13 Things to Know About FL Adoption

You are interested in growing your family through adoption–now what? There are a lot of things to consider when you are looking to adopt a child in Florida. The first decision to make is whether or not you will adopt through foster care or private adoption. Here is some information about FL adoption.

1. Foster Care

Foster care is a great resource for providing children safe and loving homes. The Florida Department of Children and Families is responsible for the foster care program in Florida. A child enters the foster system due to abuse, neglect, and/or parental abandonment. A foster home is a safe place for children to live while their parents and get help and support when they need to get back on their feet. The goal of foster care is to provide a safe, loving, and supporting home for children. The state also works with parents for the goal of reunification, if that is in the best interest of the child.

When considering adoption through foster care, there are a few things to consider. First of all, children who are legally available for adoption are usually a bit older. If you are interested in adopting an infant, it is very unlikely that you will find an infant available for adoption through foster care. It does happen where foster parents end up adopting their foster children. Birth parents work with caseworkers under the jurisdiction of a judge to create a service plan. This service plan outlines the steps needed to regain custody. The decision is ultimately up to the judge if rights will be terminated or not.

In Florida, there are 5 levels of foster care. Level I is for relatives and non-relatives who have an existing relationship with the child they are hoping to care for. Level II is for a non-child specific foster home for individuals in the community who may be interested in fostering. Level III is specifically for individuals interested in providing a safe and stable environment for victims of human trafficking. Level IV is designed for caregivers who have received specialized training to care for a wide variety of children and adolescents who may have significant emotional, behavioral, or social needs. Finally, Level V is licensing for caregivers who have received specialized training to provide care for children and adolescents with chronic medical conditions.

The first thing you want to do when considering FL adoption from foster care is to call Florida’s Adoption Information Center. They will connect you with an adoption worker that will help you with your next steps. After getting in contact with an adoption worker, you will participate in an orientation that will introduce foster care to you and give you a little more insight into the adoption process. After this, you will go through a series of trainings to prepare you to be a foster parent. These trainings include appropriate discipline techniques, how to care for children who have experienced trauma, and emergency care ( this includes first aid, CPR, and how to document medicine intake). 

The next important step, which is necessary for any adoption, is a home study. A home study is a full assessment of you, your family, and your home. The social worker will send you an intake packet full of questions about you, your childhood, marriage, relationships, religion, parenting and discipline beliefs, finances, pets, employment, and just about anything else you can think of. Your caseworker will come to your home, discuss all of the different areas of your life, inspect your house for safety, and make sure there is sufficient room for a child. The social worker will then write up the home study into a report that can give other social workers an overview of you and your family. An important component to the home study is identifying the type of child you are comfortable with. This will influence which level of foster adoption you will be licensed for. Things to consider include age, race, gender, and level of disability for the child. If you are hoping to adopt rather than exclusively foster, you will also need to specify that during your home study. After receiving approval from your caseworker, you will look for a hopeful match. 

Matching in Foster Care

Fl adoption from foster care is different than other states in that hopeful adoptive families play a big part in the matching process. In Florida, after “your home study is completed, you may attend recruitment activities including the picnics or events when foster children who are available for adoption are in attendance.” You can also look online at the available waiting children in Florida. If you find a child or children that you are interested in, you can ask your caseworker for more information. 

A lot of families prepare a profile for children to look through to learn more about the family and home that they might join. If the child is comfortable and the caseworker feels like it is a good match, short visits will be coordinated for the hopeful adoptive family and the child(ren) to get to know each other. As things go well and bonds are formed, more visits are scheduled. Eventually, extended and overnight visits will take place. Once the caseworker and the child feel comfortable with placement, then the placement will occur. There is not a set time for this transition to take place.

After the child is placed in the home, the caseworker will visit monthly to ensure that the child and family are adjusting. The caseworker might also suggest and provide resources, therapies, and other support to help the family and child’s transition go smoothly. After a minimum of 6 months, the adoption is finalized.

Adoption from foster care has a lot of benefits. Post-adoption support is a huge benefit for choosing Fl adoption through foster care. Children receive Medicaid until they are 18, receive monthly financial support through Florida’s Adoption Assistance Program, and the child will receive free college tuition to any Florida university, vocational school, or community college until the age of 28. There is a large community of support to be found when adopting from foster care.

2. Private Adoption Process

There are many similarities between private adoption and adoption from foster care in Florida. When thinking about private adoption in Florida, here are a few things to consider.

