Steps to Adopt

To receive further information about adoption from DSHS, please call your local Children's Administration 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 please contact your local Children’s Administration office and talk with the DLR staff.

All prospective adoptive parents whether or not they are getting foster licensed must undergo an adoptive home study and this is completed through Division of Licensing Resources (DLR) or a private agency. If you are requesting an unlicensed adoption only home study, DLR will accept and complete these requests, but they may get completed more timely through a private agency. DLR’s primary focus is general foster care, because homes are needed for those children coming into care. If you have any questions regarding adoption home studies please contact Debbie Marker at 360.902.7968. 

The purpose of the adoptive home study is to evaluate whether parents are qualified to adopt. The process involves education and preparation as well as the gathering of information about the prospective parents.

An adoptive home study includes:

  • Application (DSHS 10-354). Provided by the agency. 
  • Criminal history background check (DSHS 09-653). Organized through the licensor or DCFS worker, an instate criminal history check must be completed on every person over the age of 16 residing in the home. A national fingerprint check must be completed on all adults in the home (age 18 and above). 
  • Child abuse and neglect inquiries. This is part of the background check. Washington State records will be checked for everyone in the home ages 16 and older. If anyone in your home, age 18 and above, has lived in another state during the past 5 years, a check will be made of records in other states. This will be organized through your licensor or DCFS worker. 
  • Personal information (DSHS 15-276). This DSHS form is used to provide your social worker with information about you. There are no right or wrong answers; this is just a way for the licensor to get to know you. 
    The following is a general outline of what to expect, but your licensor will provide you with more detailed questions:
    • Background
      • Family facts (birth place, parents, siblings, childhood, personality)
      • Education
      • Employment history/military service
      • Values, goals, interests, and activities
      • Cultural background
    • Relationships
      • Spouse/partner
      • Children (interviews with all adult and minor children)
      • Others living with you
    • Parenting and experience with children
      • Family roles/activities
      • Attitudes on parenting
      • Experience and training
      • Discipline
    • Religious/spiritual affiliation and practices
    • Medical/psychosocial
      • General medical
      • Abuse history
      • Domestic violence
      • Drug/alcohol
      • Mental health/counseling
    • Home and neighborhood
    • Support systems
    • Family financial
    • Potential for permanency 
      • The concept of adoption as a lifelong developmental process and commitment
      • The potential for the child to have feelings of identity confusion and loss regarding separation from the birth parents
      • Relevance of the child’s relation with siblings and the potential benefit to the child by providing a continuing relationship and contact with known siblings
      • Disclosure of the fact of adoption to the child
      • The child's possible questions about birth parents and relatives
      • The relevance of the child's racial, ethnic, and cultural heritage
  • Documentation of marriages and divorces (DSHS 09-979) (copy of marriage certificates and divorce decrees are required). For information on obtaining marriage and divorce certificates, contact the Washington State Department of Health.
  • Medical statements on persons adopting. This is a confidential form that your physician will fill out regarding current and historic medical conditions. Your licensor will provide you with the form. 
  • Income/financial statements (DSHS 14-452) . A worksheet is provided to you by your licensor. The licensor will ask for information on the following topics: employment, source of income, housing costs, assets, loans, etc. 
  • References. 3 references (only 1 can be a relative). References are generally used to get a picture of a family from an outsider. A questionnaire asking specific questions must be filled out by your references. Your licensor will send the questionnaire directly to your references. 
  • Contacts with your licensor. At least 3 contacts will be made with your licensor and two will be in the family home to better understand your lifestyle and family dynamics. During these visits the licensor will discuss all other licensing requirements and will do a walk-through of the home to ensure that your home meets the minimum licensing requirements.

Home Study Approval
The home study must be approved to continue with the adoption process. The length of time from the date DLR received the application to approving the home study varies, but the agency goal is to have it completed within 90 days. If you do want to become a licensed foster parent the home study process is the same, but there will be additional training requirements. Read about the requirements on the foster parent training site.

Washington Adoption Resource Exchange (WARE)
Once the home study is approved, have your DCFS adoption worker register you with the Washington Adoption Resource Exchange (WARE). If you don't already have a child in your home, this service will enable other DCFS adoption workers to see that there is a family with an approved home study waiting for a child. 

WARE Family Registration Form

Child Identification

There are various ways to select a child:

  • A social worker contacts you about a specific child.
  • You contact the social worker about a child you either found on a web site or heard about.

Disclosure of Information

A social worker contacts you about a specific child:

  • You contact the social worker about a child you either found on a web site or heard about.
  • You and your social worker need to be in contact to get background information about the child. At this point,you may start working with 2 different social workers - yours and the child's.
  • Statutorily, the full history on the child's family, medical, and social background must be disclosed to you (WAC 388-27-0090). Once this is done, you and the respective social workers need to decide if this is a good placement.
  • If the decision is made that this is in the best interest of the child, 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.
  • 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 are their peer relations like?
  • Has the child ever attached to anyone?
  • 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?
  • 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?

Ensure that there has been a complete disclosure of the child's family, medical, and social background. (WAC 388-27-0090)

Visitation begins

It can take 2 weeks to several months to place the child in your home depending upon the child's needs:

  • Age
  • Location of adoptive family to current placement
  • Therapy and medical issues
  • School
  • Child's well-being

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.

Services

Your social worker continues working with you until the actual adoption finalization. Together, you will arrange for any needed services (child and family, medical, counseling, schooling).

Health and safety checks

The social worker 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.

  1. Contact an attorney. You may find your own or ask your social worker for a list.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 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. You may take as many family and friends as you want. You may also bring cameras and video to record this special event.