6814 Greenwood Avenue N.
Seattle, WA 98103

206.367.1065

Assistance for Adopting Parents

If you've decided to adopt a child, you likely feel a mix of excitement and apprehension. Becoming a parent is one of the most rewarding decisions a person can make. But if you've never adopted a child before, or if you're considering a new method of adoption, the complicated legal procedure that awaits can be extraordinarily daunting.

There are many choices to be made in adoption: what kind of child you will adopt, how you will find the child to adopt, and whether to have an open or closed adoption.

Washington Lawyer for Adopting Parents

You can have an experienced, knowledgeable guide through this process, advising you on your choices, representing you in legal proceedings and negotiating with the involved parties. Washington lawyer for adoptive parents Joyce Schwensen can be that guide. Joyce Schwensen has helped many people become parents through adoption, both as an attorney and as the former executive director of an adoption agency.

Joyce Schwensen, an adoptive parent herself, is familiar with the many different types of adoption, the many different goals that aspiring parents might have, and the many different issues that might arise. Call Law Offices of Joyce S. Schwensen today at (206) 367-1065 to schedule a consultation to discuss your adoption.

Joyce Schwensen helps Washingtonians become adoptive parents throughout the state, including in Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma and Vancouver.


Information Center for Washington Adopting Parents


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Qualifications to Adopt in Washington

The only qualification in the law to adopt is that you must be 18 years old or older and have an approved homestudy. You do not have to be rich. You do not have to be extremely well-educated or have an amazing career. You do not have to present a "traditional" family; single people and same-sex couples are just as qualified to adopt.

The most important factor in whether you will be able to proceed with your adoption is whether you have given the tremendous responsibility of parenthood and the unique challenges of raising an adopted child adequate consideration. To adopt, a home study will test these important issues.

The home study social worker will inspect your home, but it doesn’t have to be a mansion, or even completely ready for a baby or child; you just need a safe and appropriate place to raise a child. Your home study will look into your finances and medical history, but you don’t have to be rich, and very few medical concerns will actually prevent you from adopting. The home study will also check your criminal background. People with certain serious offenses on their record will not be able to adopt a child, but if you have had minor legal problems, your social worker may still decide that you are qualified to be an adoptive family, dpending on the nature of the offense, how much time has passed since the offense, and whether you have taken full responsibility for your mistake.

Perhaps the most important part of the home study is to prepare to to take on the joyful but sometimes challenging adventure of parenting an adopted child.  Adopted children have concerns and needs that are not shared by children raised in their birth families. An adopted child may have questions about their birth parents, or how they fit in to the adopted family and clan. The adoption social worker will work with you before the adoption to give you information and resources to become a wonderful parent to an adopted child.


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Choosing Your Child

It's important that, before you adopt, you decide why you want to adopt, what kind of parent you're hoping to be, and, ultimately, what kind of child you're hoping to adopt.

Most people are motivated to adopt simply to experience the unparallelled joys and adventures of parenting. While many view adoption as a noble undertaking, the wonderful reality is that adoptive parents gain at least as much as they give through adoption. As you begin your adoption journey, it is worthwhile to recognize that a major motivator for you as for most adopting parents is to fulfill your owns dreams. It is important that you follow your heart to the best adoption path for your family.

Some people hope to have a child of a certain sex. For instance, they might already have a daughter, and want a son to "balance it out." They may have all girls, and want another daughter to keep it consistent. Some people simply feel more prepared to raise a boy, or raise a girl.

For some adoptive parents, it's important to adopt a child of a particular race, ethnicity, national origin or cultural background. For many such parents, they want to adopt a child from the background they share because they feel more prepared to teach their child about his or her background. Other parents are excited about the opportunities and challenges of raising a child of a different race, ethnicity, national origin or cultural background from their own.

Some adoptive families adopt children who are older. Newborn babies bring some special and unique challenges, and some people would prefer to skip that and adopt a child who is older. Other people know that older children are more difficult to find permanent homes for, and wish to do so out of compassion.

Other parents, however, want to adopt a newborn, to experience every stage of parenthood.

Whatever your particular experience, hopes, and dreams, qualified adoption professionals such as Joyce Schwensen will help you discover the best way for your family to become an adoptive family.


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Different Types of Adoptions

The way you decide to adopt ultimately depends on what kind of child you think would be a best fit for you to adopt. Different types of children are available for adoption through the different methods of adoption. Knowing the type of child your are prepared to parent will help you determine the type of adoption to pursue.

For instance, if you long to experience the warmth and intensity of caring for a newborn you may want to consider a private adoption. In a private adoption, having an attorney on your side is important to ensuring your interests are well-represented in negotiations with the birth parent or agency.

However, children who are in the foster care system are usually older children whose parents' rights have been terminated. Many of these children have had difficult backgrounds. If you are motivated by compassion for children desperately seeking a home, and you are properly prepared to care for a foster child’s unique needs, adoption of a foster child might be a good option for you. Some people specifically want to adopt internationally. International adoptions are lengthy, difficult processes, but they can offer a degree of predictability that is not part of private or foster child adoptions.

In international adoption, the match between the child to be adopted and an adoptive family  is usually controlled by a government or social welfare agency. If your family meets all the requirements for adoption from a particular country which is placing children with U.S. parents, then you will likely be approved to adopt if the program is not changed during your waiting period. But the number of international adoption programs open to Americans has been severely reduced in recent years, the requirements for adoptive parents have been increased. So, international adoption is not a choice that is available to all prospective parents. Before choosing to undertake an international adoption, it is important that you obtain the assistance of an experienced adoption attorney such as Joyce Schwensen, who can help you decide whether international adoption is likely to be right for you.


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History of the Child and Mother

In a closed adoption, the files and information about the birth mother are sealed, and the information is confidential, other than "nonidentifying information."  Adoptive parents may obtain access to this information. Nonidentifying information may include information about the birth parents:

  • Age at the time of the adoption
  • Nationality, ethnic background and race
  • Level of education
  • General physical appearance
  • Religion
  • Occupation
  • Talents, hobbies and interests
  • The circumstances that led to the adoption
  • Medical and genetic history
  • First name
  • Whether there are other children or extended family
  • If the birth parent is dead, the age and cause
  • Photographs
  • Name of the agency or individual that facilitated the adoption

Not all of this information will necessarily be available. When you adopt a child, you will be given a family background and a child and family social history report, which should tell you the circumstances of how the child became available for adoption.

Having as much medical and genetic history as possible is particularly important so you'll be aware of what your child might be at risk for, so it can be prevented or treated. Your attorney or adoption agency will work to obtain as much information about the birth parents as possible.

Some people seek to have open adoptions, where the birth parents have direct contact with the child after the adoption, or a semi-open adoption, where information about the child is shared with the birth parents but there is no substantial amount of personal contact between the birth parents and the adopted child after the adoption. The terms of the open adoption or semi open adoption relationship are agreed upon by the birth parents and the adoptive parents, with the assistance of the adoption professionals involved. In Washington state this agreement should be presented to the court at the time of finalization of the adoption to be adopted as an order of the court if the court determines that the open adoption or semi open adoption agency is in the best interest of the child.


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Law Offices of Joyce S. Schwensen | Washington Attorney for Adoptive Parents

If you're ready to go on the challenging but rewarding journey of adopting a child, Washington adoptive parent lawyer Joyce Schwensen can help you. Joyce Schwensen has helped many Washingtonians become adoptive parents, whatever their preferences may be. Call the Law Offices of Joyce S. Schwensen at (206) 367-1065 to schedule a consultation.

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