Washington, D.C., home of the Capitol, the White House, and the Supreme Court, is a beautiful city on the Potomac River. Bordering the states of both Virginia and Maryland, Washington, D.C. is not exactly a state but rather a district formed from land ceded from Virginia and Maryland. The Founding Fathers believed no state should host the United States capitol, and to this date, D.C. statehood is a contentious topic.
Washington D.C. is a thriving city with lots to offer both its inhabitants and its visitors. If you reside in Washington D.C. and are considering adoption, or are considering adopting a child born in Washington D.C., or if you are facing an unplanned pregnancy in Washington D.C., this article will answer any questions you may have about Washington D.C. adoption and provide some great links to resources along the way.
Types of Adoption
In Washington D.C., there are essentially four types of adoption that prospective adoptive parents and expectant parents consider: private domestic adoption, kinship adoption, adoption from foster care, and international adoption.
If you find yourself unexpectedly expecting in Washington, D.C., it can be a scary time. Now may not be the right time in your life to parent a child, or you might have career or educational goals that are not conducive to raising a child, or you may be with the wrong partner. Whatever your reason, know you are not alone. For expecting parents, the most common forms of Washington, D.C. adoption are private domestic adoption and kinship adoption.
In private domestic adoption, the expectant parents have the ability to choose the prospective adoptive parents of their child, or not. Expectant parents may work with an agency or pursue an independent adoption.
Another option is kinship adoption, which is similar to domestic adoption, but the prospective adoptive parents are biologically related to the adopted child. Though kinship adoption may not involve the use of an adoption agency, an adoption attorney and state-licensed social worker must be involved as adoption is a legally binding event.
If you are a prospective adoptive parent either residing in Washington, D.C. or hoping to adopt a child from Washington, D.C., your path to adoption may have been a linear one or it may have involved years of fertility struggles or tough conversations around the topic of adoption. For prospective adoptive parents, the first step in the journey is to consider what type of adoption will be right for you and your family.
If the idea of adopting an infant feels right, then private domestic adoption may be the route to choose.
If you are open to older child adoption, consider adoption from foster care. The average age of children adopted from foster care is between 10–12 years old and on any given day there are over 500,000 children in the United States in foster care, many of whom have had their biological parents’ parental rights terminated.
And if you are open to welcoming another country into your home and hearts, you may consider international adoption. In international adoption, the prospective adoptive parents first choose their country of interest (such as South Korea, China, Columbia, or India) and then work to bring that child home. The average age of international adoptees at placement is between 2–4 years old, and many have some degree of special need.
Cost of Adoption
The biggest concern many expectant and prospective adoptive parents have is “what is the cost of adoption?” For expectant parents, if you are considering Washington, D.C. adoption, the good news is adoption will cost you nothing. Making the difficult, loving, selfless decision to place your child for adoption should not be a financial burden to you. If you choose to place your child for adoption, all medical expenses not covered by Medicaid or your insurance will be covered by either the adoption agency or (by extension) the prospective adoptive parents. Additionally, your living expenses, transportation (for medical- and adoption-related travel), counseling services, and legal services can be covered by the prospective adoptive parents. Washington D.C. does not set any financial limits, though every payment over $500 must be presented to the court prior to the adoption being finalized.
For prospective adoptive parents, the cost of adoption varies depending on what type of adoption you choose to pursue. Domestic adoption costs range from $20,000-$40,000 depending on the level of marketing and parent profile setup you choose to do. For international adoption, the costs range from $30,000-$50,000 depending on which country you decide to pursue and what the travel requirements are of that country (some countries require one trip to finalize the adoption while others may require three). But adoption from foster care will cost prospective adoptive parents little or nothing. That said, in Washington D.C. adoption from foster care, private agencies may be used, which range in cost from $9,000-$11,000. But there are many adoption grants available for all types of adoption as well as the Adoption Tax Credit, which can help offset the costs of adoption.
