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Types of Adoption in Washingon 

There are a number of different paths a family may consider when planning to build a family through adoption.

  • Private Domestic Adoption: Private adoption is a voluntary adoption arrangement between the mother or parents of a child and the prospective adoptive parents. As a family interested in adopting a child through a private adoption you may use any of a number of resources to locate a birth mother or parents willing to voluntarily place their child with your family, including:  
    • Adoption Agencies. Adoption agencies are licensed to provide services to birth mothers and children, and they do extensive outreach to birth parents and provide services to assist birth parents in making the decision whether to place the child for adoption. They then work with adoptive parents who have contracted for their services to make the match between birth parents and the adoptive family. The cost of a private adoption through an adoption agency can be substantial.
    • Adoption Attorneys. Adoption attorneys work with individual client families to find an adoption match through advertising and professional networking. They typically do not do much, if any, outreach to birth parents and do not usually provide services to birth parents.
    • Individual Networking. A prospective adoptive family can seek an adoption match by networking with friends, family, and their community. However, it is illegal in Washington to advertise for an adoption match unless the adoptive family has completed a homestudy and filed it with the Superior Court.
  • International Adoption. International adoption involves United States parents seeking to adopt a child from another country. In every international adoption, there are two sets of requirements, the requirements for the adoption itself, and the requirements for immigration of the adopted child into the United States. Each country has its own laws pertaining to who can adopt a child from their country, and many countries to do allow adoptions by foreigners at all. If you are considering international adoption it is very important that you get reliable information about what countries may allow you to adopt, what their rules are, and whether the child you are hoping to adopt can become eligible to immigrate to the United States.

When a child is adopted internationally the adopting parents should file to “re-adopt” the child in the State of Washington upon returning home. This step grants the adoption the protection of Washington law and also authorizes the Washington Department of Health Statistics to issue a Washington birth certificate. It is recommended that a “re-adoption” be done in all international adoption cases, and in fact, it is essential to the child obtaining U.S. citizenship in some adoption cases.

  • Foster-Child Adoption. When the State of Washington determines that a child is at risk due to parental abuse or neglect the child may be placed in foster care while the state works with the parents to resolve their parenting problems. Licensed foster parents are an important resource to provide care for these children.

In all cases, it is the responsibility of the state to assist the parents in resolving their problems so that their children can be returned to their care. When this is not possible, however, the government will sometimes see a court determination that the parents’ rights to the child should be terminated so that the child can be adopted. Licensed foster families can apply to the state for the adoption of children whose parental rights have been terminated. Most of the cost of these adoptions is paid by the State of Washington, and often financial assistance is available to help the adopting family provide for the child’s health care and other needs. 

    • Step Parent Adoption: When a child has an absent or unfit parent, it is often in the child’s best interest to be adopted by their step parent. This changes the relationship between the child and step parent so that, legally, the step parent becomes a parent with all the rights and responsibilities of parentage. A step parent adoption requires that the absent or unfit parent either voluntarily relinquish their parental rights, or have their parental rights terminated by court action. 
    • Adult Adoption: For personal, legal, and symbolic reasons, adults are sometimes adopted. This occurs most commonly when step parents adopt the children that they have raised after the children reach adulthood. In this adoption process, there is no need to obtain the consent of any absent or unfit parent or to go through a home study or other social worker review. One result of the adoption is that the child may inherit from the adopting parent even if the adopting parent has no Will specifically leaving them a share of their estate.

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Adoption Procedures

Adopting a child is one of the most rewarding experiences for a family, even if the process is long and complicated. Following the proper legal procedures is imperative in ensuring the adoption process is successful.

Every adoption is unique, but the procedures for most adoptions are similar. Listed below is a typical adoption process, although the steps do not necessarily take place in the listed order.

      • Home Study: The prospective adoptive family must work with an adoption agency or social worker to obtain a comprehensive report regarding the family situation, the background of the adopting parent or parents, and the advisability of allowing the adoption. The social worker will go to the adoptive home, interview the parent or parents about their employment, background, family status and relationship background. Following the evaluation, the social worker will make a recommendation to the court as to whether the family should be allowed to adopt a child. After the child is placed in the adopting parents’ home, the social worker will return to the home to assess how the family is adjusting. If the child was already living in the home prior to the initial home study report, then the two reports may be combined into a single report.
      • Filing the Petition for Adoption: Documents are prepared and filed with the Washington court to begin the adoption process.
      • Termination of Parental Rights:
        • Consent: Anyone seeking to adopt a child must obtain the consent of at least one of the child’s parents. The consent must be given in a specific form, and it is revocable until a court approves the consent. The court cannot approve the consent unless the later of 48 hours after the child is born, or 48 hours after the consent is signed by the parent.
        • Non-Consenting Parent: As long as the consent of one parent is obtained the parental rights of the other parent may be terminated by court action. However, it must be proved by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that the non-consenting parent has failed to perform his or her parental responsibilities under circumstances showing substantial disregard for those responsibilities, and that termination of the parent’s parental rights is in the best interest of the child.
        • Scheduling the Finalization Hearing: Once the court receives the post-placement report, and the parental rights are ready to be terminated, a final hearing will be scheduled. The county adoption services or the judge’s clerk will double check the final documents and contact the adopting parent’s attorney if additional documents are needed.
        • Finalization Hearing: The adopting parent or parents will come to court, along with the adoptive child. They can bring along other family members and friends if they would like to have them present. The adopting parent or parents will provide testimony stating that they understand the legal nature and finality of adoption, and confirm that they are willing to make the life- long commitment to the child that is adoption. The court commissioner or judge will sign the final documents and the adoption will then be final. Additional paperwork will need to be done, however, to change the child’s birth certificate in order to reflect that the child has a different parent or parents. The child’s name can easily be changed, if desired, as part of the adoption process.

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Additional Adoption Resources in Washington

Adoption in Washington State- Follow this link to a booklet about adoption provided by the Washington Department of Social and Health Services. The booklet includes information on types of adoption, how much it cost to adopt, and the adoption process through the DSHS. The DSHA is Washington’s social services department.

Revised Code of Washington Chapter 26.33 Adoption- Read Washington’s laws in regards to adoption. The chapter establishes who may adopt or be adopted, adoption of hard to place children and information on adoption-related services. The chapter can be viewed on the Washington State Legislature website.


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Lawyer for Adoptions in Washington

If you are planning to adopt a child in Washington, you should contact the experienced adoption attorney Joyce Schwensen. As an adoptive parent herself and long-established Washington attorney, Joyce Schwensen proudly represents people who are building their families through adoption.

Call the Law Offices of Joyce S. Schwensen today at (206) 367-1065 or submit your information in the online contact form. Joyce Schwensen assists families looking to adopt in communities across Washington including Spokane, Vancouver, Tacoma and Seattle.


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