Steps to Adoption

The following steps to adoption are provided to give a general idea of the process of adoption through foster care. Please remember that each case is unique and not all cases will follow these exact sequential steps.

To receive further information about adoption from DCYF, call your local child welfare office and speak with an adoption worker to answer any questions that you may have regarding the process.

If you have questions about completing the home study, contact your local child welfare office and talk with the licensing staff.

What are the differences between an adoption only home study and a foster to adopt home study?

All prospective adoptive parents, whether or not they are getting foster licensed, must undergo a unified home study and this is completed through the Licensing Division (LD) or a private agency. There are a number of differences when deciding which pathway is best for your family:

  • 27 hours of pre-service training and an additional 24-36 hours of training depending on the licensing cycle (first, second, or third)
  • Monthly foster care maintenance payments (food, clothing, shelter, and personal incidentals)
  • Child or youth placed in home will receive medical and dental benefits
  • Family may receive additional supportive services to help parent
  • Able to take placement of any child or youth in out of home care, regardless of legal status, as long as it is within the licensing capacity
  • Able to provide respite for other foster parents
  • Persons from all racial/ethnic/cultural and religious backgrounds, renters and homeowners, persons who identify as LGBTQ+, persons with any education level, all are welcome to apply
  • No out of pocket costs for the home study (families may need to purchase items for licensing such as fire extinguisher, crib, lock box, etc)
  • Child care costs provided prior to adoption if the primary caregiver(s) are employed
  • Must be at least 21 years of age
  • Possible Adoption Support services post-adoption
  • No mandatory training but is highly encouraged
  • No foster care reimbursement
  • Child or youth placed in home will receive medical and dental benefits
  • Family may receive additional supportive services to help parent
  • Can only take placement of a child or youth who is legally free
  • Unable to provide respite for other foster parents
  • Some state and county jurisdictions will not accept an adoption only home study if seeking to adopt a child or youth from their jurisdiction. These jurisdictions may require a licensed home study
  • The goal of DCYF is to safely return to their birth parents. If you are seeking to adopt legally free children under the age of 5, the likelihood of placement is very small.
  • If you are seeking to adopt children under the age of 5, your home study may not be prioritized as it would if you were willing to foster to adopt children under 5
  • Persons from all racial/ethnic/cultural and religious backgrounds, renters and homeowners, persons who identify as LGBTQ+, persons with any education level, all are welcome to apply
  • Can adopt as long as you are 18 years or older
  • No out of pocket costs for the home study
  • Child care costs provided prior to adoption if the primary caregiver(s) are employed
  • Possible Adoption Support services post-adoption

If you would like to know more about foster to adopt home studies, visit the Foster Parent FAQ.

For questions regarding adoption home studies, contact Julie Pettit at 360-690-6026.

The purpose of the adoptive home study is to provide a comprehensive evaluation as to whether parents are qualified to adopt. The process involves education and preparation as well as the gathering of information about the prospective parents.

