“There are times when the adoption process is exhausting and painful and makes you want to scream. But, I am told, so does child birth.” –Scott Simon
It’s no secret, the adoption process can be a challenging and emotional time. There are many aspects to consider when placing a child for adoption. Sometimes, having all the information beforehand can help with making a decision and knowing if adoption is right for you.
What many don’t always understand is that the adoption process varies from state to state. While there are many similarities in the requirements, making sure you have your state’s adoption information will help make the process smoother.
What is Adoption?
When people think of adoption, they think of it as a way for others to grow their family. There are many reasons why a child is placed for adoption. Ultimately, all of those reasons come down to a choice that was made for the child to live a better life.
To put it in technical terms, adoption is a legal proceeding that creates a parent/child relation between persons not related by blood. The adopted child is entitled to all privileges belonging to a natural child of the adoptive parent, including the right to inherit.
When a child is legally adopted, he or she has legal rights as any biological child would have in a family. Not only will the child be accepted into a life of love, but they will also have a future where they are taken care of.
Thankfully, there are many ways families can experience adoption through open, closed, or semi-open adoption options.
A popular choice when deciding to place a child for adoption is an open adoption. An open adoption is just as it sounds; open communication between the adoptive family and the birth family.
This communication can even begin during pregnancy. The potential adoptive family and the birth parent(s) learn about each other and establish a relationship. After the adoption of the child is complete, the birth parent is still allowed to communicate with the family and their child. The birth parent will be able to essentially watch their child grow up.
Open adoptions have been shown to enhance the parent/child relationship while helping the child understand their birth and adoptive families.
Quite the opposite of an open adoption, a closed adoption is an adoption where there are no communication between the birth parent(s) and the adoptive family. There are a variety of reasons why a closed adoption is chosen.
In a closed adoption, the birth parents are not able to receive any information about their child while they grow up. They are not privy to the child’s name following the adoption and they will not know where in the United States their child will live.
A semi-open adoption is a way for the birth parent to keep updated about their biological child. However, there is no direct communication between the adoptive family and the birth parents.
Typically, the birth parents will receive pictures and information about their biological child through the adoption agency. The child’s whereabouts are not shared. This type of adoption is more popular than a closed adoption because it still allows the birth parents to see their child grow up from afar.
13 Facts About the Washington Adoption Process
The first step in choosing adoption for your child is to know the requirements, the process, and how adoptions are finalized. In the state of Washington, there are several steps to follow that might seem overwhelming. However, there are many adoption agencies in the state to assist you with the process and answering any questions you might have.
The following are the top 13 things you should know about the Washington adoption process. Use this guide to help you start to understand the process and make an educated decision about if adoption is right for you.
1. Who can adopt in Washington?
In the state of Washington, the following are requirements for any person seeking to adopt. Individuals must be:
- 18 years old or older.
- Legally competent.
- Pass a home study.
2. What is the first step to place a child for adoption in Washington?
The first step would be to find an agency to go through for a private adoption. The agency will provide you with all the necessary information to make the adoption process smooth.
Additionally, you may choose to contact the Washington State Department of Children, Youth & Families to find guidance from a state professional.
3. What rights do birth parents have?
Birth parents have the right to consent to the relinquishment of their parental rights before the child is born. However, the petition of consent will not be filed with the court until 48 hours after it is signed or 48 hours after the birth, whichever is later.
4. Can birth parents change their mind during the process?
In the state of Washington, consent is revocable any time before the petition is accepted and approved by the court. If it is determined consent was obtained fraudulently, it is revocable for up to one year. After one year, the petition is irrevocable.
5. Who must consent to adoption?
An adoption cannot take place without the legal consent of the person(s) responsible for the child. Written consent must be provided by:
- The mother and any alleged father.
- An agency or department to whom the child has been relinquished.
- The child’s legal guardian.
- The child, if he/she is 14 years old or older.
Consent is not needed if it is determined that it is in the best interest of the child to relinquish parental rights.
6. Is there payment for placing a child for adoption?
It is illegal for anyone to offer money or anything of value in exchange or to influence you to place your child for adoption. This law is valid in all of the United States. The state of Washington does allow for birth parents to have certain expenses paid for by the adoptive family, such as:
- Any prenatal or medical expenses relating to the child’s birth.
- Attorney fees and any court costs involved in transferring the custody of the child.
7. What documents are needed in the Washington adoption process?
In addition to the application for adoption, a prospective adoptive family must provide the following documents in order to be approved:
- Criminal history background check.
