Redmond Adoption Attorney
How to Adopt in Washington State
Adopting a new family member allows a parent (or parents) to provide a child, adolescent, or adult with unconditional love and support during a formative period in their life. As exciting as the adoption process is, it can also be daunting for prospective adoptive parents. Understanding how adoption works in Washington State can allow you to prepare for the adoption process.
For over 30 years, Alpine Family Law formerly O'Brian & Associates, has been providing Redmond and Washington state residents with legal assistance. Working with an experienced adoption attorney can help you navigate the adoption process successfully.
Who Can Adopt in Washington?
Fortunately, Washington has few restrictions on who can or cannot apply to be an adoptive parent. Prospective adoptive parents in Washington must:
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Be legally competent.
- Complete a pre-adoption home study with either Washington state or the adoption/foster care agency of their choice.
If you meet these requirements, you can apply to be an adoptive parent in Washington. Factors such as whether you rent or own a home, are of a specific religious or sexual orientation, or your relationship status have no bearing on your ability to adopt a child in Washington.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Adoption
Before you begin working through other parts of the adoption process, such as completing your home study or understanding the legality of adoption in Washington, it's essential to know what you want out of adoption. You should ask yourself the following questions before diving deeper into the adoption process:
- What kind of person you want to adopt. Do you want a boy or a girl? Does their ethnicity matter? Would you be comfortable with adopting a child with trauma from sexual/physical abuse or neglect? How would you feel about adopting a child with developmental or medical difficulties?
- The scope of your adoption. Would you be willing to adopt a sibling group? Do you want to maintain contact with the child's birth parents if they're available, or try and find them if they aren't?
- How people you know will react. What does your extended family think of adoption? Should you let them know you're considering adopting? If you have a partner, are you completely on the same pages as far as the adoption goes?
- How the adoptee will integrate into your family. What will introducing a new family member into your life look like? How will you handle it if they have questions about their origin? Are there adjustments you need to make to your lifestyle to adopt successfully?
Giving these questions a considerable amount of thought will help make other facets of the adoption process, such as the home study, easier. Once you answer these questions and are completely sure you want to move forward with adoption, the Washington Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF) suggests contacting an adoption attorney. Adoption lawyers will be able to answer any questions you have about the adoption process as a whole and can help you prepare for elements of the process like a home study, so having an adoption lawyer at your side early on is recommended.
What to Expect When Adopting in Washington
The adoption process in Washington involves several steps. Once you contact an adoption attorney and inform them of your situation, call your local child welfare office and ask to speak with an adoption worker. Adoption workers will answer any questions you have about the adoption process. They can also help you get started on the most crucial part of a Washington adoption, the adoptive home study.
There are several different routes towards adoption in Washington. For example, you can work with a private adoption agency or choose to adopt from the state's foster care system. Your adoption attorney will be able to help you determine the best avenue for your adoption.
Adoptive Home Studies in Washington
Many adoption agencies in Washington require prospective parents to receive a free foster care license from the state. Regardless of the agency you work with, you'll be asked to complete an adoptive home study to verify your eligibility as a parent. The home study process involves several steps:
- The application. The agency you're working with (or the state) will provide an application you must fill out. Items on the application may include details such as your income, education level, lifestyle and religion, proof of identification, and more.
- A criminal background check. The agency or DCYF caseworker overseeing your adoption will conduct a background check once your application is filed. At this time, the caseworker will also check to see if you have a record of child abuse or neglect.
- Personal information. As part of the adoptive process, you'll provide your caseworker with a comprehensive overview of your current lifestyle and history. This form helps caseworkers get to know you better and can also help you understand what will be expected of you as an adoptive parent. Going over the questions we listed earlier can help you get through the personal information form more easily.
- Documentation of marriages and divorces. You'll provide your caseworker with these documents if needed.
- Medical statements. Your physician will need to provide a complete medical history to your caseworker, so they can understand medical conditions or circumstances that may affect the adoption.
- Income statements. In addition to the application, you must provide proof of income to your caseworker.
- References. You need three references (only one can be a relative) to verify your ability as a potential parent.
- Visits with your licensor/caseworker. During the home study, the licensor working on your adoption case will visit your home at least twice to understand your family dynamics and lifestyle.
Typically, home studies take around 90 days. Once your home study is approved, you'll be registered with the Washington Adoption Resource Exchange (WARE). WARE provides additional resources for adoptive parents to understand the process further. You may be asked by the agency you're working with to complete various training courses to prepare for adoption further.
What Happens After the Home Study?
The home study is the most rigorous part of the adoption process, but not necessarily the most time-consuming. When your home study is approved, you'll work with your adoption agency to select the child or adolescent you wish to adopt. Please note that adolescents over the age of 14 must consent to adoption.
Once your selection is made, the visitation process will start. Most agencies require prospective parents to conduct a series of visitations with their adoptive child.
Depending on your case, the post-home study adoption process can take as little as a few weeks or as long as a few months. Factors such as whether you're adopting from a private agency or engaging in an international adoption can affect the amount of time your adoption takes.
Once your adoptive child is placed in your home, you must petition your county court to finalize the adoption. During this time, you will work with your adoption attorney and caseworker to ensure the child's wellbeing and help you ease into your new life as a parent.
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