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How to Adopt in the District of Columbia

National Mall in Washington DC on a Clear Autumn Day
Whether you are considering placing your baby for adoption in D.C. or a family looking to adopt in Washington, the following information outlines everything you need to know about adoption in your area. Learn more about the rules for adopting or placing a child for adoption in the District.

Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Adopting a Child in Washington, D.C.

If you are considering adding to your family through adoption, it is important to understand local adoption laws. This section includes the qualifications for adopting a child in D.C., as well as other important information for adoptive parents.

What are the laws and qualifications for adopting a child in D.C.?

Any person may adopt in the District of Columbia. Married couples must adopt jointly.

What adoption expenses can be paid by adoptive families in Washington, D.C.?

A child-placing agency may charge adoptive families for the actual costs of living expenses for the birth mother, including:

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Counseling by an independent mental health professional
  • Medical expenses
  • Transportation to obtain medical and adoption-related services

A child-placing agency may not charge more than $7,500 for its services, which may include a home study, home study update, post-placement study, birth parent counseling, adoptive family education and training, processing an adoption application, administrative and support services, foster care and related services, coordination of ICPC compliance, preparing an application for an adoption subsidy, placement activities, post-placement education and support.
A child-placing agency may charge up to an additional $2,500 for the actual costs of customary and reasonable legal fees, costs of locating an absent parent, birth mother expenses, etc.

What are the laws to become a foster parent in D.C.?

Foster parents in Washington, D.C. must be at least 21 years old, complete at least 30 hours of training, and have sufficient financial resources to adequately care for a child and meet the family’s needs.

What are the requirements to finalize an international adoption in D.C.?

If the adoption was finalized in the foreign country, the adopting parent is a resident of the District of Columbia, and the child being adopted was granted an IR-3 visa, no further proceedings or documentation is required. An adoptive parent may file a petition for a District adoption decree to readopt the child in Washington, D.C.
The registrar will establish a new birth certificate for the child upon receipt of a request from the adoptive parents and receipt of one of the following:

  • An adoption form or copy of the foreign adoption decree
  • A certified translation of the adoption decree or evidence of the child’s birth date and birthplace, such as an original birth certificate, post-adoption birth certificate, or another equivalent document
  • Evidence of the child’s IR-3 immigrant visa status or successor immigrant visa status

Is it legal to use advertising or facilitators to adopt in the District of Columbia?

The use of advertisement is not addressed in District statutes. No person other than the parent, guardian or relative within the third degree, and no organization other than a licensed child-placing agency may place or assist in placing or arranging for the adoption of a child under age 16.

Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Placing a Baby for Adoption in Washington, D.C.

As an expectant mother considering adoption in Washington, D.C., you may have questions about the rules and regulations of placing a child for adoption. This section provides information about the laws that protect your rights as a birth parent throughout the adoption process.

When and how can birth parents consent to the adoption?

Consent must be acknowledged before an officer authorized to take acknowledgments, a representative of a child-placing agency, or the mayor.

Who must consent to the adoption?

Consent must be given by:

  • Both parents or the living parent if one parent is dead
  • The court-appointed guardian of the child
  • A licensed child-placing agency or the mayor if the parents’ parental rights have been terminated
  • The Mayor in any situation not otherwise provided for by this section
  • The child being adopted, if he or she is age 14 or older

When is consent not needed?

If a parent, after receiving notice that their consent is required for the adoption, cannot be located or has abandoned the child and voluntarily failed to contribute to his or her support for at least six months, that parent’s consent is not required.
The court may grant a petition for adoption without any of the required consents if it finds after a hearing that the consent being withheld is contrary to the best interests of the child.

When does the birth parents’ consent become irrevocable?

Consent may be revoked within 14 calendar days of executing consent. After consent is revoked, a parent must wait 30 days before executing a second relinquishment. A second relinquishment is irrevocable unless it was obtained by fraud or coercion.

What rights does the father of the baby have in D.C. adoptions?

An unmarried father may establish his paternity in Washington, D.C. by:

  • A written statement acknowledging paternity signed under oath by the mother and father
  • A result and affidavit from a laboratory of a genetic test affirming at least a 99 percent probability that the putative father is the father of the child

Home Study and Post-Placement Requirements in Washington, D.C.

A home study is required for all prospective adoptive and foster parents in D.C. This assessment process helps determine whether a proposed placement is in the best interests of the child to be adopted. The home study process, requirements, and other important Washington, D.C. home study information is detailed below.

What is included in the home study process?

The Washington, D.C. home study includes:

  • One face-to-face interview with the adoptive couple and individual interviews with each applicant
  • Face-to-face contact with each member of the adoptive household
  • Clearance with the child abuse and neglect registry and record of criminal convictions
  • Medical reports for each member of the household within six months of the study that verifies no communicable diseases, specific illness or disabilities that would interfere with their ability to parent a child
  • The level of education completed
  • Financial status, including current job and income
  • At least three personal and community character references
  • Interests and hobbies for each applicant
  • Religious beliefs, if any
  • A description of the home, including the adequacy of space and privacy for each member of the household
  • An assessment of the childcare plan if the parents work

Who is included in the home study process?

The home study must include the adoptive applicants and all household members.

Who will conduct the home study?

The home study is completed by the child-placing agency.

On what grounds will the home study not be approved in Washington, D.C.?

The home study will not be approved if any adult residing in the home has a felony conviction for:

  • Child abuse or neglect
  • An intrafamily offense
  • A crime against children, including child pornography
  • A crime involving violence, including rape, sexual assault or homicide
  • Physical assault or battery within the past five years
  • A drug-related offense within the past 5 years

When should the home study be completed? When must the home study be renewed?

The home study must be completed before a child can be placed in the home. The home study must be re-evaluated every 12 months.

What are the post-placement study requirements for D.C.?

Following placement, the child-placing agency must provide post-placement services for at least six months. The agency will conduct at least three interviews and make at least one visit to the home during the six-month period. The agency will continue providing services until the final adoption decree is granted.

What are the home study requirements for stepparent or relative adoptions in Washington, D.C.?

The court may dispense with the home study investigation in a stepparent adoption. A fingerprint-based criminal records check is still required.

What are the home study requirements to adopt a child from another state?

Placement of children outside the District of Columbia is subject to the provisions of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

What are the requirements to adopt a child that is currently in my care?

This issue is not addressed in D.C. statutes.
To start the home study process, contact one of these trusted local home study providers:

  • Adoptions Together
    Adoptions Together offers adoption home studies for families adopting through its placement programs and through other agencies and attorneys.

Visit 1800HomeStudy.com to learn more about Washington, D.C. home study providers.

Washington, D.C. Adoption Professionals

For more information about adoption in the District of Columbia or to begin the adoption process, contact one of these local adoption professionals:

For more information about foster care in the District, visit Child and Family Services.

Things to do in Washington, D.C.

As our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. is one of the most-visited destinations in the United States every year. Here are a few highlights to explore in Washington, D.C., as you visit prospective birth parents or wait for ICPC approval:

Find more information about traveling to Washington D.C. at https://washington.org/.

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