In 2017 there were 1,350 adoptions of children in custody of Washington State’s child welfare system with more children still awaiting adoptive homes, according to The Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families. If you’re considering adoption in the state of Washington, you will want to do your research to ensure you have the most current information on everything from waiting children to wait times. Washington adoption, like adoption in every other state, comes with its own set of rules and requirements, and prospective parents should take the time to become familiar with these and all things adoption.

What Is Adoption?

A quick Google search leads you to the following definition of adoption courtesy of Wikipedia:  “Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting of another, usually a child, from that person’s biological or legal parent or parents. Legal adoptions permanently transfer all rights and responsibilities, along with filiation, from the biological parent or parents.”

In her Adoption.com article, “What Does Adopt Mean,” author Jamie Giesbrecht does a deeper dive on the definition of adoption—beyond Google, Wikipedia, and yes, even Alexa—and what it means for adoptive parents and adoptees. Not just on the surface, but below—the pros and cons of adoption, and its implications for all members of the adoption community.

Adoption can be a beautiful thing, but as many in the adoption community will tell you, it is born from loss—oftentimes by all members involved from the birth family who makes an adoption plan, to the adoptee who experiences trauma and loss, to the adoptive parent who may have experienced years of infertility or loss as well. At the end of the day, adoption is an ever-changing verb that does not begin and end the day you are united with your adopted child.

Before you decide on adoption, you should make sure that you are open to and ready for this amazing yet challenging, lifelong commitment to a child.

What Type of Adoption Is for Me?

You should also consider what route will best work for you when researching Washington adoption.

There are agency adoptions, both private and public, and independent adoptions. There are several ways to adopt as well including domestic adoption, foster to adoption, and international adoption (sometimes referred to as intercountry). Additional types of adoption in Washington State include stepparent and second parent adoptions.

The article, “Which Type of Adoption Is Right for Me?” explores some of the ins and outs of the different types of adoption open to hopeful adoptive couples. “My advice to other prospective adoptive parents is this: Keep an open mind, listen to your heart, pray, and follow your impressions. You will find your child whether it is through foster care, independent adoption, agency adoption, international adoption, or embryo adoption,” says author Narda Emett.

What Does Washington Adoption Mean?

All states have processes, laws, and qualifications regarding adoption, who can adopt, and how they can adopt.

Domestic. Domestic adoption is an adoption that involves adoptive parents and a child that are citizens and residents of the United States.

In Washington, any person who is deemed legally competent and at least 18 years of age may adopt a child.

Foster to Adoption. Another path to adoption is foster to adopt. There are thousands of children currently in the state of Washington’s foster care system, many eligible for adoption. To become a licensed foster parent, you will need to be at least 21 years old, financially stable, complete certain training (including first aid/CPR), licensing orientation, and preservice training, complete a background clearance check, and submit to certain medical tests.

International. Families who choose to adopt internationally will complete many of the same steps and are bound to many of the same requirements as those adopting within the state of Washington or from another state. You can find out more about international adoption here. The age requirement for international adoption changes according to the country. You can learn more about the adoption process in a specific country here.

The basic steps to adopting a child internationally in the state of Washington include the following:

  • Choosing a country that you’re interested in learning more about. You should familiarize yourself with the country’s policies on adoption before taking steps.

  • Choose a Washington State adoption professional to assist you with your international adoption. 

  • You will need to apply for adoption eligibility.

  • Waiting for a match. Once you have been approved by a foreign government for international adoption, you will enter the waiting period, which differs by country.

  • You will need to apply for immigration eligibility on behalf of your child before returning to the United States.

  • Finalizing your international adoption in the state of Washington. Although you have finalized your international adoption in your child’s native country, the United States requires you to “readopt” your child in order to obtain all of the legal rights of a United States citizen. This is a relatively simple, but necessary, process.

In order to obtain a state of Washington birth certificate for a child born in a foreign country and adopted in the United States, the adoptive parents must provide a certified copy of the adoption decree and evidence of the child’s birth date and place provided by the original birth certificate or equivalent documentation.

The birth certificate will include the child’s new name (as shown in the adoption decree), the adoptive parents’ names, and the child’s age, sex, and date of birth. The birth certificate will have the same appearance as a birth certificate issued to a child born in the state of Washington.