An adoptive home study includes:
  • Application (DCYF 10-354). Provided by the agency. 
  • Criminal history background check (DSHS 09-653). Organized through the licensor or DCYF worker, an instate criminal history check (Washington State Patrol - WSP) must be completed on every person over the age of 16 residing in the home. A national and local fingerprint (WSP and FBI) check must be completed on all adults in the home (age 18 and above). 
    A background check request can also be completed by visiting Background Check Authorization form.  This service is best used when you know who will complete your home study as they will need the confirmation number associated with your request.
  • Child abuse and neglect inquiries (DCYF 15-460). This is part of the background check. Washington State records will be checked for everyone in the home ages 16 and older. If anyone in your home, age 18 and above, has lived in another state during the past 5 years, a check will be made of records in other states. This will be organized through your licensor or DCYF worker. 
  • Personal information (DCYF 15-276). This DCYF form is used to provide your caseworker with information about you. There are no right or wrong answers; this is just a way for the licensor to get to know you. It is imperative that you are forthcoming and honest about your history. 
    The following is a general outline of what to expect, but your licensor will provide you with more detailed questions:
    • Background
      • Family facts (birth place, parents, siblings, childhood, personality)
      • Education
      • Employment history/military service
      • Values, goals, interests, and activities
      • Cultural background
    • Relationships
      • Spouse/partner
      • Children (interviews with all adult and minor children)
      • Others living with you
    • Parenting and experience with children
      • Family roles/activities
      • Attitudes on parenting
      • Experience and training
      • Discipline
    • Religious/spiritual affiliation and practices
    • Medical/psychosocial
      • General medical
      • Abuse history
      • Domestic violence
      • Drug/alcohol
      • Mental health/counseling
    • Home and neighborhood
    • Support systems
    • Family financial
    • Potential for permanency 
      • The concept of adoption as a lifelong developmental process and commitment
      • The potential for the child to have feelings of identity confusion and loss regarding separation from the birth parents
      • Relevance of the child’s relation with siblings and the potential benefit to the child by providing a continuing relationship and contact with known siblings
      • Disclosure of the fact of adoption to the child
      • The child's possible questions about birth parents and relatives
      • The relevance of the child's racial, ethnic, and cultural heritage
  • Documentation of marriages and divorces (DCYF 09-979) (copy of marriage certificates and divorce decrees are required). For information on obtaining marriage and divorce certificates, contact the Washington State Department of Health. If your marriage or divorce occurred in WA, please contact the jurisdiction where they occurred. If your marriage or divorce occurred outside of WA, please contact the jurisdiction in the state to obtain these records.   
  • Medical statements on persons adopting (DCYF_13-001). This is a confidential form that your physician will fill out regarding current and historic medical conditions. Your licensor will provide you with the form. 
  • Income/financial statements (DCYF 14-452) . A worksheet is provided to you by your licensor. The licensor will ask for information on the following topics: employment, source of income, housing costs, assets, loans, etc. 
  • References (DCYF_15-286). 3 references (only 1 can be a relative). References are generally used to get a picture of a family from an outsider. A questionnaire asking specific questions must be filled out by your references. Your licensor will send the questionnaire directly to your references. 
  • Contacts with your licensor. At least 3 contacts will be made with your licensor and two will be in the family home to better understand your lifestyle and family dynamics. During these visits the licensor will discuss all other licensing requirements and will do a walk-through of the home to ensure that your home meets the minimum licensing requirements.
Home Study Approval

The home study must be approved to continue with the adoption process. The length of time from the date LD received the application to approving the home study varies, but the agency goal is to have it completed within 90 days. If you do want to become a licensed foster parent the home study process is the same, but there will be additional training requirements. Read about the requirements on the foster parent training site.

Washington Adoption Resource Exchange (WARE)

Once the home study is approved, have your DCYF adoption worker, licensor/home study writer register you with the Washington Adoption Resource Exchange (WARE). If you don't already have a child in your home, this service will enable other DCYF adoption workers to see that there is a family with an approved home study waiting for a child. 

Child Identification

There are various ways to select a child:

  • A caseworker contacts you about a child who may already reside in your home.
  • You contact the caseworker about a child you either found on a web site or heard about.
  • A child who may already reside in your home.

Get Help Identifying a Child or Youth to Adopt

Visit the following websites:

Northwest Adoption Exchange (NWAE): A public website which features children and youth in need of a permanent home. The children and youth are all legally free unless a court or biological parent agrees to profile the youth on this open forum. You will not be able to contact the caseworker directly.

Washington Adoption Resource Exchange (WARE): A website that is only accessible to Washington adoptive families and DCYF caseworkers and is password protected. The children and youth on this site are also seeking permanency but may not yet be legally free. You can provide a profile of your family that can be added to WARE for caseworkers to review. You will be able to make direct contact with a caseworker through this website.

AdoptUsKids: A national public website featuring children and youth from across the nation who are seeking a permanent home. Similar to WARE, you can request to have a profile of your family available to caseworkers looking on this site.

Advocacy Activities:

Adoption Consortium: This monthly virtual meeting provides an opportunity for caseworkers to present children and youth in need of permanency to families, private agencies, and caseworkers. Conversely, families are able to listen in (after confirmation of an approved home study that is in good standing) and/or are able to present their family to caseworkers.

Spreading the word: Email the DCYF adoption program manager to request that your home study be sent to DCYF staff for consideration. In addition, your home study can be placed on an DCYF adoption site (not accessible to anyone outside of DCYF) where caseworkers are able to filter for families who best fit the child or youth who is seeking permanency.

