Unregulated Custody Transfers of Adopted Children - Washington

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Definitions

Citation: Rev. Code §§ 13.34.030; 26.38.010

The term 'abandoned' applies when the child's parent, guardian, or other custodian has expressed, either by statement or conduct, an intent to forego, for an extended period, parental rights or responsibilities despite an ability to exercise such rights and responsibilities.

The term 'child-placing agency' means a person with authority to identify or place a child for adoption. 'Child-placing agency' does not include a parent of the child.

The term 'department' means the Department of Children, Youth, and Families.

The term 'intermediary' means a person that assists or facilitates a transfer of custody of a child, regardless of whether it is for compensation.

Prohibited or Required Actions Regarding Custody

Citation: Rev. Code §§ 11.130.145; 26.38.110

A parent of a minor, by a power of attorney, may delegate to another person for a period not exceeding 24 months any of the parent's powers regarding care, custody, or property of the minor, other than power to consent to marriage or adoption.

A parent or guardian of a child or an individual with whom a child has been placed for adoption may not transfer custody of the child to another person with the intent, at the time of the transfer, to abandon the rights and responsibilities concerning the child.

A parent, guardian, or an individual with whom a child has been placed for adoption may transfer custody of the child to another person with the intent, at the time of the transfer, to abandon the rights and responsibilities concerning the child only through one of the following:

  • A judicial award of custody under chapter 11.130, 13.34, or this title
  • Placement by or through a child-placing agency
  • A judicial award of custody or other action in a Tribal court
  • Transfer of a newborn to a qualified person under § 13.34.360

A person may not receive custody of a child, or act as an intermediary in a transfer of custody of a child, if the person knows or reasonably should know the transfer violates this section. This prohibition does not apply if the person, as soon as practicable after the transfer, notifies the department or law enforcement of the transfer or takes appropriate action to establish custody of the child.

For purposes of this section, 'abandon' has the same meaning as 'abandoned' in § 13.34.030.

Exceptions

Citation: Rev. Code §§ 26.38.020; 26.38.100

This chapter does not apply to custody of an Indian child, as defined in the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, to the extent custody is governed by the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.

This chapter does not apply to a transfer of custody of a child by the child's parent or guardian to any of the following:

  • A parent of the child
  • A stepparent of the child
  • An adult who is related to the child by blood or by law
  • An adult who, at the time of the transfer, had a close relationship with the child or the child's parent or guardian for a substantial period, and whom the parent or guardian reasonably believes, at the time of the transfer, to be a fit custodian of the child
  • An Indian custodian of the child
  • A member of the child's customary family unit recognized by the child's Indian Tribe under chapter 13.38
  • A delegation by a parent pursuant to § 11.130.145

Consequences

Citation: Rev. Code §§ 26.38.110; 26.38.120

A violation of § 26.38.110 is a gross misdemeanor. A violation of this section is not established solely because a parent or guardian that transfers custody of a child or makes a delegation pursuant to § 11.130.145 does not regain custody.

If the department has a reasonable basis to believe that a person has transferred or will transfer custody of a child in violation of § 26.38.110, the department must respond in accordance with chapter 74.13 (child welfare services).

If the department provides a child protective services response in accordance with chapter 26.44 for a child adopted or placed through an intercountry adoption, the department shall do the following:

  • Prepare a report on the child's welfare and plan for the child's permanent placement
  • Provide a copy of the report to the U.S. Department of State

To prevent child abuse or neglect, the department may disclose to the U.S. Department of State only those confidential child welfare records that may assist the U.S. Department of State in informing the child's country of origin that the custody of the child has been transferred in an unregulated custody transfer and describing the child's welfare and plan for permanent placement of the child.

This chapter does not prevent the department from taking any appropriate action to protect the welfare of the child.