November is National Adoption Month
Professor Cynthia R. Mabry
HOWARD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW
2900 Van Ness Street, NW
Washington, DC 20008
November is National Adoption Month
Welcome to Howard University School of Law’s Adoption Awareness website! This site is designed to promote adoption of children in the child welfare system in the Washington Metropolitan Area including the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. The child welfare system was chosen because thousands of children who are waiting to be adopted in these states are in public child welfare systems. This site offers general information about the adoption process, adoption laws, adoption agencies, adoption attorneys, and selected national web sites that provide a wealth of information about children who are waiting for adoption and about the child welfare system.
Public Service Announcement (Windows Media Player is Required)
Statistics about Children in this Area
Frequently Asked Questions
Public Adoption Agencies (local)
Adoption Attorneys (local/national)
Local Adoption Statutes
Selected Websites (national)
Selected Books on Adoption
About Professor Mabry
Children in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia
Child Welfare Systems
On September 30, 2009, there were 2,111 children in the child welfare system in the District of Columbia. There were 7,052 children in Maryland’s child welfare system and 5,927 children in Virginia’s child welfare system. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb (July 2010).
The numbers of children who are waiting for adoption change annually (and reports take years for publication) but the most recent adoption statistics in a March 2008 report indicate that 618 children were waiting for adoption in the District of Columbia in fiscal year 2006. More than 1700 (1794) children were waiting for adoption in the State of Virginia; and, the number of children who were waiting for adoption in the neighboring State of Maryland was not reported for the same period. The same report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that in fiscal year 2006, only 179 children were adopted with assistance from a public agency in the District of Columbia, 364 were adopted in Maryland; and, 551 were adopted in Virginia (leaving thousands of children without a permanent and loving home. During that period, the total number of children in foster care was: 2,378 in the District of Columbia, 9,051 in Maryland, and 7,672 in Virginia. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb (March 2008). During this fiscal year, most of the adults who became adoptive parents for these children were foster parents.
A child’s age and gender played roles in these adoptions. In all three states, the highest number of children (ranging from 43% to 50%) adopted with public agency involvement in fiscal year 2006 were between the ages of one and five years old. Approximately 30% of children in each state were six to ten years old. Between 15% and 22% were eleven to fifteen years old; and, between 2% and 6% of children were sixteen to eighteen years old when they were adopted. Also, in each state, more boys were adopted than girls that year: District of Columbia: 55% boys, 45% girls; Maryland: 51% boys, 49% girls; Virginia: 58% boys, 42% girls.
Source: Adoption Data 2006, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research.
As the table above illustrates, race also was a factor in these adoptions. More African American children were adopted in the District of Columbia and Maryland than in Virginia. The next largest group consists of Caucasian children. Those groups are followed by a smaller number of Latino, Asian, Biracial and children of an unidentified race.
Public adoption agencies and agencies that receive government funding are prohibited from relying upon race to deny a prospective parent’s application to adopt or to delay the process such as waiting for a prospective parent of the child’s race before a child may be adopted. See, e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 1196b.
How many children are waiting for adoption?
In September 2009, 423,773 children were in child welfare systems throughout the United States. Of those children, 114,556 had a goal of adoption. Only 57,466 of the children who could have been adopted were adopted with public agency involvement that year. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb (July 2010).
Many of the children who are waiting for adoption in the Washington Metropolitan area are considered special needs children. Special needs children are placed in that category because they are harder to place due to certain characteristics including age, race, connection with a sibling group, or a disability that may be mental, emotional, or physical.
Who may adopt a child?
In each state, any qualified adult may adopt a child. Prospective parents include the following adults:
- married couples
- single men and women
- foster parents
- stepparents; and
- relatives (including aunts, uncles, and grandparents).
Additionally, in some states, unmarried partners (including same-sex couples) may adopt a child. A few states prohibit certain types of adoptions.
In the United States, most adults who adopt children are married couples or single women but single men and unmarried couples adopt a significant number of children. Many relatives including grandparents also adopt several children from the child welfare system.
What are the different types of adoption?
A public agency adoption is one in which the child is adopted from a state agency. A private agency adoption involves an adoption from a private agency. In some states, an attorney or physician may facilitate an independent adoption. The birth parent may be more involved in independent adoptions including selection of the prospective parent.