Disclosure of Information

A caseworker contacts you about a specific child:

  • You contact the caseworker about a child you either found on a web site or heard about.
  • You and your caseworker need to be in contact to get background information about the child. At this point,you may start working with 2 different caseworkers - yours (licensor/home study writer) and the child's DCYF case worker.
  • Statutorily, the full history on the child's family, medical, and social background must be disclosed to you. Once this is done, you and the respective case worker need to decide if this is a good placement.
  • If the decision is made that this is in the best interest of the child to be placed for the purpose of adoption with you, then steps are made to move forward with visitation and placement.

Making the Right Selection

To know if the child presented is the right child, you need to consider their needs, ask lots of questions, and really listen to and observe the child.

  • Find out about the child's family and medical background.
  • Find out about the child's history in foster care.
  • Ask to speak with current and past foster care providers.
  • Find out about the child's birth family and their relationship.
  • Ask to speak with daycare, educational and current medical providers.
  • Observe the child in their own environment or one they are comfortable in.
  • What does an average day look like?
  • Get to know the child's routines.
  • What are your expectations for a child? Can the child meet those expectations? What if they don't?
  • Get to know the child. What are the things they like and dislike? What makes them happy or sad?
  • What are some of his/her favorite things?
  • What are the child's developmental, educational, and emotional issues?
  • Are there any behavioral issues?
  • What do these behavioral issues look like?
  • What are their peer relations like?
  • Has the child ever attached to anyone?
  • If yes, what did that look like?
  • What are the child's personal characteristics?
  • What are the child's strengths?
  • What do you like about the child?
  • What will the child bring to a family?
  • What is the child looking for in a family?
  • How does the child get along with other children both inside and outside the family?
  • Can the child be with older/younger siblings?
  • What sort of parent does the child need?
  • Religious issues? Is going to church important?
  • Who are significant people in the child's life? Can these people continue to be a part of the child's life?
  • What type of parenting style has worked best with this child?
  • What research can I do to learn more about the child diagnoses?
  • 23 Crucial Questions You Must Ask When Adopting From Foster Care

Ensure that there has been a complete disclosure of the child's family, medical, and social background. (WAC 110-60-0190)

Visitation begins

It can take 2 weeks to several months to place the child in your home depending upon the child's needs:

  • Age
  • Location of adoptive family to current placement
  • Therapy and medical issues
  • School
  • Comfort level

Visitation usually begins at a location considered safe for the child (foster home, McDonalds). The first visit starts with just a couple of hours. Gradually visits lengthen in time, leading to a first overnight. Visits get progressively longer until the child officially moves to their new home. 

Sometimes you can introduce yourself and family by producing a book about you and your family.  This could be digitally completed or can be handmade.  This will give the social worker a way of introducing your family to the identified child and provides something tangible for the child to hold onto. Skyping, FaceTime or video conferencing are also options.


The child's DCYF caseworker will continue working with your family until the actual adoption finalization in court. Together, you will arrange for any needed services (child and family, medical, counseling, schooling).

Worker may identify services and/or trainings that could assist in parenting your child. 

Health and safety checks

The caseworker comes out to your home to check on the well-being of the child and family at least once every 30 days until the adoption is finalized.

Dependency court review (court hearings) continue at a minimum of every 6 months.


A new support program for foster and adoptive families, called Alliance CaRES Program, is available. We highly recommend joining a support group at some point to grow your support system in this journey!

  1. Contact an attorney. You may find your own or ask your case worker for a list. You can do this early but it will not expedite an adoption as there are additional steps that need completion before a court hearing for the adoption can be scheduled. 
  2. Complete the Adoption Support application provided to you by your social worker. When the application is completed and filed, an Adoption Support Program Specialist will be assigned to you.
  3. The program specialist will review your application to determine if the child qualifies for the program according to state and federal rules. A negotiated contract (called an agreement) outlining program benefits and terms will then be presented for signature. The adoption must not be finalized until the agreement is signed by you and the DCYF representative.
  4. Your child's DCYF worker completes a post-placement report. This report provides the court with an update on the child's and family's well-being since placement as well as any changes since the writing of the last home study.
  5. DCYF provides a Consent to Adopt. This is a written statement authorizing that the child may be adopted.
  6. Your caseworker sends your attorney a packet containing documents needed to finalize the adoption.
  7. Your attorney prepares the documents to present to the court, files the petition to adopt, and gets a court date to finalize the adoption.
  8. On the date of finalization you will go to court as advised by your attorney. You may take as many family and friends as you want. You may also bring cameras and video to record this special event.