Curious about how to adopt a child? It’s a fairly involved process with long-lasting, life-changing impact. So, it’s good to gather as much information as possible so that you know what to expect and can make good decisions.
This guide will outline the adoption process in Oregon and Washington, including the different types of adoptions available and what you need to do to adopt a child in each state.
What is Adoption?
Adoption is the process of legally acquiring the custody of a child or children who are not your own.
Types of Adoptions
Oregon and Washington both have three different kinds of adoption. Each has its own unique characteristics and requirements. Knowing the benefits and drawbacks of each form of adoption will help enable you to choose the right option for your circumstances.
1) Adoption Through Foster Care (Governmental Adoption)
Children who are unable to be reunited with their birth parents go into foster care. From here — if possible — an adoption plan is created. These children may be available for adoption by a relative, foster family, or other approved individuals. Many of the children available through governmental agencies are school-aged.
2) Private Adoption
People looking to adopt a baby may have better luck by working with a private state-licensed infant adoption agency. These agencies connect birthparent(s) wishing to place their newborn up for adoption with adoptive families.
3) Independent Adoption
Independent adoptions are ones that are finalized in a court for a child who isn’t in the custody of the state’s child services. Many families choose independent adoption as a means of adopting their stepchildren, relatives, or other known and important children in their lives.
Adoption Agreements — Open or Closed
You may also hear about open adoptions and closed adoptions.
Open adoptions, also known as open communication adoptions, are those in which adoptive and birth families are allowed to have contact. The intent here is to help minimize the trauma to the child and celebrate the child’s origins.
In closed adoptions, the adoption records are sealed. Details of the adoption often remain confidential and the birth and adoptive parties have little or no contact.
Why Adopt a Child
There are so many reasons to consider adopting a child. It’s a very weighty and personal decision, but here are some common motivations for adopting a child into the folds of your family:
You have infertility or pregnancy challenges.
You have genetic concerns.
You’re single or part of a same-sex couple.
You want to provide a safe, nurturing home to a child in need.
You want to help a family member or friend who isn’t able to raise a child.
You don’t want kids but don’t want to raise an infant.
You want to create a legal parent relationship with a stepchild.
You’re concerned about global population growth.
You feel a moral, religious, or other calling.
You were adopted and want to “pay it forward.”
It’s simply something you want to do.
While you may identify with one or more of these reasons — or other reasons altogether — it’s important to go into adoption thoughtfully. Understanding why you want to adopt can impact your goals and expectations as well as the success of the overall adoption experience.
Adoption Process — Oregon & Washington
In Oregon, adoption is overseen by the Oregon Department of Human Services. The Washington counterpart agency is called the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF).
Adopting a child in Oregon or Washington is a lengthy process. Both states have similar steps, just in slightly different orders. We’ve articulated each step — to give a basic concept of what it is — and then shown the flow for each state below
It’s important to know that help is available to you throughout the whole process and beyond. State adoption agencies have tons of resources and references to helpful private organizations.
Steps to Adoption — Defined
Discovery. This is an info-gathering stage during which you can ask questions and find out more about all aspects of adoption.
Decision. It’s time to assess what you’ve learned and how you (and other family members) feel about adoption and the lifelong implications of adopting a child. From this evaluation, you’ll need to make a decision as to whether or not to move forward with adopting.
Preparation. State and private agencies offer trainings on how to help a child transition into your family.
Application. You’ll need to apply, complete with references, background checks, and health history.
Home studies. Once your application is accepted, an assigned case worker will perform a series of interviews, house visits, safety inspections, and so on.
Matching (and Waiting). Adoption professionals work to match approved families and adoption-ready children. During this time, transition planning is in full swing.
Visitation and Placement. During this transition phase, the child will be introduced into your home and family. It can be a gradual process, depending upon the circumstances.
Supervision and Finalization. After a child comes to live with you, a case worker will visit your home on a regular basis for at least six months. Assuming all goes well, adoption finalization can begin at the discretion of the family and adoption worker.
Oregon & Washington Adoption Flows
Costs — What Do You Need To Adopt A Child?
How much does it cost to adopt a child? The price tag associated with adoption depends on a multitude of factors, such as type and location of adoption. Typically, the costs you face will fall into the following categories:
Applicant medical co-pays
Modifications to your home (for safety or to accommodate your new child)
If you go through a governmental agency, you’ll likely spend less. For example, Oregon’s DHS doesn’t charge agency fees and Washington’s DCYF doesn’t charge to conduct the home studies.
According to DCYF cost estimates, private adoption can run from $4,000 to $40,000 and independent adoption may range between $8,000 and $40,000.
However, there are usually several sources of financial assistance to lighten the cost burden. These include tax credits, Medicaid, reimbursements, and employer benefits. It’s worth investigating what programs you might be eligible for. And if you’re adopting a child with special needs, there may be additional resources for your particular situation.
Determine If You’re Eligible To Adopt
Requirements for Adopting a Child in Oregon & Washington
In general, the states want to make sure those who adopt have the income, space, and personal wellbeing necessary to care for a child. The agencies also want to guarantee that the adopted child is going into a home environment that’s safe, nurturing, and committed.
The state requirements for adoption are purposely a bit broad and undefined. This is because the agencies value adoptive families that are as diverse as the children available for adoption. This means that you can:
Be single, married, or in a domestic partnership
Live in any of a variety of dwellings — like a house or apartment
Work from home or outside the home
Be of any race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation
Is Adoption Hard to Do? Not with Gevurtz Menashe by Your Side
Adoption can be a long and complicated endeavor. It’s critical that you get all the different elements arranged properly. With the expert guidance of Gevurtz Menashe, you’ll be able to navigate the waters of adoption with greater ease and confidence.Gevurtz Menashe has deep experience — more than 30 years’ worth — in many areas of family law, especially child adoption, in Oregon and Washington. With offices in Portland and Vancouver, we’re ready to assist you with the legal issues related to adoption. Reach out today to get started.