An interstate adoption involves a prospective parent and a child who live in different states. The Interstate Compact on Placement of Children applies. Each state has its own Interstate Compact.
An intercountry adoption involves a child and an adoptive parent who are citizens of different countries. A complex system of state, federal, immigration and foreign country laws as well as treaties must be complied with for valid intercountry adoptions.
What will I have to do to adopt a child?
The process varies from state to state and from county to county. However, some aspects of the process that remain consistent that will be discussed here. The prospective parent must start the application process with a decision about the type of adoption agency that the prospective parent will use to facilitate the adoption. Then the prospective parent will complete an application that requires disclosure of personal information such as financial and employment information. An adult who wishes to adopt a child need not be perfect to qualify as an adoptive parent.
The prospective parent also will be fingerprinted so that a criminal background check can be conducted. A prospective parent who has a criminal record will not be excluded automatically. The agency will consider a number of factors including the type of crime that was committed, how long ago the crime was committed, and whether the prospective parent has a lengthy criminal record. In addition, the state will search the child abuse and neglect registry to determine whether any complaints have been made against the prospective parent.
A home assessment will be conducted. The purpose of the assessment is to ascertain whether the prospective parent’s home environment is one in which a child will thrive and whether it will be safe for the child. The prospective parent and any other adult who lives in the home will be interviewed about their reasons for adopting a child and how they intend to parent the child. Also, prospective parents will be educated about the adoption process and what they should expect as adoptive parents.
The prospective parent will be asked to submit to a physical examination. Although the prospective parent need not have a “clean bill of health,” the concern is whether the prospective parent is physically capable of raising a child. Prospective parents who have some illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension may be eligible to adopt a child. Prospective parents who are disabled also may qualify to adopt a child.
The prospective parent may identify a child whom he or she wants to adopt through a number of sources including some of the websites listed below. Then there may be a waiting period while the child lives in the home with the prospective parent for a period of time before the court will impose a final order. In the District of Columbia, the required time is six months. Some states also have residency requirements (the prospective parent must be a resident of the state in which she files a petition to adopt a child).
Finally, the prospective parent must file a petition to adopt with the proper court and the court must approve the adoption based on a determination of whether the adoption will be in the child’s best interests and whether adoption laws have been followed. A new birth certificate with the child’s adoptive name and the adoptive parent(s)’ name will be issued.
How long will the process take?
The length of the process is determined by the type of child that the prospective parent wishes to adopt and other factors. For example, because only a few healthy white infants are waiting for adoption, if a prospective parent only wants to adopt a healthy white infant, he or she may wait several months for a waiting child who meets that description.
On the other hand, many children who are classified as special needs children are available with a much shorter wait time after the prospective parent completes the adoption application and the home assessment processes. The process may be modified, however, for some applicants such as stepparents and relatives with whom the child has lived for a certain period.
How do I contact local public child welfare agencies about my interest in adopting or fostering a child?
Scroll down to the list of Public Child Welfare Agencies in the Metropolitan Area on this website for a list of addresses, telephone numbers and other contact information.
How much will the adoption cost?
Adoption fees vary in accordance with the type of adoption that is undertaken and state and federal tax credits and other financial support that may be available. In the District of Columbia, for example, prospective parents may request a voucher from the District of Columbia Child and Family Services. Upon finalization of the adoption, the District of Columbia will pay the attorney $5000. If the adoption costs more than $5000, the attorney may forgive that amount or make arrangements for the parent to pay the balance in installments.
Uncontested adoptions from a public child welfare agency tend to cost less than other adoptions. When two or more families have filed competing petitions to adopt a child or an adoption is contested, however, the legal expenses will increase because of the additional litigation that the attorney will engage in to prove that it is in the child’s best interests to be placed with his or her client. Thus, the cost of a domestic adoption may range from approximately $5,000 to $40,000.
On the other hand, a few sources are available to assist eligible adoptive parents. They may be reimbursed for non-recurring adoption expenses such as attorney’s fees, court costs, home assessments, birth certificate fees and travel expenses through federal, state, private or corporate funding. Parents may receive state and federal tax credits to defray the costs of adoption. In addition, some corporate employers offer employee benefits for employees who adopt children. Moreover, military parents may be entitled to an additional benefit because of their military status.
