You may be finding yourself unexpectedly expecting a child and considering adoption. You may be wanting to build your family through the process of Florida adoption. As either a birth parent or a prospective adoptive parent, you are looking for more information on Florida adoption and this article and other Florida adoption guides. Right now it is important to gather as much information as possible on Florida adoption and the steps to complete an adoption in the state.
1. Find a Florida Adoption Service Provider
The first step on your Florida adoption journey is to find an adoption service provider in the state of Florida. An adoption service provider is a licensed adoption professional facilitating and completing Florida adoptions legally. An adoption service provider can be a private adoption agency, public adoption agency, adoption attorney, licensed home study provider, or licensed social worker in the state. An excellent place to begin is by reviewing a list of Adoption agencies in Florida. This directory of all adoption agencies in the state of Florida can help you narrow down the list of agencies to one short enough for you to make calls or set up meetings to have all of your questions answered. You may feel certain you wish to create an adoption plan for your baby or maybe you are just researching your options. You may know you want to build your family through Florida adoption or you may just be gathering information on the steps to adopt in Florida. Either way, it is okay to reach out to adoption agencies to get more information on their process, their fees, and whether they work with birth mothers or just adoptive families. You can ask if they do private infant adoption or intercountry adoption as well. You have no pressure to work with any agency at any time.
You may wonder about using an adoption attorney to help you with your adoption plan. Why would you need an adoption attorney instead of an adoption agency? An adoption attorney is helpful to use for your Florida adoption as your adoption service provider if you have already identified a hopeful adoptive family for your baby or have been matched as an adoptive family with a birth mother. An adoption attorney can help finalize the adoption and figure out birth mother expenses and help you with every step of the process. Again, this most often takes place when members of the adoption triad (hopeful adoptive parent, birth parents, and children) connect and are matched either from a mutual connection, online photolistings, church, or even social media.
How do you find an adoption attorney? Can you just use an attorney you know? Unfortunately, this is not the best idea. Florida adoption attorneys are barred in the state of Florida and are very specialized. They understand the intricacies of both the Florida adoption process, as well as the ever-changing laws and regulations within the state pertaining to adoption. You will want to only use an adoption attorney to avoid any pitfalls for what will be the most important decision you will ever make for you, your child and, your family.
Many adoption service providers, especially those that specialize in private infant adoptions both for the expectant parents and the adoptive parents, will offer different services for each member of the adoption triad. The services provided by each adoption attorney or adoption agency will be different but many are similar as they all must meet the specific requirements for Florida adoption. Your adoption service provider will help walk you through each step understanding what paperwork needs to be accomplished at each stage from the start of your adoption journey until the finish. It is never really finished. Adoption is a lifelong journey.
Whatever adoption service provider you choose to help you complete your Florida adoption, it is most critical that you work with both an ethical provider and one that you trust. Ask around from others who have completed a Florida adoption and recommendations from the adoption service provider from other families who have used them to complete their Florida adoption. Trust your heart and take others’ reviews at face value. Do enough research to know which questions to ask your adoption agency, and be sure any agency or adoption attorney you choose to interview provides you with all of the answers and information you need on Florida adoption.
2. Understand Who Can Adopt in Florida
Florida adoption regulations and laws allow for both married couples to adopt jointly or one spouse to adopt as in the case of a stepparent adoption when the other parent is the legal birth parent. Single individuals are also allowed to adopt in Florida. There is no age requirement for Florida adoption; however, your adoption service provider will likely have their own requirements in terms of a minimum and maximum age limit for Florida adoption.
Your adoption service provider will also likely have requirements for the number of divorces you may have, how long you may have been married, if you are living with a domestic partner (who is not adopting the child), financial requirements, and education.
All prospective adoptive parents must be approved by an adoption home study completed in the adoptive parents home state, whether that home state is Florida or another state. The adoption home study report includes background checks for every state in which each adult has lived since they were 18 years of age and FBI fingerprint checks for every adult in the home. The adoptive family home will be checked out and toured by the licensed social worker from the adoption agency completing the home study report. The social worker will also interview the adoptive parents and ask for recommendations from others in their lives. They will also collect financial records, medical records, birth certificates, driving records, and employment history. The purpose is to ensure the couple or individual choosing to build their family through adoption can provide a safe and loving forever home. All of this information will be compiled in a report with financials, driving records, employment history, medical exams, and medical history. This will be helpful as an expectant parent as you make your final decision on your baby’s adoptive family.
