Code of the District of Columbia

§ 4–1406. Parental rights; termination or relinquishment; vesting in agencies or Mayor; exercise in adoption proceedings.

(a)(1) Whenever a licensed child-placing agency shall have been given the permanent care and guardianship of any child and the rights of the parent or parents of such child have been terminated by order of the court of competent jurisdiction or by a legally executed relinquishment of parental rights, the agency is vested with parental rights and may consent to the adoption of the child pursuant to the statutes regulating adoption procedure. Minority of a natural parent shall not be a bar to such parent’s relinquishment to a licensed agency.

(2) For purposes of this section, “licensed child-placing agency” shall mean any child-placing agency licensed pursuant to this chapter or any child-placing agency licensed or authorized by any state, territory, or possession of the United States, by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or by any foreign country or any state, province or other governmental division of any foreign country for the care and placement of minors.

(b) Repealed.

(c) Any relinquishment of parental rights executed by a single natural parent or by both natural parents, other than by court order as provided in this subsection, may be automatically revoked by a verified writing executed by the single parent or both parents respectively and submitted to the agency within 14 calendar days of executing a legal relinquishment. Where both natural parents execute a relinquishment of parental rights, other than by court order, either parent may automatically revoke his or her relinquishment of parental rights by executing a verified writing submitted to the agency within 14 calendar days of executing the relinquishment. The rights of the parent not seeking custody shall be terminated and such parent shall not have the power to obstruct the revocation. If the 14th day falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the deadlines for filing the revocation shall be extended to the next working day. No relinquishment of parental rights shall be considered final until the revocation period has expired with no revocation having been made by the natural parent. Automatic revocation of relinquishment can be exercised only once.

(d) A waiting period of 30 days from the date of revocation of the first relinquishment shall expire before a second relinquishment can be executed. A relinquishment, if exercised a second time, shall be irrevocable, unless an additional right to revoke is granted by court order upon a finding by the court that the relinquishment was not given voluntarily, e.g., the relinquishment was induced by fraud, coercion, material mistake or other factors that bear on a determination of voluntariness.

(e) Any relinquishment of parental rights and revocation thereof may be transferred from one licensed child-placing agency to another child-placing agency in which case the second agency shall assume all the rights and duties of the first agency.

(f) Except in proceedings for adoption, no parent may voluntarily assign or otherwise transfer to another his rights and duties with respect to the permanent care and control of a child under 16 years of age, unless such relinquishment of parental rights is made to a licensed child-placing agency. Such relinquishment of parental rights shall be a statement in writing signed by the person relinquishing such parental rights who shall subscribe his name thereto and acknowledge the same before a representative of the licensed child-placing agency in the presence of at least 1 witness. Each transfer or relinquishment of parental rights and any revocation of said relinquishment shall be recorded and filed by the child-placing agency in a properly sealed file in the Family Division of the Superior Court for the District of Columbia within 20 days after the expiration of the revocation period. Any subsequent relinquishment shall be filed by the child-placing agency in a properly sealed file in the Family Division of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia within 30 days after the date of relinquishment. The seal of said file shall not be broken except for good cause shown and upon the written order of a judge of said Court.

(g) The relinquishment form used by the child-placing agency shall contain the following notice to the parent in clear and conspicuous language:

(1) Notice to the relinquishing parent of the parent’s automatic right of revocation within 14 calendar days from the date of relinquishment;

(2) Notice that a relinquishment if exercised a second time shall be irrevocable;

(3) Notice that the child-placing agency has a statutory obligation to file all notices of the relinquishment and revocation thereof with the Superior Court for the District of Columbia.

(h) Relinquishing parents shall be orally advised of their rights as described in subsection (g) of this section. The child-placing agency shall orally advise the relinquishing parent as to the nature and consequences resulting from the execution of the relinquishment document prior to relinquishment.

(i) The Mayor or his designated agents are empowered to accept permanent care and guardianship of any child by a legally executed relinquishment of parental rights and when vested with such parental rights shall exercise them in the same manner as prescribed herein for a licensed child-placing agency. Such parental relinquishment taken by the Mayor or his designated agents shall be subject to the same rights and requirements as to form, transfer, and disposition as are prescribed herein for a licensed child-placing agency.


(Apr. 22, 1944, 58 Stat. 194, ch. 174, § 6; June 8, 1954, 68 Stat. 248, ch. 273, § 5; Apr. 11, 1956, 70 Stat. 113, ch. 204, § 107(c); Aug. 21, 1959, 73 Stat. 413, Pub. L. 86-177, § 1; July 8, 1963, 77 Stat. 77, Pub. L. 88-60, § 1; July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 578, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 159(i); Apr. 23, 1980, D.C. Law 3-59, § 2(a), 27 DCR 983; Apr. 4, 1984, D.C. Law 5-72, §§ 2, 3, 31 DCR 732; Sept. 24, 2010, D.C. Law 18-230, § 201(c), 57 DCR 6951; May 2, 2015, D.C. Law 20-269, § 2(a), 62 DCR 1551.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 32-1007.

1973 Ed., § 32-786.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 4-114, § 4-301, § 4-302, § 4-342, § 4-1451.05, and § 16-304.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 18-230 repealed subsec. (b); and, in subsec. (c), substituted “14” for “10” in two places and substituted “14th day” for “10th day”. Prior to repeal, subsec. (b) read as follows: “(b) No relinquishment of parental rights shall be made within the first 72 hours after birth. Prior to any relinquishment any corporation, association, or public agency that conducts a licensed child-placing agency shall provide counseling, by a professional social worker, to the relinquishing parent regarding the alternative services available in addition to psychological and emotional counseling to both the parent and the child.”

The 2015 amendment by D.C. Law 20-269 substituted “14 calendar days” for “10 calendar days” in (g)(1).

Cross References

Public welfare supervision, adoption subsidy payments, see § 4-301.

Public welfare supervision, dependent children, mayor powers regarding custody, placement, and adoption, see § 4-302.

Public welfare supervision, powers of mayor over dependent children, see § 4-114.

Family court, original jurisdiction, see § 11-1101.

References in Text

The reference to “this subsection,” in the first sentence in subsection (c), does not reflect the amendment of this section by D.C. Law 5-72. The reference should probably now read “subsection (a) of this section.”.