My husband and I live in the state of Washington and finalized all three of our sons’ adoptions in Washington. The adoptions were very different from each other and we have learned a lot in the last 12 years since we have been involved in the adoption community. If you are living in the state of Washington here are some steps to guide you through your Washington adoption.
Think About How You Want to Adopt
One of the first things that you must do is choose if you want to adopt through an agency, adopt privately, or foster-to-adopt. There are pros and cons to each of these. When we first started our adoption journey, we began the licensing process for foster care. After completing many hours of classes, we did not feel right about continuing and decided to go through an agency. We ended up being matched with our son’s birth parents through word of mouth. For our second and third adoption, after being licensed for two years with the same agency and no match, we felt right about trying to foster-to-adopt again. This time we completed all the necessary paperwork, orientation, and classes. After being officially licensed, we got a phone call about our second son within days. He was almost a year old and his baby brother was going to be born in a matter of weeks. The state was looking for a permanent home for both of them with the potential of adoption. We were lucky enough to be that home and family.
Think About Possible Unknowns
You may want to consider the cost, wait time, child age, type of adoptions, adopting a sibling group, and your feelings towards adoption. There were many unknowns with our adoptions. With our first son, we waited for over a year after being approved for someone to choose us to be parents. We enjoy an open adoption with both of his birth parents and their families. With our next two sons, we endured the legal issues and back and forth between the biological parents and the state. We had them in our home for years without knowing if and when we would be able to adopt them. We are in contact with their birth mother through email and pictures but do not have contact with their birth father.
Understanding Documents and Home Studies
With all forms of adoption, you will need to complete a home study. This is a screening for your home and life done by a licensed social worker or caseworker. You will fill out paperwork and provide the required documents. A background check will also need to be completed. The paperwork will ask questions about your family and how you were raised. It will ask questions about your life, your career, your home, and things like your fire escape plan. It might feel a little invasive because there are so many questions about your life. These are required to make sure you will be a fit parent to a child placed in your home. You may also be required to give references and they will need to vouch for you as well.
The home study also includes a home inspection and interviews with each member of the family in the home. For the home inspection, the caseworker makes sure that your home is a safe place for a child. It is not to see how clean you keep your house. The caseworker is not judging you for your paint colors or furniture. In the interviews, you may be asked questions about the relationships in your family, what kinds of discipline you use, how you deal with disagreements and stress, and what your goals are. It is important to be yourself.
We had three different home studies done in three different homes and an updated home study in a fourth home. For the home inspection portion, there were some requirements that I needed to get in order to be licensed. I needed a new smoke detector and a drop-down ladder for the second story. To be licensed with the state as a caretaker for babies to two-year-olds, I needed to show that I had a crib and an unexpired car seat. Your caseworker will work with you to make sure that you have everything in order. If you don’t have something, you will be given time to get it.
Creating a Profile
Another important step in your Washington adoption journey is to fill out an adoption profile for an agency. Many agencies will have a website that can feature your pictures, videos, and some information about you. This is something that expectant parents considering an adoption plan can look at when searching for a family that might be right for their child.
You may be required to fill out a planning questionnaire. This will ask you about your comfort level in different situations. It will ask about gender, culture, race, mental health issues, drug exposure, medical issues, and more. You can say “yes” or “no” for each of these questions or you can mark “willing to consider” on these issues. For the state, you will be licensed for an age group. At first, we were licensed for only babies to two-year-olds, but as the boys grew older, we had to continue to raise the age. By the end, we were licensed for babies to five-year-olds. This usually only requires a caseworker to update your file.
Receiving Initial Contact From an Expectant Parent
Once you are approved for adoption or licensed through the state, potential adoption situations may immediately present themselves. Although this is not rare, keep in mind that many people do not receive contact right away. There is so much hope when you are first approved but you have to prepare yourself for both a quick match or a long wait and anywhere in between. It can be hard to wait. I found that I needed to find events to look forward to or set goals that I could achieve. With an agency, your caseworker could present your profile to an expectant parent and an expectant parent may contact you directly.