Intercountry adoptions involve prospective parents and children who are citizens of different countries. The costs of those adoptions range from $7,000 to $30,000 because of travel and temporary residential expenses, agency expenses in the United States and in the child’s country of origin, and other costs such as translation fees.
Will I receive any support for the child after the adoption?
Adoption subsidies are available for children who are special needs children and other children who qualify for state assistance. Other post-adoption services that may be available for adoptive families include tutors, counseling (for the adoptive family as well as for the child), day care, parenting classes, Medicaid (i.e., prescriptions, glasses and other medical expenses), referrals for other services such as psychological evaluations, and respite care.
Will I be required to interact with the child’s birth family or expectant mother?
Whether an adoptive parent will interact with one or more birth family members depends upon the adoption arrangement. For example, if the child’s birth mother requests and the prospective parent agrees to post-adoption contact, the birth mother may have direct or indirect contact with the child and/or the adoptive family. Examples of indirect contact include letters and photographs that reflect the child’s growth at designated periods. Direct contact could involve visits with the child.
How can I help if I am not ready to adopt a child? Are there alternatives to adoption?
If an adult is not ready to adopt, he or she may decide to act as a foster parent. After undergoing a licensing process, some foster parents provide temporary or long-term care for one or more children and they never intend to adopt a child. Other foster parents are certified to be considered as prospective adoptive parents. In addition, there are programs such as KIDSAVE and Children Uniting Nations in which an adult acts as a mentor for a child. Some other adults may choose to be a child’s legal guardian.
Where can I find an attorney to help me to complete the process?
With significant aid from a state agency, some prospective parents are able to complete the process without an attorney’s assistance. However, scroll down to the List of Attorneys on this website for a list of local adoption attorneys who practice adoption law in the Metropolitan area. If you live outside the Washington metropolitan area, visit the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys’ website for a list of expert adoption attorneys who practice adoption law in states throughout the nation.
Adoption statutes govern each aspect of the adoption process including who may adopt, how the adoption process proceeds, and consequences of the adoption. The following statutes govern adoptions in the tri-state area.
District of Columbia
D.C. Code Ann. §§ 16-301 – 16-316
D.C. Code Ann. §§ 4-1421 to 4-1424 (Interstate Compact on Placement of Children)
Md. Code Ann., Family §§ 5-331 to 362; 5-3A-01 to 45; 5-3B-01 to 32; 5-401 to 415; 5-4B-01 to 12; 5-4C-01 to 07
Md. Code Ann., Family §§ 5-601 to 5-611 (Interstate Compact on Placement of Children)
Va. Code Ann. §§ 63.2-1200 to 63.2-1253
Va. Code Ann. §§ 63.2-1000, 63.2-1100 to 63.2-1105 (Interstate Compact on Placement of Children)
District of Columbia
Adoption and Foster Care Recruitment Unit
District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency
400 6th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20024
Web address: www.cfsa.dc.gov
Mr. Michael Carr
Adoption Recruitment Social Worker
Maryland Department of Human Resources
Social Services Administration
311 W. Saratoga Street
Baltimore, Maryland. 21201
Web address: www.dhr.state.md.us/adopt.htm
Prince George’s County Department of Social Services
Foster & Adoptive Resources
805 Brightseat Road
Landover, Maryland 20785-4723
Web address: www.goprincegeorgescounty.com or www.dhr.state.md.us/pgcounty.htm
Ms. Evandra Jackson
Family Resource Specialist
Montgomery County Child and Welfare Services
1301 Piccard Drive
Rockville, Maryland 20850
Information Line: (240) 777-1664
Family Services Agency
610 East Diamond Ave.
Gaithersburg, Maryland 20877
County of Fairfax
Department of Family Services
12011 Government Center Parkway
Fairfax, Virginia 22035
Web address: www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dfs
Holds Foster Care and Adoption Orientation Meetings on the second Monday of each month from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. (no registration required)
Ms. Rosalyn Suau
Foster Home Recruiter
Foster Care & Adoption Program
Ms. Beverly J. Howard, Ph.D.
Coordinator, FAIRFAX FAMILES4KIDS
Virginia Department of Social Services
730 E. Broad Street
Richmond, VA 21219-1849
Web address: www.dss.state.va.us/famserv.html
Jeffrey E. Badger, Esq.
