Private Agency Adoption & Public Agency (Foster Care) Adoption
Private Agency Adoption
Private adoption agencies are required to be licensed as such by the State Department of Social and Health Services in Washington State, although such adoption agencies do not need to be non-profit organizations in this state. It is important to be an informed consumer and learn about the different types of programs an agency offers. Each agency will have its own policies, rules and requirements for families who seek to adopt a child through that agency and for its Homestudy requirements. Some of the restrictions and rules that agencies often set relate to marital status and duration of marriage, age of adoptive parents and religion. Private adoption agencies commonly allow a birth mother to choose the adoptive parents and the degree of openness they request between the families, if any. From the perspective of birth parents, an agency adoption does not differ too much from that of an independent or private placement adoption. From the perspective of adoptive parents, the policies and costs of working with an agency can be very different from those involved in an independent private placement adoption.
It is helpful to seek the guidance of an attorney no matter what type of adoption you are choosing, in order to understand the process and discuss the legal issues involved. We offer assistance in reviewing the different types of adoption programs that are available and in deciding which would be best suited for your family. We have worked with and represented several adoption agencies over the years and often know of the programs they offer. We can help you sort through the resources available and make references to various resources should you decide to work with an agency. We would be happy to assist you in making these important decisions.
One of the major differences in the private agency adoption process in Washington state is that most private agencies take legal custody of the child in their cases. For those families working with an agency, it is common for them to retain their own attorney to help finalize their adoption when the time comes to take formal legal custody of the child. We have helped many families finalize their agency adoptions over the years and as a result, we have a good working relationship with most agencies in this state. We are happy to help with agency finalizations for adoptions where the adoptive family and/or the agency are in Washington State.
Public Agency (Foster Care) Adoption
The state of Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), through its Division of Children and Family Services, often removes a child from the home of his or her mother or father when the child or children are being neglected, abused or otherwise at risk. The process involves placing the child or children in a licensed foster home. The state agency offers birth parents various services with the goal of fixing the problem and reuniting the child with their biological family. In many cases, however, the birth parents are unable to correct the problems and their parental rights are terminated in which case, the child is in the care and custody of the state and deemed to be “legally free” or free to be adopted. The state has a goal of finding permanent homes for children in foster care as quickly as is practical. It offers prospective adoptive families the opportunity to adopt these children through various programs. Many children in state care are available for adoption now. For some children who have more recently been placed into foster care, a newer program commonly called the “foster-to-adopt program” may be of interest. In this type of adoption, prospective adoptive families become licensed both as a foster family and as an adoptive family by getting their Adoption Homestudy prepared at the same time. The state agency often contracts with private adoption agencies to help prepare families for this foster-to-adopt process. The agency tries to identify those children first entering the state foster care system who are not likely to be reunified with their birth parents, as children who can be placed in a foster-to-adopt home, so they do not have to be moved from foster home to foster home. This is generally a better situation for both the children and the adoptive families as children are most commonly placed earlier in the process in the home where they will stay.
In all types of state foster care adoptions, once the birthparents’ parental rights are terminated, the child is then free to be adopted, and an approved adoptive family can then proceed with an adoption of the child. It is important for the adoptive couple to retain their own attorney to help them finalize their adoption. In many such cases, the child qualifies for a state adoption subsidy in which the state pays most or all of the fees and costs of the adoption. We have assist many families from all over the State of Washington with the finalization of their DSHS state foster care adoptions, most commonly in Everett in Snohomish County Superior Court, and in Seattle in King County Superior Court. Families can usually choose which court they want to appear in for their final adoption hearing no matter where they live and Mark sets most of the DSHS adoption finalization cases he helps with for hearing in the Snohomish County and King County courts.
Please contact us for more information on what we can do to help or for information about how to access the state system and adopt a child who is in the state foster care system.