- Child abuse and neglect inquiries.
- Personal information*.
- Documentation of marriages and divorces, if applicable.
- Medical statements.
- Income/financial statements.
*Personal information includes the following documentation:
- Background and history
- Family facts (birth place, parents, siblings, childhood, personality)
- Employment history and military service (if applicable)
- Values, goals, interests, and activities
- Cultural background
- Others living in the home
- Parenting experience with children
- Family roles/activities
- Attitudes on parenting
- Experience and training
- Religious/spiritual affiliation and practices
- Medical and psycho-social
- General medical
- Abuse history
- Domestic violence
- Mental health/counseling
- Home and neighborhood
- Support systems
- Family financial
- Potential for permanency
- Concept of adoption as a lifelong developmental process and commitment
- Potential for child to have feelings of identify confusion and loss regarding separation from birth parents
- Relevance of child’s relation with siblings and potential benefit to the child providing a continuing relationship and contact with known siblings
- Disclosure of the fact of adoption to the child
- Child’s possible questions about birth parents and relatives
- Relevance of child’s racial, ethnic, and cultural heritage
All of this information was found on the state of Washington’s Department of Children, Youth & Families services website.
8. What is a home study?
A home study is an evaluation process that assesses an adoptive family’s ability to provide a stable, safe, and nurturing environment for a child. The process in Washington contains an investigative approach. The adoptive family will be evaluated on their home environment, family life, health, and finances.
Additionally, the adoptive family must pass background checks, which includes any prior convictions or charges against them, if applicable. There will also be a review of any child abuse and/or neglect history for any adult living in the home.
Interviews of individuals living in the home will be part of the home study process, in order to provide more insight into the adoptive family’s lifestyle.
A home study is generally approved within 90 days of receipt of the application.
9. How do adoptive parents pass the home study?
Applicants must pass background checks in order to pass a home study. A felony conviction on a record of an applicant in the following will permanently disqualify an applicant from the adoption process:
- Child abuse and/or neglect.
- Spousal abuse.
- Crime against children (including child pornography).
- A crime involving violence (including rape, sexual assault, or homicide).
Additionally, applicants will not be approved if there have been any convictions of the following within the last five years:
- Any other physical assault.
- Any other sex offense.
- A felony drug conviction.
- Any other felony conviction.
In the state of Washington, a home study must be completed by an agency, the department, a court approved individual, or a qualified employee. Once a home study is completed, it must be filed with the court prior to any placement of a child in the home of the adoptive parents.
10. Is there an in-home visit for the adoptive family?
Yes, there will be an in-home visit from the licensor. Additionally, all adults and minor children will be interviewed to better understand the family’s lifestyle and family dynamic.
11. How long does the Washington adoption process take?
Most adoptions are able to be completed in about a year. There are some exceptions where adoptions could take up to two years to complete.
12. Is there a follow-up visit after placement of a child?
Washington’s Department of Children, Youth, & Families will continue to visit the adoptive family’s home a minimum of once every 30 days until the adoption is finalized. The visits are to ensure the family is adjusting to their new addition in their home.
Additionally, the department may suggest at that time any additional training or other services needed to help the family be successful in parenting the adopted child. Court hearings continue at a minimum of every six months.
13. How do I know if adoption is right for me?
There can be countless research hours logged, dozens of educational material read, and several long conversations with others to help with the choice of placing a child for adoption. However, none of this seems to matter when the final decision is ultimately yours.
A decision to place a child for adoption stems from emotions and the love a parent has for a child. If adoption is right for you, know that you are making this decision with your child’s best interest at heart.
The Washington adoption process can be completed with guidance from professionals to ensure each step is completed accurately. Making a decision to place a child for adoption is one of the bravest decisions a parent can make.
In Washington, the rights of the parents are the first thing to be considered. If an adoption is voluntary, keep in mind that a 48-hour waiting period must take place after a child’s birth or 48 hours after the parents have signed the petition to consent to adoption (whichever comes later) before it is accepted by the court.
To recap, an adoption can be revocable if it was determined that the consent to adoption was submitted fraudulently. After one year, an adoption is irrevocable. While an adoption can be emotionally draining, there are services birth parents can receive to help with the transition.
The measures put in place for the Washington adoption process are set to help provide the best homes possible for children. Parents placing their children for adoption can take comfort in knowing their biological child will be well cared for and their futures will be bright.
If you have questions or want to know more about the Washington adoption process, contact your local state agency office or a local adoption agency for further information.