Deciding to build your family through adoption can be a daunting process. Do you pursue domestic, international, or foster care adoption? Whatever your path, the questions of who can adopt, who can be adopted, how to adopt, and how to afford adoption, remains the same. If you live in the Lone Star State, here is everything you need to know about adopting a child in Texas.
Where to Begin
The first step in building your family through adoption is to choose which type of adoption is right for you. In Texas there are three types of adoption possible: domestic, international, and foster. For families interested in adopting a child in Texas through domestic adoption, prospective adoptive parents must be 21 years or older, be in good mental and physical health, and able to provide a financially stable home. Applicants may be single or married, though many agencies list a minimum of two to three years of marriage. Prospective adoptive parents will work either with an agency or a facilitator to match with a birth mother. Families interested in international adoption must meet country requirements for age, marital status, health, and financial means. Children available for intercountry adoption are typically special needs and range from a few months old to 18 years of age. Sibling groups are possible depending on the country of choice. Interested in fostering to adopt? There are approximately 30,000 children in the Texas foster care system, 25% of whom are available for adoption. For adoption from foster care, the requirements to adopt are similar to those with domestic adoption, and the children available for placement range from infants to 18 with sibling groups possible.
Finding a Professional
The next step to adopting a child in Texas is to find the right professional. For domestic or private adoptions, families will use a lawyer or a local or national agency. There are pros and cons to working with an adoption agency versus an adoption lawyer, so be sure to weigh both sides. Families pursuing international adoption must work with an accredited agency per the Hague Convention on international adoption. Families adopting from foster care will work directly with the Texas Adoption Resources Exchange but will need an adoption attorney to finalize the adoption in court. Remember, when selecting an adoption professional, it’s important to ask the right questions to find the best fit both for your family and the type of adoption you are pursuing.
Regardless of the type of adoption a family is pursuing, the process of adopting a child in Texas begins with a home study. A home study is a compilation of documents, references, and background checks about the family and about the type of child they would like to adopt. During the home study, prospective adoptive parents will meet with a state-licensed social worker and undergo a number of hours of educational training. Training subjects vary depending on the type of adoption you are pursuing. Child Protective Services require 16 hours of training, the Hague Convention (for international adoptions) requires 20 hours, and families fostering to adopt will undergo 35 hours of training through the state run Texas PRIDE.
Once home study and educational requirements are met, prospective adoptive parents are eligible to be matched with a child. In Texas, it is illegal for adoptive parents to advertise directly to birth mothers, so families adopting a child in Texas through domestic adoption must use a lawyer, a local or national adoption agency, or a facilitator. It is important to note that facilitators may advertise but may not be involved in the placement of children. Families matched with a birth mother will have their lawyer or agency help navigate if the adoption will be open or closed, birth mother expenses, relinquishment, and post-placement requirements. Families pursuing international adoption will need to complete a country-specific dossier then wait to receive a referral for a child. Upon receiving a referral, a family will decide whether or not to accept the match. If a family accepts the match, they will work with their agency to complete the acceptance paperwork and visas so they may travel to meet their child. Only Hague accredited adoption agencies may facilitate international adoptions. Fostering to adopt families can search for waiting children through the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange or from photolistings. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services will walk families through the foster care process, but families will need a state licensed attorney to complete the adoption.
Families adopting a child in Texas through domestic adoption will need to wait a minimum of 48 hours after the birth of the child to receive consent from the birth mother. Consent must be signed in the presence of two witnesses and verified. After consent is given, the birth parents have ten days to revoke their decision. After ten days, the consent becomes irrevocable unless evidence of fraud or duress is presented to a court. If the birth father is unknown, he has 31 days after the birth of the child to register via the Putative Father Registry in Texas. With international adoption, the adoption itself is sometimes completed in a local, domestic court. Some countries and some states/provinces within the country, require the adoptive parents to be present for the court date. When the time comes to travel, families can expect to meet their child, sign court documents, and undergo the last steps of the visa process to bring their child back to the United States. Both the family’s agency and the country’s central adoption authority will help walk families through this process. Upon entry to the United States, the child will become a U.S. citizen. For families adopting from foster care, if the child is a waiting child (such as from the photolistings), a state licensed attorney will be needed to complete the adoption in court. If a family is fostering in the hopes of adopting, but the child has not been ruled legally free to adopt, then parental rights must be terminated before any adoption proceedings commence.
Finalizing the Adoption
In domestic and foster adoption, once consent is given, the adoptive family gains custody of the child. Families adopting a child in Texas who live in Texas may then return home. If the adoptive parents live out of state, they must wait until their ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) clearance is obtained. In the following six months, families will have several post-placement visits with their social worker. The purpose of these visits is to assess how the child and new family are adjusting and to offer support as needed. Upon completing post-placement reporting, families will work with their agency and/or adoption attorney to submit documents to the courts to finalize the adoption. The process to finalize the adoption is the same if a family lives in or out of state.
For families who adopt internationally, typically the adoption is finalized while in-country. In some countries, such as South Korea, the adoption is not finalized while in-country, so families need to work with an adoption attorney to readopt their child upon returning home. Regardless of the child’s country of origin, readoption may still be a good idea as then the child will have a state-certified certificate of foreign birth. Post-reporting in international adoption can last anywhere from two years to the time the child is 18. It is important to be sure to complete post-placement reports on time as this ensures the sending countries of the safety and well-being of their children.
Building your family through adoption is wonderful, but it can be expensive. For families adopting a child in Texas through domestic adoption, costs range from $20,000-$30,000 on average. Costs include agency fees, legal fees, advertising fees, and birth mother expenses. Birth mother expenses may include medical and health costs, counseling, and legal fees. In Texas, only an agency may pay for a birth mother’s living expenses. International adoptions run between $25,000-$50,000, depending on the child’s country of origin. These costs include agency fees, visa fees, domestic (in-country) fees, orphanage donations, and travel. For families adopting from foster care, there is only the cost of legal fees, but the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services offers a reimbursement of up to $1,200 per adoption.
But there is good news: thanks to the 2013 adoption tax credit, families can claim $13,810 per child for qualified adoption expenses. For families adopting domestically or from foster care, they may claim the credit one year after an expense was incurred. Even if the adoption is unsuccessful, the credit may still be claimed. For families adopting internationally, the credit can only be claimed in the year, or after the year, in which the child’s adoption was finalized. And don’t forget there are a number of grants available for families looking to adopt as well as numerous fundraising opportunities.
Have you experienced adopting a child in Texas? Did you choose domestic, international, or foster care? Any tips or advice you can share?