3. Finalizing a Florida Adoption
After you have chosen an adoption service provider to help complete your Florida adoption, ensure you are eligible to adopt if you are a hopeful adoptive parent and complete a home study. There are more steps before you can finalize the adoption as a birth parent and a hopeful adoptive parent.
You will now work through what adoption expenses can be covered by the prospective adoptive parents for the expectant mother. The state of Florida wants to ensure that the adoption does not cost the birth mother anything. Florida adoption regulations allow for the hopeful adoptive parents to reimburse or pay for certain medical expenses and sometimes living expenses for the birth mother during the pregnancy. Your adoption service provider will walk you through what is allowed and what expenses can not be covered. Please note that if the birth mother changes her mind about the adoption at any time, she is in no way obligated to sign adoption consent paperwork. She can change her mind and create a parenting plan for her baby at any time.
When it is time for the baby to be born and the birth mother goes into labor, the adoption service provider will inform the hopeful adoptive parents unless an agreement on communication was discussed prior and the birth mother contacts them directly. Oftentimes, the birth mother will create a birth plan so that her adoption social worker can explain her wishes during both the birth and recovery for her and the baby. The birth plan may discuss who she would like in the room with her during labor, when the adoptive parents can meet the baby, and how long she would like to bond with the baby after the birth.
After the baby is born, Florida adoption laws impose a 48-hour period of time from the birth until when the birth mother can sign the adoption consent paperwork relinquishing her parental rights to the baby. Once the adoption consent paperwork is signed, it is not revocable and she can not change her mind. The birth father can sign the adoption consent paperwork, however, at any time before the birth during the pregnancy. A birth mother can take more than 48 hours to make her final decision. She may want more time to recover before signing or more time to bond with the baby and make legal decisions for the baby which is her right until the paperwork is signed. If a birth mother is placing a baby for adoption over the age of 6 months, she does not have a waiting time before signing any adoption consent paperwork. However, if the child is over 6 months, the mother does have three business days to reverse her decision to place her child for adoption.
Once the adoption paperwork is signed the baby is legally placed with the hopeful adoptive parents. The expectant mother now becomes the birth mother in the adoption triad and the hopeful adoptive parents become adoptive parents and the full legal parents of the child. This is the time when whatever decision was made regarding the level of communication between the adoptive parents and the birth mother begins. They may have decided to have a fully open adoption; that is to say, they may visit, call often, and write letters. The birth mother may even play an active role in the child’s life. Some birth mothers prefer a semi-open adoption where she may call every few months or just receive emails of milestones or a photo scrapbook once a year. There is no right or wrong answer to whatever is decided by the birth mother and papered by the adoption service provider before the baby is born and the adoption is finalized.
It is rare for birth mothers to decide on a closed adoption. A closed adoption means that the birth mother’s identity and the adoptive parents’ and child’s identity are kept from one another. Closed Florida adoptions also ensure that all adoption records are sealed. Adoption professionals and those in the counseling sector recognize that research shows that all members of the adoption triad thrive when there is some level of openness in the adoption. Birth mothers are asked to provide a medical history for the child’s future reference. It is important to understand that even if the records are sealed today, they may not always be sealed. Adoption laws change and if Florida adoption laws and regulations around sealed adoption records change it means that identities of all members of the adoption triad could be easily accessible in the future. It is important to discuss your options for openness or closed adoptions with your adoption agency or adoption attorney at the beginning of the process as a birth mother. It will be helpful as you are matched with an adoptive family who desires the same level of openness in the adoption relationship.
The adoption journey and relationship is a lifelong one. Even after the adoption consent paperwork has been signed and the baby goes home with their adoptive parents, everyone may be feeling emotions which may be very different in a week, a month, a year, or 5 years. Adoption is a lifelong commitment, a lifelong journey; understanding that Florida adoption will lead to a lot of emotions during the process and after the adoption is complete is important. Self-care during the journey is critical. Recognizing your emotions and accepting them for what they are helps as well. Finding a support system of individuals who understand and may have also walked through this journey is super helpful. Finding a great counselor who specializes in adoption is also important. Be kind to yourself. Although adoption is a journey of ups and downs, the end product is beautiful and worthwhile.