Long & Badger, P.A.
124 East Main St.
Salisbury, Maryland 21801
P.O. Box 259
Salisbury, Maryland 21803
Archdiocesan Legal Network of Catholic Charities
924 G Street, N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20001
Web address: www.catholiccharitiesdc.org
Attorney Donna Brown
Attorney James E. McCollum, Jr.
McCollum & Associates, LLC
7309 Baltimore Avenue
College Park, Maryland 20741-1717
(301) 864-6070 extension 250
Deborah Cason Daniel
503 D Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
601 Pennsylvania Ave., NW,
Suite 900 South Bldg
Washington, DC 20004
John R. Greene
Cohen and Greene, P.A.
156 South Street
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
Sherry L. Leichman, Esquire
Leichman & Snyder, P.C.
51 Monroe Street, Suite 1605
Rockville, Maryland 20850
100 N. Court Street,
Frederick, MD 21701
3360 Tennyson Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20015
Web address: www.jodymarten.com
910 Seventeenth Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20006
Web address: www.theadoptionadvisor.com
Adoption Legal Services
1921 Gallows Road, Suite 110
Vienna, Virginia 22182
Colleen Marea Quinn
Locke Partin DeBoer & Quinn
4928 West Broad Street
P.O. Box 11798
Richmond, Virginia 23230 (804) 285-6253
Schweitzer & Scherr LLC
Suite 601 North
7315 Wisconsin Avenue
Bethesda, Maryland 20814-3202
Web address: www.schweitzerlaw.net
Law Office of Margaret E. Swain, RN, JD
P.O. Box 219
Riderwood, Maryland 21139-0219
Carolyn H. Thaler
29 W. Susquehanna Avenue
Suite 205, Susquehanna Building
Towson, MD 21204
Peter J. Wiernicki
Joseph, Reiner & Wiernicki, P.C.
11140 Rockville Pike, Suite 620
Rockville, Maryland 20852
National List of Adoption Attorneys
American Academy of Adoption Attorneys,
This is a very short list of books about the process of adopting or fostering a child, the effects of adoption on everyone involved in the process, and laws that govern the process.
CYNTHIA R. MABRY AND LISA KELLY, ADOPTION LAW: THEORY, POLICY AND PRACTICE (William S. Hein, Inc. 2010). Contact William S. Hein, Inc. at 800-828-7571 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SUSAN FRELICH APPLETON AND D. KELLY WEISBERG, ADOPTION AND ASSISTED REPRODUCTION: FAMILIES UNDER CONSTRUCTION (Walters, Kluwer 2009).
NAOMI R. CAHN AND JOAN HEIFETZ HOLLINGER, FAMILIES BY LAW: AN ADOPTION READER (New York University Press 2004).
SHERRIE ELDRIDGE, TWENTY THINGS ADOPTED KIDS WISH THEIR ADOPTIVE PARENTS KNEW (Random House 2004).
LAURA BEAUVAIS-GODWIN & RAYMOND GODWIN, ESQ., THE COMPLETE ADOPTION BOOK- EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO ADOPT A CHILD (Adams Media 2d. ed. 2000).
JOAN HEIFETZ HOLLINGER, ADOPTION LAW AND PRACTICE (VOLUMES 1 – 3) (Lexis Nexis 2005).
MIRIAM KOMAR, D.S.W., COMMUNICATING WITH THE ADOPTED CHILD (Walker and Company 1991).
ADAM PERTMAN, ADOPTION NATION (Basic Books 2000) (discussing rights of birth parents as well as prospective and adoptive parents’ rights).
VICTORIA ROWELL, THE WOMEN WHO RAISED ME (WILLIAM MORROW 2007) (providing a tribute to Foster Parents and other caregivers).
PATRICIA ROLES, SAYING GOODBYE TO A BABY (CHILD WELFARE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 1989).
SHARON E. RUSH, LOVING ACROSS THE COLOR LINE: A WHITE ADOPTIVE MOTHER LEARNS ABOUT RACE (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2000).
RITA J. SIMON AND RHONDA M. ROORDA, IN THEIR OWN VOICES: TRANSRACIAL ADOPTEES TELL THEIR STORIES (Columbia University Press 2000).
