Located in the southeastern United States, Florida is home to the longest continuous coastline: 1,197 miles. With the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, Florida boasts 825 miles of accessible beach area. Florida also enjoys being the southernmost point of the United States, in Key West. Florida is rich with everglades, thriving cities like Miami, and of course theme parks.
If you are living in Florida and find yourself unexpectedly expecting, the white sands of Florida’s beaches are likely the last thing on your mind. Facing an unplanned pregnancy is scary and life-altering, but it is also something that thousands of people in the United States experience every year. When you have an unplanned pregnancy you essentially have three options: you may choose to terminate the pregnancy, you may choose to parent the child, or you may choose to place the child for adoption.
If you are considering placing a child for adoption, you will want to gather as much information as possible so you can make an informed decision. This article is a great first step as it will guide you through the top five things you should know about FL adoption.
1. There Are Six Different Types of Adoption
In the state of Florida, there are six different types of adoption. The most common form of FL adoption is domestic adoption. As an expectant parent, this is likely the option you are exploring. In domestic adoption, expectant parents choose a prospective adoptive family or an agency with whom to place their child. Both the expectant parents and the adoptive parents reside within the United States and often they communicate with one another in the lead up to the birth of the child.
International adoption is another type of adoption popular in Florida, wherein the adoptive parents choose to adopt a child from another country. Adoption does happen from the United States to other countries, but as an expectant parent, you are unable to place internationally due to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption.
Adoption from foster care is also common in Florida, and at any given time there are roughly 19,000 children in foster care in Florida, approximately 20% of whom have had their parents’ rights terminated.
As an expectant parent, you may also be considering kinship adoption, which is when the child is adopted by a biological member of the expectant parents’ family. Like other forms of adoption, kinship adoption is a legal transaction so even though you are family, attorneys who specialize in adoption must be involved and the adoption will be finalized in a court of law.
2. You Can Choose to Work with an Agency
For most expectant parents in Florida, figuring out where and how to begin the FL adoption process can be overwhelming. By definition, adoption is the legal termination of the birth parents’ rights and the granting of those rights to the adoptive parents. Because adoption is a legal transaction, it must involve attorneys and a court of law. As the expectant parent, you should receive counseling to help support you in your pregnancy journey and decision-making process. The process of adoption can be complicated, which is why working with a good adoption agency can be instrumental in creating your adoption plan.
That said, in Florida, it is possible to pursue an independent adoption. Independent adoption is adoption which takes place without the use of an adoption agency. In typical independent adoptions, an adoption facilitator will identify the expectant parents and then match the expectant parents with the prospective adoptive parents. Some people find that independent adoptions allow for more communication between the expectant parents and the prospective adoptive parents, but a good adoption agency can facilitate this as well.
The benefit of working with an adoption agency is that often that agency’s reach is greater than an adoption facilitator. Large national adoption agencies, like The Gladney Center for Adoption, are able to connect you with hundreds of prospective adoptive parents across the United States so that you may find the best placement for your child. Additionally, adoption agencies have the benefit of counselors on hand 24/7 to support you and can even offer financial and medical support and educational and vocational guidance post-placement.
When exploring adoption agencies, be sure to ask any and all questions you may have. What kind of support do they offer during your pregnancy? Is someone available to talk to you whenever you might need them? What about post-placement? How many placements did the adoption agency complete last year? How does the agency find prospective adoptive parents? How will the agency support you in fostering a relationship with the prospective adoptive parents? What happens if you choose to parent? What kind of support might be available to you then?
Remember, you should never feel pressured to make any decision that does not feel right to you.
3. You Can Choose an Adoptive Family…Or Not
For any expectant parents considering FL adoption, a common question is: Can you choose an adoptive family for your child. The answer is absolutely yes. But only if you want. For some expectant parents, choosing a family for their child may be overwhelming. In these instances, the expectant parents may choose to have the adoption agency choose the adoptive parents and pursue a closed adoption. In closed adoptions, the adoptee knows they are adopted but does not know who the birth parents are. Closed adoptions used to be more common, but in recent years semi-open and open adoptions have become the norm.
In semi-open and open adoptions, the birth parents and the adoptive parents maintain ongoing contact. This contact may come in the form of letters, emails, phone calls, virtual gatherings, or in-person meetings. There is no right or wrong way to have an open or semi-open adoption and no two adoption arrangements are the same. As an expectant parent in Florida, you should know that post-adoption contact contracts are legally enforceable so it is a good idea to work with your adoption attorney to create the post-adoption contact plan that is best for you.
