Laws & Requirements

Adoption in the United States is governed by state and federal laws and regulations.

Washington State laws and rules that pertain to adoptions can be found at the following:

Federal child welfare laws can be found at:

  • - a service of the Library of Congress that makes Federal legislative information freely available to the public via the Web.

To be an adoptive parent, you are required to be:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • Legally competent
  • Have an approved home study

Adoption Laws at-a-Glance

These listings provide a quick overview of specific sections of Washington State's code. Additional information on these topics may be in other sections of a State's code as well as in agency regulations, case law, and informal practices and procedures. If you are interested in interpretation of specific statutory provisions, you should consult with professionals familiar with the statutes' implementation.

Consent to Adoption

Who Must Consent to an Adoption (if under the age of 18)

  • The adoptee, if fourteen years of age or older
  • The parents and any alleged father
  • An agency or the department to whom the adoptee has been relinquished pursuant
  • The legal guardian

When Parental Consent is not Needed

  • A parent's rights have been terminated in the child's best interest and due to failure to perform parental duties.
  • For a Native American child, a parent's rights may be terminated only pursuant to standards set forth in 25 U.S.C. Sec. 1912(f).
  • If 18 or older.

When Consent Can Be Executed

  • Parents' written consent and petition to relinquish may be filed before birth, but the hearing may not be held sooner than 48 hours after the birth. In the case of a child who is a dependent of the state of WA, a parent may provide written consent and petition to relinquish parental rights but there is a waiting period of 48 hours before this petition is entered into court.
  • If the child is Native American, the petition and consent shall not be signed until at least 10 days after birth.

Revocation of Consent

  • Consent is revocable until court approves it. Thereafter, consent is irrevocable, except that for 1 year, consent may be revoked for fraud, duress, or lack of mental competency.
  • For a Native American child, consent can be withdrawn for any reason before entry of final decree and for fraud or duress within 2 years.

Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination

  • Abandonment or extreme parental disinterest
  • Abuse/neglect
  • Mental illness or deficiency
  • Alcohol or drug induced incapacity
  • Felony conviction/incarceration
  • Failure of reasonable efforts
  • Abuse/neglect or loss of rights of another child
  • Sexual abuse
  • Child judged in need of services/dependent
  • Child's best interest
  • Felony assault of child or sibling
  • Murder/manslaughter of sibling child

Parties to an Adoption

Who May Adopt

Any person who is:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • Legally competent, and
  • Has an approved family assessment (pre-placement report, adoption home study, unified home study)
Who May Be Adopted
  • Any person, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, religion or residence.
Who May Place a Child for Adoption
  • A parent or guardian
  • WA Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF)
  • A child placing agency