Stepparent Adoption. This process involves a nonbiological individual adoption choosing to adopt another individual’s child once the noncustodial parent no longer has parental rights. Stepparent adoption typically occurs after a divorce or a death and only after the noncustodial parent’s rights have been terminated.

Second Parent Adoption. When a same-sex parent, whether or not he or she has been legally recognized to be in a relationship to the other parent, chooses to adopt a child, this is considered second-parent adoption in Washington State.

What Is the Process?

While adoptions are all unique and the process will differ by case, the process of completing a Washington adoption is fairly standard no matter the route.

No matter what type of adoption you choose, for an adoption to be considered legal, you must receive consent from the biological parent. Those working with an agency will rely on the facilitator to ensure this is taken care of within the law. Otherwise, it is recommended that you work with an attorney. You can access a listing of Washington adoption lawyers here.

Hopeful parents will then need to petition to begin the adoption process either by working with an agency or an adoption attorney who can prepare this paperwork for you.

All prospective parents are required to complete a home study in order to pursue Washington adoption. Typical home studies involve an investigation of your home environment and family life, employment and finances, health, and support resources. A background check is conducted to check for prior pending charges or prior convictions involving child abuse and/or neglect.

Although parents may feel the home study to be an intrusive and scary part of the adoption process, its purpose is to ensure a good fit for both the family and child. Your assigned social worker will not be focusing on your flaws or checking your house for dust bunnies, but rather he or she will provide insight into what adoption entails, the potential issues associated with adoption, how to help an adopted child transition into a forever family, answers to questions regarding birth family and legal rights, and how to help a child from another country and/or racial or ethnic group feel welcome and comfortable in his or her new family and community. You can find a Washington home study professional here.

All adoptions in the state of Washington require a post-placement evaluation. This is where a social worker who has been appointed by the court will come to your home to interview you and meet with your adopted child and or siblings to see how everyone is getting along. The social worker will conduct background checks and make recommendations as to whether or not the adoption should be approved. With international adoption, these post-placement evaluations may run longer, depending on the country in order to be compliant with the Hague Convention on adoption (which was set into place to safeguard intercountry adoptions. Not all countries participate in the Hague Convention. For a list of countries that do participate in the Hague Convention, you can click here).

Should your adoption take place in King County, the courts will need to confirm the consent of the biological parents to ensure that it is valid and was not obtained by duress or coercion.

A final hearing will be scheduled after the post-placement visit has been conducted and a report recommending adoption has been received. Once scheduled, the involved parties will appear in court along with any other family members who wish to be present. The presiding judge or court commissioner will review all of the final documents, and upon finding they are complete and accurate, will sign them. The child is now considered the legal child of the adoptive parent(s), and the adoption is now considered finalized.

Adopting from Another State. Interstate adoption is subject to the provisions of the Interstate_Compact_on_the_Placement_of_Children, which Wikipedia defines as a contract among all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands, providing for protection and support services for children moved between U.S. states for birth parent unification or reunification when the court has jurisdiction over the child. The ICPC ensures that the sending agency or individual does not lose jurisdiction over the child once the child moves to the receiving state.

The state of Washington requires adoptive parents considering adopting from another state to obtain a home study before an adoption placement.

How Much Does Washington Adoption Cost?

While the cost of adoption can be scary and is one of the main reasons families determine they are ineligible to adopt, the fees are different depending on the type of adoption you choose to pursue. On average, private adoptions in Washington State can run from $4,000 to $40,000. However, the cost of adopting a child from the public foster care system are minimal and typically limited to attorney’s fees and home study fees, both of which may be reimbursable.

Adoption.org’s Financial page provides links to great articles about how to afford private domestic and international adoption, how to save for an adoption, the general breakdown of the costs of adoption, adoption subsidies, and financial assistance to cover adoption fees.

Adoption Photolistings

Adoption photolistings help to provide prospective adoptive parents with an extensive list of children waiting to be adopted. Some of the State of Washington’s waiting children can be found on the Northwest Adoption Exchange or on Adoption.com here.

Getting Started

Adoption.com’s Adoption Homepage provides links to thousands of articles, videos, blogs, and websites concerning the first steps in preparing for an adoption no matter what route you decide to take.

For more information on Washington adoption, you may also wish to visit this link

Visit Adoption.com’s photolisting page for children who are ready and waiting to find their forever families. For adoptive parents, please visit our Parent Profiles page where you can create an incredible adoption profile and connect directly with potential birth parents.