Deciding on your level of openness post-placement is a good first step in finding the right adoptive parents for your child. When choosing a family there are many factors to consider. Is it important that your child lives close to you geographically, or are you open to anywhere in the United States? Do you envision your child growing up in the city, the suburbs, or a rural setting? What interests do you have? Do you like to paint, sing, or play soccer? Is it important for you that your child is exposed to your same interests? Is religion important to you? What about race or ethnicity?
One of the beauties of working with an adoption agency is that you are able to view hundreds of prospective adoptive parent profiles online. Take some time and read through them, view their photos, and watch their videos. Who speaks to you? Know that any prospective adoptive parent who has an active profile on an adoption agency website has completed a valid home study and has passed their child abuse and neglect clearances.
The home study process is designed for prospective adoptive parents to examine their motivations for adoption and what they hope life for the adoptive child will look like with them. As an expectant parent, these insights can be a great window to your child’s prospective life with those adoptive parents.
4. It Will Not Cost You Anything
For expectant parents, another common concern is what it costs to place a child for adoption. The answer is absolutely nothing. As the expectant parent, your legal fees, counseling fees, medical fees, and reasonable living expenses will be reimbursed by either the adoption agency, the prospective adoptive parents, or both. In Florida, it is possible to receive reimbursement for rent, utilities, food, clothing, and transportation during your pregnancy. Additionally, should you not be able to work or be underemployed because of your pregnancy, you may be reimbursed for lost wages. Medical expenses not covered by insurance or Medicaid will be reimbursed as well. Expenses may be paid at any time during your pregnancy and up to six weeks after your delivery.
It is important to use the reimbursement and expenses as it is illegal for anyone to pay to adopt a child. All expenses paid and reimbursed must be submitted to the court prior to the adoption being finalized. Most adoption agencies will keep track of all these expenses and/or will have your adoption attorney submit these to the court. And if you choose to parent your child, that is okay too. You will not be responsible to reimburse the prospective adoptive parents or the adoption agency should you make that decision.
5. You Must Consent to the Adoption
Adoption is a legally binding event. Adoption is a permanent action, and as such you have every right to change your mind at any time. Because the birth of a child involves two parents, both parents must consent to the adoption in the state of Florida. If you know the expectant father, having the conversation that you are pregnant and want to place your child can be difficult. Know your adoption agency and counselor are there to help you through this time. If for any reason you feel emotionally or physically unsafe having the conversation by yourself, someone in your support system, your counselor, or your adoption attorney may be present as well. If even with a third party present, you feel unsafe then your adoption attorney may have the conversation on your behalf and/or notify the expectant father of your decision.
If the expectant father is unknown, then your adoption agency or adoption attorney will inquire into Florida’s putative father registry. If the father is found, he will be notified of his paternity and given 60 days to state that he would like to parent the child. If the father does not come forward or is not found, then his paternity shall be ruled null and void, and the adoption may proceed without his consent.
When it comes time to deliver, it will be an emotionally and physically exhausting day. Your adoption agency and counselor can help you walk through your hospital plan in advance so that everyone will know your wishes, including the staff at the hospital. Once you give birth, you will have to wait 48 hours to consent to the adoption. If the birth father is present, he may legally give consent to the adoption at any time after the birth of the child.
During those 48 hours, you are still legally the guardian of your child and may make decisions on your child’s behalf accordingly. If at the end of the 48 hours you decide to parent, that is okay. Your agency and counselor will be able to provide you some resources within the community for support. If after 48 hours you choose to place your child, then you will officially become a birth parent and your life as a member of the adoption triad will begin. Upon consent to the adoption, the adoption becomes legally binding and may only be withdrawn if the court finds that consent is given under fraud or duress.
When you are expecting unexpectedly in Florida it can be very difficult. Finding your footing may take some time, but know that by considering adoption you are making a loving choice both for yourself and your child. There are many reasons you may choose not to parent. It may be the wrong time in your life, or you may be with the wrong partner, or you may already have children. Whatever the reason, know you are not alone. Know that others have walked this path and joined the ranks of incredible birth parents. Know you will find support in their voices. Adoption is a loving, selfless gift both to your child, to the adoptive parents, and to yourself.
Photo by David Masemore