Adoption

How to adopt a child in Washington State?

How to adopt a child in Washington will depend on what you’re looking for. Your needs will likely fall into one of these five common categories of child adoption.

1) Stepparent Adoption
2) Second Parent Adoption
3) International Adoption
4) Agency Adoption
5) Independent Adoption

Stepparent Adoption

Stepparent adoption occurs when a parent has a child from a prior relationship and files an adoption proceeding to make their spouse the legal co-parent of the child. The other biological parent will need to be notified and approve the stepparent adoption. If they cannot be found, steps need to taken to notify them of the planned adoption. If the parent challenges the request, a court will decide if the adoption is in the best interests of the child.

In addition, all adoptive parents must complete an adoptive home study. A home study will includes a background check and detailed assessment of the parent. If the report is positive the adoption can be scheduled for a hearing in court where a judge can approve the adoption.

Second Parent Adoption

The steps for a second parent adoption are virtually the same as stepparent adoption, described above. Although, there may not be a second biological parent to notify.

The process creates a legal parental relationship between a non-biological parent and is allowed even if partners aren’t married. A legal parental relationship gives partners the peace of mind that they can make medical decisions for the child if needed and gain custody in the event of the biological parent’s death.

International Adoption

International adoptions occurs when parents adopt a child living in an orphanage in a foreign country. Typically children have to reach a certain age before they are eligible for adoption and adoptive parents do not receive much information about the child or biological parents. One of the benefits of international adoption is the low risk of a child being taken back by a parent during the process, which can be very hard for couples who have begun planning for the child. There is usually no contact with the birth parents, which some parents prefer.

The actual adoption will occur in the Court system of the foreign county. Afterwards, parents work with immigration to bring the child to the US. Once the child is in the United States, many parents choose to re-adopt the child in order to obtain a birth certificate and validate the foreign court’s decree.

Agency Adoption

The first step with agency adoption is information gathering. You’ll need to learn about the adoption process as well as the requirements of an agency, since every organization is unique.

If you feel like you’ve found the right agency, you can begin the homestudy process where you’ll be evaluated to determine that your home is a healthy place for a child. This evaluation includes interviews, reference statements, medical reports, as well as a background check. Once the home study is complete you and your agency can begin searching.

A search will identify children or sibling groups that may be a good fit for your family. Once you’ve matched, you will begin the pre-placement phase. At this stage you may meet with the child’s birth family, visit the child several times with the child in foster care or arrange travel if the child is abroad.

If it is a good fit, the child will move in with you. This is known as the post-placement phase. A second report will be written, similar to the original home study, to ensure the child is in good hands. Finally, after a few months of living with the child you’ll go to court to finalize the adoption.

Independent Adoption

In an independent adoption, typically a birth family and adoptive family connect with each other without the help of an agency. At the start of the process, adoptive parents actively seek out parents open to adoption. Sometimes they place ads to let birth families know they are looking for a child or use personal networks to meet someone.

Just like the other forms of adoption a home-study is required. The report is prepared by a private social worker or a child placement agency.

With an independent adoption, often the biggest step is the signing of the Consent to Adoption. The birth parents will need to sign this document and 48 hours must pass after the birth of the child before it can be approved by a judge. If no one has a change of heart after two days, the court will cut the legal ties from the child to the birth parents. The child will begin living with the adoptive parents and the social worker or agency who wrote the home-study will follow up with the parents and report to the court on how things are going.

Once this final report is submitted to the court the adoptive parents can request the court to formally approve the adoption at a court hearing. Afterwards, a new birth certificate will be issued with the adoptive parents listed as the child’s parents.

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Common questions about Adoption

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