The following steps to adoption are provided to give a general idea of the process of adoption through foster care. Please remember that each case is unique and not all cases will follow these exact sequential steps.
To receive further information about adoption from DCYF, call your local child welfare office and speak with an adoption worker to answer any questions that you may have regarding the process.
If you have questions about completing the home study, contact your local child welfare office and talk with the licensing staff.
Anyone seeking to adopt a Washington State foster child or youth must become a licensed foster parent with the intention of adopting. You may choose to complete your foster license through either the DCYF Licensing Department or licensed child placing agency (CPA).
Northwest Adoption Exchange (NWAE)
Once the home study is approved, you can register your family with Northwest Adoption Exchange (NWAE). If you do not have placement of a child or youth, this service will enable DCYF caseworkers to view your information as a potential match for a child or youth in need of permanency. Once you reach the NWAE home page, select “WA access,” located in the upper right-hand corner. This link will take you to a page which outlines the special features for registered families as well the application link.
There are various ways to select a child:
- A caseworker contacts you about a child who may already reside in your home.
- You contact the caseworker about a child you either found on a web site or heard about.
- A child who may already reside in your home.
Get Help Identifying a Child or Youth to Adopt
Visit the following websites:
Northwest Adoption Exchange (NWAE): A public website which features children and youth in need of a permanent home. The children and youth are all legally free unless a court or biological parent agrees to profile the youth on this open forum. You will not be able to contact the caseworker directly.
Washington Adoption Resource Exchange (WARE): A website that is only accessible to Washington adoptive families and DCYF caseworkers and is password protected. The children and youth on this site are also seeking permanency but may not yet be legally free. You can provide a profile of your family that can be added to WARE for caseworkers to review. You will be able to make direct contact with a caseworker through this website.
AdoptUsKids: A national public website featuring children and youth from across the nation who are seeking a permanent home. Similar to WARE, you can request to have a profile of your family available to caseworkers looking on this site.
Adoption Consortium: This monthly virtual meeting provides an opportunity for caseworkers to present children and youth in need of permanency to families, private agencies, and caseworkers. Conversely, families are able to listen in (after confirmation of an approved home study that is in good standing) and/or are able to present their family to caseworkers.
Spreading the word: Email the DCYF adoption program manager to request that your home study be sent to DCYF staff for consideration. In addition, your home study can be placed on an DCYF adoption site (not accessible to anyone outside of DCYF) where caseworkers are able to filter for families who best fit the child or youth who is seeking permanency.
Disclosure of Information
A caseworker contacts you about a specific child:
- You contact the caseworker about a child you either found on a web site or heard about.
- You and your caseworker need to be in contact to get background information about the child. At this point,you may start working with 2 different caseworkers - yours (licensor/home study writer) and the child's DCYF case worker.
- Statutorily, the full history on the child's family, medical, and social background must be disclosed to you. Once this is done, you and the respective case worker need to decide if this is a good placement.
- If the decision is made that this is in the best interest of the child to be placed for the purpose of adoption with you, then steps are made to move forward with visitation and placement.
Making the Right Selection
To know if the child presented is the right child, you need to consider their needs, ask lots of questions, and really listen to and observe the child.
- Find out about the child's family and medical background.
- Find out about the child's history in foster care.
- Ask to speak with current and past foster care providers.
- Find out about the child's birth family and their relationship.
- Ask to speak with daycare, educational and current medical providers.
- Observe the child in their own environment or one they are comfortable in.
- What does an average day look like?
- Get to know the child's routines.
- What are your expectations for a child? Can the child meet those expectations? What if they don't?
- Get to know the child. What are the things they like and dislike? What makes them happy or sad?
- What are some of his/her favorite things?
- What are the child's developmental, educational, and emotional issues?
- Are there any behavioral issues?
- What do these behavioral issues look like?
- What are their peer relations like?
- Has the child ever attached to anyone?
- If yes, what did that look like?
- What are the child's personal characteristics?
- What are the child's strengths?
- What do you like about the child?
- What will the child bring to a family?
- What is the child looking for in a family?
- How does the child get along with other children both inside and outside the family?
- Can the child be with older/younger siblings?
- What sort of parent does the child need?
- Religious issues? Is going to church important?
- Who are significant people in the child's life? Can these people continue to be a part of the child's life?
- What type of parenting style has worked best with this child?
- What research can I do to learn more about the child diagnoses?
- 23 Crucial Questions You Must Ask When Adopting From Foster Care
Ensure that there has been a complete disclosure of the child's family, medical, and social background. (WAC 110-60-0190)
It can take 2 weeks to several months to place the child in your home depending upon the child's needs:
- Location of adoptive family to current placement
- Therapy and medical issues
- Comfort level
Visitation usually begins at a location considered safe for the child (foster home, McDonalds). The first visit starts with just a couple of hours. Gradually visits lengthen in time, leading to a first overnight. Visits get progressively longer until the child officially moves to their new home.
Sometimes you can introduce yourself and family by producing a book about you and your family. This could be digitally completed or can be handmade. This will give the social worker a way of introducing your family to the identified child and provides something tangible for the child to hold onto. Skyping, FaceTime or video conferencing are also options.
The child's DCYF caseworker will continue working with your family until the actual adoption finalization in court. Together, you will arrange for any needed services (child and family, medical, counseling, schooling).
Worker may identify services and/or trainings that could assist in parenting your child.
Health and safety checks
The caseworker comes out to your home to check on the well-being of the child and family at least once every 30 days until the adoption is finalized.
Dependency court review (court hearings) continue at a minimum of every 6 months.
A new support program for foster and adoptive families, called Alliance CaRES Program, is available. We highly recommend joining a support group at some point to grow your support system in this journey!
- Contact an attorney. You may find your own or ask your case worker for a list. You can do this early but it will not expedite an adoption as there are additional steps that need completion before a court hearing for the adoption can be scheduled.
- Complete the Adoption Support application provided to you by your social worker. When the application is completed and filed, an Adoption Support Program Specialist will be assigned to you.
- The program specialist will review your application to determine if the child qualifies for the program according to state and federal rules. A negotiated contract (called an agreement) outlining program benefits and terms will then be presented for signature. The adoption must not be finalized until the agreement is signed by you and the DCYF representative.
- Your child's DCYF 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 as well as any changes since the writing of the last home study.
- DCYF provides a Consent to Adopt. This is a written statement authorizing that the child may be adopted.
- Your caseworker sends your attorney a packet containing documents needed to finalize the adoption.
- Your attorney prepares the documents to present to the court, files the petition to adopt, and gets a court date to finalize the adoption.
- On the date of finalization you will go to court as advised by your attorney. You may take as many family and friends as you want. You may also bring cameras and video to record this special event.