The adoption process provides families in Washington, DC, with a way to grow their families and build new and meaningful relationships. However, navigating the adoption process can be challenging, especially without the help of an adoption lawyer.
As prospective adoptive parents, you need to take part in an investigation by either a child-placing agency or the mayor’s office. You also need the birth parents’ permission to adopt their child or provide proof that they terminated their parental rights.
At DiPietro Law Group, PLLC, we can provide you with the legal guidance you need during the adoption process. Our legal team handles all types of adoption, and we will represent you throughout the adoption process.
The Adoption Process in the District of Columbia — An Overview
The adoption process in Washington, DC, starts with identifying the child who the petitioner(s) wishes to adopt. Under Code of District of Columbia §16-305, the petitioner needs to gather and provide the following information in the adoption petition:
- The name, date of birth, sex, and place of birth of the child (adoptee)
- The full names and addresses of the child’s birth parents
- The petitioner’s personal identifying information
- A description of the relationship that exists between the petitioner and the adoptee
- The petitioner’s race and the race of the child or the race of the child's biological parents
After completing the adoption petition, you must file it with the DC family court adoption clerk, who will refer the matter to a child-placing agency for investigation.
The court will also serve the following on the biological parents, providing legal notice of the petition:
- An order of reference
- An order to show cause
In response, the parents can consent to the adoption.
How Does Consent for Adoption Work in Washington, DC?
As a rule, the adoptee’s birth parents must acknowledge consent to the adoption before an officer who has the authorization to take an acknowledgment. This officer can be the mayor or a representative of a child-placing agency. The adoptee must also consent to the adoption if they are 14 or older.
For an adoption petition to be successful, both birth parents must consent. If one of the parents is dead, only the living parent needs to give consent. If both parents are dead, the child’s court-appointed guardian must consent to the adoption.
After consenting to the adoption, the birth parents have 14 calendar days to revoke their consent.
If the petition takes place after the parental rights termination, a licensed child-placing agency or the mayor can consent to the adoption.
The court does not require consent if:
- The parent(s) received the notice of petition but the investigator cannot locate them to get consent.
- The parent(s) abandoned their child and failed to support them for six months or longer.
- The court finds that withholding consent is not in the child’s best interest.
Factors Determining the Best Interest of a Child in Washington, DC
A child’s best interests are significant in parental rights matters. No standard definition of the term "best interests" exists. However, the court typically considers the child’s needs and the parents’ circumstances, with the child’s well-being and safety being the most profound concern.
The factors determining the child’s best interests include:
- The relationships and emotional ties of a child with their parents, caregivers, siblings, or any other household members.
- The parents’ ability to provide the child with a safe home, sufficient clothing, food, and medical care.
- The child’s physical and mental health needs.
- The parents’ physical and mental health.
- The child’s opinion of what their best interests are, provided that they are 14 or older.
- Evidence of drug-related activity in the child’s home environment after intervention.
After evaluating the above factors, the court might waive the need for parental consent for adoption. However, convincing evidence must exist that withholding consent is not in the child’s best interest.
Adoption Fitness in Washington, DC
Parental consent or the termination of parental rights are not the only requirements of a successful adoption petition. The court still needs to ensure that:
- The child is physically and mentally fit for adoption.
- The petitioner is physically and mentally fit to adopt the child and meet their needs for safety, food, clothing, medical care, and education.
Washington, DC, law requires a home study for all adoptions, including foster care adoption. The court-appointed child-placement agency carries out this study, which includes:
- Conducting a personal interview with each of the petitioners.
- Getting into personal contact with every member of the adoptive household.
- Obtaining clearance with the record of criminal convictions and the child abuse and neglect registry.
- Obtaining proof of the petitioners’ highest level of education.
- Ascertaining the petitioners’ financial status, employment status, and income.
- Obtaining at least three community and personal character references per petitioner.
- Learning about the petitioners’ religious beliefs, interests, and hobbies.
- Formulating a description of the adoptive household’s property, including the availability of space and privacy.
- Assessing the adoptive parents’ childcare plan if they work.
As part of this study, the agency will obtain medical reports for each adoptive household member to determine the presence of infectious diseases. Investigators also look for any disability or illness that might affect the petitioners’ ability to care for a child.
The child-placement agency will not approve the home study if an adult residing in the prospective adoptive household has a felony conviction for:
- A crime against children, including abuse, neglect, or the possession or distribution of child pornography.
- An offense against an intimate partner, family member, or household member.
- A violent crime, including homicide, rape, or sexual assault.
- Any form of physical assault, including battery, within the last five years.
- Any drug-related offense within the past five years.
To learn more about your adoption fitness, contact one of our adoption attorneys at DiPietro Law Group, PLLC.
Types of Adoption in Washington, DC
- Closed or open adoption: In an open adoption, the birth parents participate in the adoption process and typically continue having contact with the child.
In the case of a semi-open adoption, communication between the birth parents and child takes place via a third party, such as an agency or attorney. After a closed adoption, there is no contact between the birth parents and adoptive family.
- Private or public adoption: In the case of private adoption, a birth parent voluntarily gives their child up for adoption, and they do so directly with a specific family. Public adoption is when the Department of Social Services terminates the birth parent’s parental rights and introduces a child to the foster care system.
- International adoption: Adopting a child from another country can be a lengthy and complex process, and each country has unique adoption laws that petitioners need to follow.
Consult With a Leading Adoption Attorney in Washington, DC
If you are involved in the adoption process, get in touch with a reputable adoption lawyer to protect your rights.
At DiPietro Law Group, PLLC, we will provide you with legal advice and representation throughout the adoption process and help you navigate all relevant local and international laws. Our legal team will also formulate an appropriate legal strategy and help you avoid potential pitfalls.
To schedule an initial consultation with one of our adoption attorneys in Washington, DC, call us today at (888) 530-4374.