District of Columbia Adoption Laws and Policies

You have many adoption options, and this is the perfect place to begin exploring them. Below, you’ll find Washington, DC, adoption laws and policies and find adoption agencies and attorneys who work with families in the District of Columbia.

Capitol building where Washington DC adoption laws are decided

Each state maintains its own adoption policies, so the process can vary considerably for families in different states. As a resident of the District of Columbia, you’ll want to work with an adoption agency or adoption attorney who is very familiar with Washington, D.C., adoption laws and policies. Below, learn all about the legal guidelines for families adopting in Washington, D.C., whether you’re adopting a newborn through domestic adoption, an infant or older child from U.S. foster care adoption, or a child through international adoption.

You’ll also find links to adoption agencies and adoption lawyers offering services to Washington, D.C., families.

See all Washington, D.C., adoption agencies >

See all Washington, D.C., adoption attorneys >



Who can adopt in Washington, D.C.?

Any adult may adopt. If married, couple must petition jointly.

Can LGBT families adopt? Yes, same-sex couples can jointly petition to adopt.

District of Columbia domestic adoption laws

Can adoptive parents advertise for birth parents? Yes.

Can out-of-state residents finalize an adoption? Yes, as long as the birth occurs in Washington, D.C.

Can adopting parents use an adoption facilitator or another paid intermediary? No.

What birth parent expenses may be paid, and in what time period? Medical, legal, and counseling. In an agency placement, expenses may now be paid for food, lodging, and maternity clothes.

Is there a putative father registry? No.

When can consent to adoption be granted? Any time after birth.

 When does consent become irrevocable? If consent is revoked, is return to birth parent automatic? Independent adoption: after consent filed in court; Agency: 14 days after signing. Return automatic.

Are post-adoption contact agreements legally enforceable? Yes.

District of Columbia International adoption laws

Is a foreign adoption decree automatically recognized by the state? Yes.

Can parents readopt in this state? Is it mandatory? Yes, but it is not mandatory.

When will a U.S. birth certificate be issued? The registrar will issue a U.S. birth certificate for an adopted child born outside of the United States.

Adoption from foster care in Washington, D.C.

Are adoption subsidies available? When do they start and how long do they last? Yes, adoption subsidies are available for a special needs child, who is defined as having at least one of the following: has been up for adoption for more than 6 months, is of an age or racial background that makes placement difficult, is a member of a sibling group being placed together, meets Social Security Act disability requirements, has an ongoing medical disability, or has a behavioral or emotional disorder. The child must also be in the custody of the Child and Family Services Agency of the District of Columbia.

Where can I learn more about the process of adopting a child from foster care in the District of Columbia?

District of Columbia open records statutes

Is there an adoption registry? No. Records may be stored with the District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency or the adoption agency that oversaw the adoption.

Who may access information about an adoption? This is not specifically addressed in the state’s statutes.

Who may apply for an adoptee’s original birth certificate (OBC)? The OBC is a sealed record and can only be opened with a court order.

District of Columbia Adoption Unit

Program Manager: Michelle Frazier

200 I Street, SE
Washington, District of Columbia 20003
Phone: (202) 645-6547
[email protected]


DISCLAIMER: The state laws and policies outlined above are offered to readers only for general information and do not constitute legal advice. Furthermore, the state laws were accurate at the time of compilation, but Adoptive Families cannot guarantee that there have been no subsequent changes or revisions to the laws. Please do not rely on the information above without first consulting an adoption attorney licensed in your state. Updated in January 2017.


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