RITA J. SIMON AND RHONDA M. ROORDA, IN THEIR PARENTS’ VOICES- REFLECTIONS ON RAISING TRANSRACIAL ADOPTEES (Columbia University Press 2007).
HARVEY SCHWEITZER AND JUDITH LARSEN, FOSTER CARE LAW: A PRIMER (Carolina Academic Press 2004).
SUSAN WRIGHT, REAL SISTERS (Ragweed Press 1994) (telling an adoption story from a child’s point of view).
Adoptees’ Liberty Movement Association (ALMA)
Adoption Information Clearinghouse
Adoption Network Law Center
Adoptive Families of America
Adoption Reunion Registry
Americans for African Adoptions, Inc.,
American Academy of Adoption Attorneys
American Adoption Congress
ABA Center on Children and the Law
Association of Administrators of the ICPC
Association of Black Social Workers
Black Administrators in Child Welfare, Inc.,
Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
Casey Family Programs
Child Welfare Information Gateway
Child Welfare League of America
Children’s Hope International
Concerned United Birthparents, Inc.
Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute
Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute
Families with Children from China
Federal Adoption Website
Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption
Hague Convention (U.S. Implementation)
Holt International Children’s Services
Intercountry Adoption information and Statistics
Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS)
Lambda Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Minnesota Texas Adoption Research Project
National Adoption Center
National Adoption Foundation
National Center for Adoption Law & Policy
National Council for Adoption
National Center for Adoption Law & Policy, Capital University Law School http://www.adoptionlawsite.org
National Heart Gallery
National Indian Child Welfare Association
National Resource Center for Special Needs Adoption
North American Council on Adoptable Children
On-line Library on Adoption Law, Cornell University Law School
State by State Guide to Adoption
Single Parents Network.com
The Transnational and Transracial Adoption Group
Transracial and Transcultural Adoption
Transracial adoption: Adoptive Families.com
United States Department of State
*This is a sampling of Websites. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Also, please note that some Web sites change frequently. These sites are current as of April 2010.
Photograph courtesy of Mr. Blair Diggs,
Howard University School of Law
Professor Cynthia R. Mabry
Professor Mabry (JD., 1983, Howard University School of Law; LLM., 1996, New York University School of Law) has been a full-time law teacher since 1993. She is the 2010 recipient of the Warren Rosmarin Professor of Law Award of Excellence in Teaching and Service. Presently, she teaches Adoption Law, Family Law, Civil Procedure and Pretrial Litigation at Howard University School of Law. Professor Mabry is lead co-author of Adoption Law: Theory, Policy and Practice, a legal textbook-one of W. S. Hein & Co.’s best-selling law books. The second edition of the book will be published in November 2010.
Presently fifteen law schools have adopted the textbook. She is an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. Recently, she was appointed as Co-Vice Chair of the Diversity Committee of the ABA Section of Family Law for the year 2010-2011. She is the faculty advisor for the Howard Family Law Society (which she organized) and she developed a Family Law Certificate Program at Howard. Professor Mabry also has taught full-time at New York University School of Law, Washington and Lee University School of Law, and West Virginia University College of Law. She has been a Visiting Professor at the University Of Florida College Of Law, Syracuse University College of Law and the University of the Western Cape in Capetown, South Africa.
She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Family Law Section of the American Association of Law Schools, a former Editor for the Family Court Review, a volunteer mediator for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia’s Family Division and a former member of the Citizens Review Board for Children (appointed by Maryland Governor Erhlich). Professor Mabry has made presentations on domestic and international family law issues in several states in the United States.
As a member of the International Family Law Society, she has spoken to international audiences in the Netherlands, China and Italy. She has written several law review articles focusing on a variety of family issues with an emphasis on children’s rights. She has been a member of the District of Columbia Bar since 1983. Professor Mabry was Student Articles Editor of the Howard Law Journal. After she was graduated from Howard, she was a judicial law clerk at state and federal courts in the District of Columbia and Detroit, Michigan. She practiced law in the District of Columbia at Crowell & Moring, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and the Federal Railroad Administration.
Professor Mabry wishes to acknowledge Associate Dean Okianer Christian Dark, Webmaster Blair Diggs, Director of Information Technology, Frank King, and her research assistants Rhonda Kornegay and Erica Roberts for supervisory, technical and legal support.
updated: January 16, 2012