Each year about 135,000 children are adopted in America. The adoption process has changed significantly and is not just for married couples that could not have a baby. One out of every 25 U.S. households has adopted a child.

Are you considering growing your family through adoption? Check out this guide to learn more about how the adoption process works.

The History of Adoption

The first law of adoption was passed in 1851. Before then, adoptions were informal when a family member would take an orphaned child. Massachusetts was the first to pass this adoption statue, which required adoptive parents to get consent from the child’s biological parents. 

The adoptive parents also had to show the “sufficient ability to bring up the child.” The adoption also had to be deemed “fit and proper” for it to take effect.

America became the pioneer for adoption laws. Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Movement removed the institutional orphanages and recommended moving children to family homes as they awaited adoption—creating America’s foster care. 

How To Start the Adoption Process

Before you begin the process, you have to figure out the best type of adoption for you and your family. Your choices include:

  • Adopt through an agency
  • Adopting independently
  • Combining the independent and agency adoption
  • International adoption
  • Stepparent adoption
  • Adopting a relative

You also need to think about a few other questions such as:

  • Age of child 
  • Open, semi-open, or closed adoption
  • Fostering or adopting

Every adoption situation is unique. You can contact an adoption lawyer to help guide you through the process. If you want to add a new child from another home or adopt a step-child, it’s important to know all the laws before you begin the process—this is where expert’s knowledge will help you with any questions.

What You Need to Adopt

Every adoption has these things in common in order to be legal:

  1. The biological parents must terminate parental right
  2. A social worker completes placement reports (both before and after)
  3. The adopting family gets temporary legal rights
  4. The new legal parental rights are established between the legal and adoptive parent

Depending on how you choose to adopt, you may need to complete a complete background check, home study, and extensive interviews. You will also need to save money to adopt because the fees can get pricey.

Your agency or lawyer can help you explore adoption assistance programs to help with the costs. There is also a tax credit to help you recoup some of the costs.

Choosing a Child

Many people come to us with a child in mind to adopt such as a relative or step child. If you don’t have a child in mind to adopt, you can check out information on child agencies. Each state has a listing of children waiting to be adopted. You can also adopt from other states.

These children may have learning, emotional, or physical disabilities. Some children are abused, abandoned, or neglected, or the family may not have been able to maintain a home for the child due to a variety of reasons. 

There may not always be a lot of information on a certain child. You can request all medical reports, testing, and any other information on early development.

Bring Home Your Child and Petition to Adopt

Once your child is at your home, your adoption attorney or agency professional starts the process of petitioning for your adoption. This petition goes to the court with all the necessary legal forms. These forms must be signed by all parties including birth parents and the adoptive parents.

While the adoption is being finalized, this is called the Post Placement Period. This can last anywhere between 1-18 months. Sometimes, there are additional laws for the state of residence.

The next step is the Post Adoption Supervisory Report with all household members. This detailed report outlines the child’s adjustment to adoption. This report includes the child’s development, health, and any other habits.

Other things that are observed include: Is the child bonding with the parents and peers? How does the extended family view the adoption and child? The agency will also note any physical changes to the home, finances, and schedules.

Can Adoptive Parents Take Back a Child?

This is a common question for adoptive parents. A child cannot be adopted unless the birth parents relinquish their legal parental rights. The cases where a parent changes his or her mind right before an adoption are actually rather rare. 

Once the adoption is finalized, the biological parents no longer have any legal ties to the child.

Step-Parent Adoption

This is the most common type of adoption. The adoption process is streamlined for step parents. Once the other biological parent has terminated parental rights, there is a simple hearing.

The pre-placement report is not needed, and there are not other applications. An adoption attorney can create adoption contracts to determine the relationship between the child and biological parents (i.e. open or closed adoption) to determine contact. This helps ensure that all wishes are granted after adoption is finalized.

Washington Laws for Adoption

Each state has specific laws for adoption. In Washington state, a birth parent (mother or father) can relinquish their child for adoption either to a private couple or adoption agency. The court must then approve revocation.

A birth parent has 48 hours after given notice to revoke this relinquishment. It must be done in writing and given to the court and all involved parties. 

A person can begin filing all this paperwork before the birth of the child. If a minor wants to relinquish his or her child, the court assigns a Guardian to represent the minor. This Guardian must create a report for the court that shows this relinquishment is in the best interest of the child and the minor child parent’s voluntariness to revoke parental rights.

The adoptive parents may be required to cover the cost of this process. The alleged father or legal father must have notice of this rights termination hearing. If these laws are not followed or there is failure of notice, the adoption may not be valid and could be challenged.

Looking to Start the Adoption Process?

Adopting a child can be one life’s greatest joys. Knowing what to expect with the adoption process can help you prepare to become a parent. 

Contact our family law attorneys today to get your process started. We are here to guide you through the process. You can also check out our blog for other advice and tips for your family plans.