In Washington State, adoption of a foster child occurs through the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), Children’s Administration (CA). There are also private agencies licensed by DSHS to provide these adoption services.
STEP 1: Obtain a Home Study
All prospective adoptive parents must undergo a home study. The purpose of the adoptive home study is to evaluate whether parents are qualified to adopt. During this process, information is gathered about the prospective parents. At the same time, education and assistance with preparing for their new role is provided to the prospective parents. The length of time for this process varies, but the goal is to complete it within 90 days.
STEP 2: Submit Your Home Study
Once an adoptive home study is approved, your social worker will register you with Washington Adoption Resource Exchange (WARE). This resource connects Washington State social workers with waiting adoptive families.
You can also register yourself with AdoptUSKids, an organization that helps place children with adoptive families.
STEP 3: Child Selection
Now that you are approved adoptive parents, you can wait for a social worker to contact you about a specific child that needs a home. You can also do your own search via WARE or AdoptUSKids, and then contact that child’s social worker.
STEP 4: Disclosure Of Information
Once you have found the child or children you want to adopt, your social worker will gather background information about the child. At this point, you may start working with two different social workers – yours and the child’s.
The child’s full history including family, medical, and social background must be disclosed to you by law (WAC 388-27-0090). Once this is done, you and the respective social workers will decide if it is a good placement in the best interest of the child. If so, steps are taken to move forward with visitation and placement.
STEP 5: Visitation & Placement Process
It can take two weeks to several months to place the child in your home, depending on the child’s circumstances. Factors include the age of the child, location of the adoptive family to the current placement, therapy and medical issues, the child’s school, and the child’s overall well-being.
Visitation usually begins at a safe location for the child. Visit start a few hours at a time and get progressively longer, including overnight visits, until the child officially moves into your home.
STEP 6: Post Placement
Once the child is placed in your home, you will partner with the social worker to arrange for any needed services such as medical appointments, counseling, and schooling. The social worker will visit your home to check on the well-being of the child and family at least once every 90 days until the adoption is finalized.
STEP 7: Legal Procedures And Finalization
There are several steps to finalize the adoption.
1. Contact an attorney. For a list of attorneys who provide adoption service, click here.
2. Complete the Adoption Support application provided by your social worker. Once the application is filed, an Adoption Support Program Specialist will review your application to determine if the child qualifies for the program according to state and federal rules.
3. If the child qualifies, you are given a negotiated contract, called an agreement, which outlines program benefits and terms. The adoption cannot be finalized until the agreement is signed by you and the DSHS representative.
4. Your social worker completes a post-placement report. This report provides the court with an update on the child’s and family’s well-being since placement.
5. DSHS provides a Consent to Adopt. This is a written statement authorizing that the child may be adopted.
6. Your social worker sends your attorney a packet containing documents needed to finalize the adoption.
7. Your attorney prepares the documents to present to the court, files the petition to adopt, and gets a court date to finalize the adoption.
8. On the date of finalization, you will go to court as advised by your attorney in order to legally adopt your child.