as you’re over 18, legally competent, and pass your home study, you’re ready to adopt a child.
As well as being exciting, adoption can be a stressful process. Read these recommendations on how to overcome stress and anxiety.