Overview of the District of Columbia Laws

Can non-residents adopt?

  • Yes, if the child to be adopted was born in D.C.

Are independent (non-agency) adoptions legal in Washington, D.C.?

  • Yes.

Is advertising permitted?

  • Yes.

Can a paid intermediary such as an attorney locate a child for the adoptive parent?

  • No.1

What expenses can be paid?

  • Legal fees and medical expenses.2

Is a pre-placement home study required?

  • No.3

Are the adoptive parents required to disclose their identities to the birth parents?

  • No.

Can a birth parent sign a consent prior to the birth?

  • No.

How long must a birth parent wait after the birth before signing a consent?

  • No minimum time.

Where does a birth parent sign the consent?

  • Outside of court.

When does a consent become irrevocable?

  • Upon filing with the court.

Do adoptive parents normally receive the child directly from the hospital?

  • Yes.

What is required to facilitate the child’s discharge from the hospital?

  • Depends on individual hospital policy.

When can the adoption be finalized?

  • Anytime after the adoptive parents have had physical custody for 6 months.

Is it a requirement that a separate attorney represent the birth parents?

  • No.4

Are any extra steps required when the child is born in a state other than the one in which the adoptive parents reside?

  • Yes.5

For more information about adoption in the District of Columbia, click to view one of the following pages:

Footnotes

1. For example, an attorney who is being paid for representing either the adoptive parents or the birth parents cannot refer the birth parents and the adoptive parents to each other or engage in such activities as showing a birth parent resumes of adoptive parents.

2. The cost of psychological/social work counseling for the birth parents is considered to be a medical expense.

3. Although not required by local law or the courts, the better practice is for adoptive parents to undergo a pre-placement home study voluntarily since benefits are gained by the practice. For example, if the child is born in another state, the adoptive parents must present a home study to the officials of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) before the child can cross state lines.

4. Although not required by law (except in Maryland when a birth parent is under 18), the better practice is to always insist that the birth parents have an attorney separate from the attorney representing the adoptive parents. Ethics rules prevent one attorney from representing both sides in an adoption. To proceed with only one attorney and assert that the attorney only represents the adoptive parents is a dangerous fiction. Someone needs to explain the process to the birth parents and advise them of their rights. If the person giving the advice is the attorney who represents the adoptive parents, a potentially fatal defect has been built into the adoption. Under those circumstances, a birth parent could seek to overturn the adoption long after the placement based upon duress relating to the attorney’s conflict of interest.

5. The ICPC provides that a child cannot be taken across state lines for purposes of adoption unless ICPC approval is obtained. Experience shows that the adoptive parents can expect to remain in the other state with the newborn child for 3 to 14 days or more after the birth while the adoptive parents’ attorney attempts to obtain ICPC approval. The ICPC process and the extra attorney services are not required if the birth occurs in the state where the adoptive parents reside.

Return to the Top of the Page