If you find yourself unexpectedly expecting in Washington D.C., you may begin the process of placing your child at any time during your pregnancy, or even after you have given birth. A good adoption agency will work with you to ensure you have everything you need on your journey, no matter what your timeline looks like. And if after exploring your options you choose to parent, that will be okay too.
As a prospective adoptive parent, your Washington D.C. adoption timeline will depend on what type of adoption you are pursuing. No matter if you choose domestic adoption, adoption from foster care, or international adoption, every adoption journey begins with the completion of a home study. The purpose of a home study is to ensure that the child will be placed in a loving environment that is financially, physically, and emotionally stable.
The home study also provides prospective adoptive parents a chance to examine their motivations for adoption and what they hope life with the adoptive child will look like. Once your home study is complete (which takes roughly 3-6 months) the prospective adoptive parents are then eligible to be matched with expectant parents and/or with a waiting child.
The process of matching may take anywhere from a few days to a few months, or even years, depending on the type of adoption and what you as the prospective adoptive parents are open to.
For hopeful domestic adoptive parents, your timeline may vary based on your marketing efforts and parent profile. Once matched, then your timeline will depend on the expectant parents’ due date.
For prospective adoptive parents seeking to adopt from foster care, the process again depends on what age, gender, race, and sibling groups you are open to adopting. Some children are listed already on Waiting Child websites, while others may be identified through working with a placing agency. Typically prospective adoptive parents match with a waiting child within six months. Once the child is placed with you, a minimum of six months is needed until the adoption may be finalized.
For families pursuing international adoption, the next step after completing the home study will be to complete a dossier. A dossier is much like a home study, and in fact may feel a bit like déjà vu. Along with your dossier, you will begin the I-800 process to bring your child to the United States. Like the home study process, a lot of the dossier and visa process depends on how quickly you are able to gather and process paperwork. Once your dossier is submitted, you will be eligible to be matched with a child. This process can take anywhere from a few months (for China and India) to up to two years (for South Korea).
Finding a Match
For both expectant parents and prospective adoptive parents considering Washington D.C. adoption, another big question is how to go about finding the right match. If you are an expectant parent, you have the ability to choose with which prospective adoptive parent(s) you would like to place your child, or you may decide to have an option agency choose for you.
In domestic adoption, there are essentially two forms of adoption—open and closed. In open and semi-open adoption, the birth parents and the adoptive parents know of one another. Prior to the birth of the child, they may have met a few times or corresponded via email, phone, or video chat. After the birth of the child, the adoption triad maintains a level of ongoing contact, which may include everything from in-person meetings, to celebrating holidays, to simply emailing or talking on the phone every once in a while. No two post-adoption contracts are the same, and it should be noted that in Washington D.C., post-adoption contracts are not legally enforceable.
On the flip side, in closed adoption, there is no contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents. The child will grow up knowing they are adopted, but the child will not know who their biological parents are. In a closed adoption, at the birth of the child, the birth parents will place the child with an agency or a state-licensed social worker who will find a forever home for the child.
If, as an expectant parent, you are considering open or semi-open adoption, then you will want to give some thought as to what type of family you see for your child. Do you envision them growing up in Washington D.C. or do you see them more in the mountains of Virginia, by the Chesapeake Bay, or even across the country in California? Is it important for religion to be a part of your child’s life? What about exposure to certain hobbies or sports? What type of family structure are you open to? Single parents, same-sex couples, or heterosexual couples?
It can be overwhelming to consider everything, but a good adoption agency will walk you through every step of the process. In fact, in the cases of some national agencies, like Gladney, they can provide everything from counseling, access to medical and legal advice, support through your pregnancy, and even vocational and educational support after you place your child.
As a prospective adoptive parent, you may be wondering how to find the right match as well. With domestic adoption, finding a match may entail completing a parent profile and then marketing yourself to expectant parents. Just as expectant parents must consider what they hope to find in a prospective adoptive parent, so must you consider what you are open to. For some prospective adoptive parents, the elements of race, ethnicity, the sex of the child, and medical background of the expectant parents may be more important than others. A good adoption agency will walk you through the process and also work to maintain a level of contact between you and the expectant parent so that everyone feels supported in the lead-up to the delivery.