3. Who is able to adopt in Florida?

In Florida, a husband and wife can adopt together, an unmarried adult, and LGBT couples can adopt individually. In this case, LGBT couples can adopt individually, but same-sex couples may not adopt together as a couple.

4. Who is eligible to be adopted in Florida?

Any minor is eligible for adoption. A child 12 or older must grant permission to be adopted.

5. Who is allowed to assist with adoptions?

In Florida, it is illegal for an adoption facilitator or paid intermediary to assist in the adoption process. Only an attorney or licensed adoption agency is allowed to receive payment to assist in placing a child for adoption.

6. How are independent and agency adoptions different?

When completing an independent adoption, you will work directly with an attorney. Oftentimes, the fees associated with the adoption are lower in this process. However, when working with an adoption agency, there is a lot more support for the birth family, especially the birth mother, and the hopeful adoptive family. One of the biggest advantages to working with an adoption agency is the counseling that is available for the birth mother. 

7. Is a home study required to adopt privately in Florida?

Yes, a home study is required to adopt privately in Florida. With the help of a caseworker, hopeful adoptive families will complete a home study. The home study covers a range of information about the hopeful adoptive family. The home study is very similar to a home study done through foster care adoptions. The major difference is that the fee for this home study is out of pocket.

Adoptive families usually have the same caseworker that they used for their home study come to their home for post-placement visits. These visits are done every thirty days until the adoption is finalized. The purpose of post-placement visits is to ensure the health and safety of the baby, follow up on how bonding is going, and discuss and issues that might be related to the adoption process. The first home visit must be done within a week of bringing the child home. Reports from the post-placement visits are used in court at finalization. 

8. What are Florida laws associated with birth fathers?

Legal birth fathers are to be notified of the expected birth of the child. According to Florida law, the birth mother is responsible for filing an affidavit highlighting any and all details that she knows about the biological father. The adoption entity (attorney or agency) will search the Florida Putative Father Registry and to its best to locate the father. 

If an unmarried birth father’s involvement is not existent and/or identified in a timely manner, the decisions of the mother, child, and adoptive parents supersede those of the birth father should he make a decision at the end of the adoption plan. It is the responsibility of the unmarried birth father to claim paternity with the Florida Putative Father Registry maintained by the Office of Vital Statistics. With this, he will be required to commit to support the birth mother and child. If this isn’t done in a timely manner, his consent will not be required. 

9. How long does the birth mom have to decide to sign legal documents required for the adoption of her child?

In Florida, the birth mom has forty-eight hours after the birth of the baby or forty-eight hours after she has been notified in writing that she is fit to be released from the hospital, whichever is earlier. Before forty-eight hours, the birth mom can decide to parent. The birth mother is unable to change her mind after the signing of legal documents unless it is found that she was forced to sign the original documents under fraud or duress.

10. Is open adoption an option in Florida?

Yes, open adoption is legal and encouraged in Florida. Before the baby is placed with the adopted parents, both the birth family and adoptive family agree on a plan for the open adoption. If the agreement changes later in the child’s life, it must be in the best interest of the child and approved in court.

11. How long does it take to finalize an adoption in Florida?

Finalization cannot happen any sooner than ninety dates from when the adopted child is placed in physical custody of the adoptive parents. 

12. Is it possible for an adoptee to have access to his/her adoption file?

Once the adoption is finalized, the adoption file is sealed. If the adoptee is part of an open adoption, finding information about the child’s history is much easier. If the adoptee knows where or who facilitated the adoption, he/she can register on the Florida Adoption Reunion Registry or request information from the Florida Post Adoption Services Unit.

13. Adoption Agency in Florida

The Gladney Center for Adoption has a location in Brandon, Florida and provides great resources for hopeful adoptive families as well as expecting families looking to place their child/children for adoption. Gladney offers a range of services for birth families including counseling, rest and respite, medical care, financial support, legal services, living at home, and support through your adoption. Counseling is provided for the birth family and the important people in their lives. With the help of qualified professionals and caseworkers, birth mothers can make the best decisions for their child with assistance and support. 

Gladney Center for Adoption will be with birth families every step of the way whether they choose to parent or to find a family to adopt their child. When working with Gladney, they are able to offer specific services and support as seen below.

  • you choose your baby’s parents
  • a customized adoption plan
  • contact with adoptive parents, if desired
  • prenatal support
  • rest & respite for women who are currently parenting a newborn infant or a toddler
  • financial assistance to help with pregnancy-related expenses allowed by state law
  • assistance with living arrangements as allowed by state law
  • one-on-one adoption counseling and support groups (if in your area) during and after pregnancy

To see all of their available resources, visit their website.