After were approved for adoption for the first time, we would at times receive emails from expectant parents through the agency’s website. A mother might ask us questions or tell us about herself. It took over a year for the right situation to come along. My aunt in another state told our son’s birth mother about us and she saw our website and profile. She then connected with us over email. After being licensed with the state, we started receiving calls immediately. There was a great need for foster parents at the time. The first phone call that we received was to see if we would be able to provide respite care (temporary care for children who are in a different foster home) for twins. We jumped right in and said yes. After that weekend with the twins, the phone seemed to ring non-stop. One of the phone calls was for newborn triplets that were about to be realized from the NICU. One was for two siblings that were two and four years old. We also took the call about our boys. With each phone call, I tried to get as much information as I could. I had a list of questions to ask. I told the caseworker that I would need to talk to my husband and make a decision. We prayed over each situation and decided to say yes to the little boy and his brother that would soon be born.
If you are chosen by expectant parents and a child is placed with you, congratulations! Parenthood is better than you can ever imagine. It is a wonderful blessing. Love flowed into me more than ever during this time. There was love for the baby, love for the birth parents, love for my husband, and love for my family. Every situation will be different and you can talk to many other adoptive parents to hear their experiences. We flew to the state our son was born in and we were at the hospital a few hours after he was born. We were able to spend time with his birth mother and birth father in the hospital. When they were released, he was placed with us. When we buckled him in the car seat we felt so many emotions as we drove away from the hospital. There was so much joy and love, but there was also heartbreak for his birth parents. About 72 hours after the baby was born, the relinquishment paperwork was signed. We tried to support and show the birth parents love as they did one of the hardest things of their lives.
In Washington, there is a mandatory 48 hours before any adoption paperwork can be signed. Over the next several days we were able to spend time with his birth mother and her family and also with his birth father and his family. It was so meaningful to have that extra time together. We took time to bond with the baby. We were able to return back home but stayed an extra few days to give them more time with the baby. After we coming home, our caseworker came for a post-placement visit. He wanted to make sure that we were bonding with the baby. This would be the final part of the home study that was presented to the judge. We hired an attorney to file the necessary paperwork and scheduled a time to go to court and finalize the adoption. The judge asked us a few questions about the adoption and the baby and signed the adoption decree.
With our other two sons, things were a little different because they were in foster care. We followed the guidelines of the state and worked closely with the caseworker. After they were legally free to be adopted, we worked with the state to get an attorney. We met with the attorney and she filed the paperwork. Similar things happened as we met with the judge to finalize their adoptions. The one thing that was different was that the boys were old enough to talk and so the judge asked them each a few questions. My four-year-old said, “I wuv my family.” It was a long-drawn-out adoption journey and it was amazing to finally share the same last name.
Post-Placement and Finalization
After the adoption is finalized, you will need to file to get a new birth certificate. You will need to contact the clerk in the state the child was born in get to a certified copy of the adoption decree. The clerk will be able to help you get the new birth certificate with the baby’s new name and your name as the parent. After you receive the birth certificate, you will be able to get a social security number for the baby. If you are a part of an adoption, you will continue to develop a relationship with the birth mother and birth father. This has been one of the greatest joys of adoption. In the beginning, I would send texts, email, pictures, and update a blog with the things that my baby was doing. We have also had many visits with them. He now will call them and talk to them or send them pictures. It means so much to us that there are so many people that love and care about our son.
Adoption is one of the most amazing blessings that has come into my life. I’m sure it will be a blessing for you too. There are many people that have been on the same journey that are willing to support and help you up along the way. One of my favorite parts was being able to connect with others who had gone through it before or were currently hoping to adopt. Your caseworker will also be there to help and assist you. Good luck with your journey!
Alicia Nelson is a wife and a mother to three rambunctious boys. She is an online teacher and teaches English to Chinese children. Adoption has become her passion. She loves connecting with others on infertility, adoption, and foster care. She enjoys woodworking, being outdoors, listening to podcasts, and reading good books. She lives in Washington state with her family.