If you are considering adoption from foster care, then you may identify a child from a waiting children site, or you may work with an adoption agency to identify the age of the child you are open to parenting, and what, if any, medical or social-emotional needs you may be open to supporting. Once a child is identified, you will work with your adoption agency and/or the child’s caseworker to facilitate an introduction.
Once your file (including your home study) has been evaluated, a panel will determine if you are a good match for the child. If the match is a go, then you will facilitate a time to meet the child. Typically, several meetings take place over the course of a few months before the child may reside with you.
As a prospective international adoptive parent, you too will consider who you are open to parenting. One of the steps in the international adoption process is to complete a full medical checklist of every special need you can imagine. It can be daunting, but it is important that you be truthful to yourselves so when a match is made, it is the best one for you and the child.
Because of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, nearly all international adoptions are of children with some special need. These needs may range from mild to moderate to severe and may include everything from hearing loss to limb difference to cleft/lip palate to more severe needs like cerebral palsy. In some instances, the child’s biggest need is simply their age. In the international adoption community, children over the age of 4 are considered special need.
Once your dossier is submitted to the Central Adoption Authority, it will be processed and then you will be eligible to receive a match. When a match comes up, your adoption agency country specialist will “lock in” the child’s file and send it to you for your review. The child’s file will contain their picture, medical history, and as much social history as is known. You then have anywhere from 48 hours to a week (timelines vary depending on the country) to decide if you will accept the match or not. During this time, it is highly advised that you have an international adoption physician review the child’s file.
If you decide the match is a good one, the child will be taken out of the Central Adoption Authority’s waiting children database and you will work to complete an acceptance dossier for the child. If you choose not to accept the referral, for whatever reason, you may decline and would then continue to wait for another referral. You will not be penalized for turning down a referral.
Finalizing the Adoption
As an expectant parent and as a prospective adoptive parent pursuing domestic adoption, the lead-up to the birth of the child can be a roller coaster ride of emotions. It is important to manage expectations and to take your lead from the expectant mother. Your social worker will work with you to put a hospital plan in place so that everyone knows what to expect on delivery day. And if the expectant parents change their mind and decide to parent, that will be okay too. A good agency will offer support in any scenario.
For Washington D.C. adoption, consent to the adoption may be given any time after the birth of the child. Once consent is given, the adoptive parents may become the caretakers of the child. The birth parents have 14 days to revoke consent to the adoption, for any reason. After 14 days, if consent is not revoked, then the adoption shall be deemed irrevocable.
For families adopting from foster care, in Washington D.C., the child must reside with you for a minimum of 6 months before the adoption may be finalized in a court of law. Children ages 14 and older must consent to the adoption. Once the adoption is finalized, you will become the legal guardians of the child.
For families adopting internationally, the process is a bit different and somewhat depends upon the country from which you are adopting. In Hague accredited countries, the adoption may be finalized before you even meet the child. In China, this is the case, and India may be the same (though some states in India require adoptive families to appear in court before the adoption is finalized). In non-Hague accredited countries, such as South Korea, the adoption is finalized when you return to the United States with your child.
In all international adoptions, you will travel to meet your child in-country, spend a few days with your child in their province/state of birth, and then travel to the U.S. Embassy to obtain your child’s visa. Once the visa is obtained, you may return to the United States. When your child steps foot on American soil, they then become a U.S. citizen. It may still be important to undergo the process of re-adoption simply for ease down the line (as re-adoption ensures your child has a Certificate of Foreign Birth).
One final note: in Washington D.C. adoptions, it is important to remember that adoption is a lifelong journey. It does not end when you place your child or when a child is placed with you. Rather, it is an ongoing path filled with laughter, tears, struggle, perseverance, confusion, understanding, pain, support, and immense love.Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Do you want more choices with your adoption plan? Do you want to regain more control in your life? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98. We can help you put together an adoption plan that best meets your needs.