Every child deserves love, stability, and consistency. Is there a child in your life that you have considered adopting, perhaps because they are the child of your spouse or a child you are fostering? Perhaps there is an adult in your life that you have always considered “your child” and you would like to give him or her the timeless gift of formalizing that legal relationship? If so, this article is for you.
At its legal core, adoption is a legal and social process provided by law to establish the legal relationship of child and parent when they were not so related by birth. Anyone over the age of 18 who is legally competent may apply to adopt another person.
If you are considering adopting a child that is not the child of your partner or spouse, the main methods are through a private (or independent) adoption, through a state-licensed child-placing agency, or through the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF). All of these methods require various legal requirements such as placement reports prepared by social workers, court paperwork to be completed and submitted, background and criminal checks, and health checks.
Depending on the type of adoption, adoptive parents and birth parents are permitted to engage in agreements regarding communication and contact with the child if they wish. The decision is a personal one.
There are various forms of adoption in Washington State. Though many involve children, there are adoptions that involve adults and pets. Let’s look a little closer at some of the more common forms of this precious gift.
National Adoption Day was created to raise awareness about children waiting to be adopted from the foster care system in the U.S. It is a day of celebration and awareness supported by many national partners including the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Alliance for Children’s Rights, and Children’s Action Network.
The first National Adoption Day was held in 2000 when courts around the nation opened their doors on the Saturday before Thanksgiving to celebrate adoptions from foster care. It started in nine cities and now includes 400 cities across the country. Nationaladoptionaday.org reports that more than 75,000 children in foster care have been adopted as part of National Adoption Day events.
National Adoption Day presents a great opportunity to adopt from the foster care system for those who have been considering it. It is also a great opportunity to consider some other types of adoption you might not be aware of.
Perhaps adoption of a foster child is not in the cards for your family. But what if you have married someone who already had children, and you are raising those children together? You might consider stepparent adoption. Stepparent adoption can be extremely meaningful to a child, especially where that child no longer has a relationship with the biological parent.
Stepparent adoptions require termination of the biological parents’ rights, either through consent or at trial. When a stepparent formalizes the relationship with the stepchild, that stepparent literally “steps” into the shoes of the biological parent and accepts responsibility for the child (physical and financial), even if the marriage to the child’s other biological parent ends. Therefore, it is important to seek the advice of a qualified Washington adoption attorney before attempting this or any type of adoption.
Perhaps you are in a same-sex marriage and your partner has given birth to a child using artificial reproductive technology or surrogacy. Even though Washington State has a presumption that children born of same-sex partners or spouses are both the legal parents of the child, the legal relationship of the non-biological parent may not be recognized in other states.
For this reason, many same-sex couples decide to obtain a second-parent adoption in addition to the birth certificate that lists both spouses as the parents. This serves as an added level of protection for when either parent travels with the child outside of Washington State.
Considering adopting an adult? Any adult can adopt any other adult as long as there is consent. Perhaps you were raised by your aunt and the two of you would like to finally formalize your mother-daughter bond.
Sometimes adult adoption is considered in order to ensure perpetual care for an adult with diminished capacity. Adoption differs in a variety of ways from guardianship, but the main difference is that guardianships are temporary and must be renewed and reapplied for periodically. Adoptions, on the other hand, are permanent.
Another difference is that adoption creates an inheritance right in the adoptee, whereas guardianship does not. Because adopting an adult may give that adult the right to inherit from you, it is important to consult with a Washington estate planning attorney before beginning the adoption process.
Adult adoptions can be a wonderfully thoughtful gift to each other. A plus is they are usually streamlined and, therefore, quick.
Washington State celebrates National Adoption Day traditionally with fanfare and celebration. This year, due to COVID-19 concerns, many courts have turned to virtual platforms to maintain safety. Even in a virtual forum, Washington State joins in the celebration and ongoing mission to connect the more than 1,200 children currently in Washington foster care with their forever families.
Even if you cannot adopt a child or adult this holiday season, you can support Washington’s foster care children. By sharing the news of National Adoption Day and the children in our foster care system with family and friends, you, too help further this worthy and necessary cause. If you are considering adopting a child or adult in your life, contact one of our Seattle adoption attorneys at Elise Buie Family Law Group to learn about starting the process.