If you’re experiencing an unplanned pregnancy or difficult parenting circumstances, you may be wondering how adoption in Florida works. Making the choice between raising your baby or allowing someone else to raise him or her can seem like a daunting task. With adequate research, you can make the best, most-informed choice for your child and yourself. A great place to start when researching “adoption FL” is Adoption.com’s Adoption in Florida resource guide. It thoroughly explains state laws and regulations, lists Florida adoption agencies, and provides information prospective adoptive parents might need. If you would like additional details about this topic, you can read a comparable article on Adoption.org.

Adoption Agencies in Florida

Check out this list of adoption agencies in Florida and this directory of adoption agencies in the state. Adoption agencies are a wonderful place to begin your process. Adoption agencies are a great place to start asking questions and gleaning details about what adoption options you have—regardless of how certain you are to place your child for adoption. These agencies don’t push you to commit to them or even to the decision to place your child for adoption.

Deciding which agencies you should interview can seem like a big step. If you narrow your list down based on location and services provided (to both birth mothers and potentially prospective adoptive parents), you’ll have an easier time moving to the interviewing stage of the adoption process. Don’t assume all agencies are the same. They are not, so please do your research and make sure your questions are answered during the interview.

Adoption Attorneys in Florida

As an expectant parent, you may have also heard of the option to have an adoption attorney help you with your adoption plan. Many expectant parents like to use an adoption attorney instead of an adoption agency when they have identified a potential adoptive family or couple, and both members of the triad do not have an adoption agency with whom they are already using. This often happens when the birth mother connects with the potential adoptive couple due to a mutual connection or online photolistings.

You will need an attorney to help with your adoption, especially early on in the process after connecting with a prospective adoptive couple. You may be wondering, “can’t you just use your uncle who practices law? Or your best friend from [your] undergrad who just passed the bar? This seems like the one place you can use someone you know and trust”; however, very few attorneys practice adoption law exclusively, and you are not alone in thinking you can ask a general practitioner to help with your adoption (“4 Reasons You Need an ADOPTION Attorney to Finalize Your Adoption,” Adoption.com). Many birth mothers do just that. The problem arises when your nonspecialized attorney neglects to appropriately address all of the applicable laws regarding “adoption FL.” Adoption attorneys barred in Florida are specialized in understanding applicable adoption FL state laws, which usually govern most of the adoption, as well as all federal laws pertaining to adoption.

Choosing an Adoption Agency or Adoption Attorney in Florida

Most adoption agencies specializing in private domestic adoptions, and those who help support and facilitate the adoption for the birth mother, will especially offer many different services. These services will be specific for each member of the adoption triad: the birth mother (or birth parents), the child, and the prospective adoptive parents or family.

These services provided by each agency will differ, but most meet the requirements and regulations set within Florida. Adoption.org has an article on choosing great adoption agencies near you in Florida. An adoption agency, or adoption attorney if you decide to use a lawyer to facilitate and help finalize your adoption, can help you navigate the requirements and steps of the adoption journey. Fortunately, you will have help navigating Florida adoption laws throughout the process; you won’t have to learn about these laws all on your own.

However you plan to complete your adoption, it is important to ensure that you work with an ethical agency or adoption attorney who meets not only the standards imposed by Florida regulations, but also your standards. Trust your instincts. Trust the recommendations of your colleagues, friends, or family members who have gone through this process and completed an adoption. Do your research, know which questions to ask your adoption agency, and understand that agencies can provide as much information as possible, but circumstances in any adoption can change.

Who Can Adopt in Florida?

According to Florida adoption laws, single adults or married couples may jointly adopt the child you place for adoption. Previously, Florida prohibited lesbian or gay couples and individuals from adopting. However, in 2010, this law was ruled unconstitutional and was overturned.

All prospective adoptive parents must be approved by a Florida adoption home study agency to ensure their home is safe, and they have the proper education and preparation to adopt. Home studies needs to be done by licensed social workers or licensed adoption professionals in the state where the prospective adoptive parents’ live. Background and FBI checks will be done for each adult living in the house where the child will be placed. Interviews will also be done with with friends of the prospective adoptive parents, teachers who may be interacting with the child or other children already in the home, neighbors, and employers.

All collected information is reported with financial reports, driving histories, employment history, and medical exams and history—all the information you and the social worker will need to determine whether a prospective adoptive couple would be suitable future parents. This is all done to help you make your choice on an adoptive family that is safe and prepared to adopt your baby.

Once the home study is completed by the home study agency, your agency or adoption attorney will work with the prospective adoptive family on building their profile and photo pages for your viewing.

Next Steps Adoption in Florida As a Birth Mother

Many adoption agencies have a large number of prospective adoptive parents, with whom they are working, who want to build their family through adoption. Agencies can help you set up meetings with prospective adoptive parents so that you can choose your baby’s adoptive family yourself. Prospective adoptive parents often provide profiles and photos of them and their family history.

After selecting some sets of parents you would like to connect with, the agency will be an intermediary to enable the first conversation. They will work with you as you traverse along that path of meeting with and interviewing prospective parents, hopefully making the process as smooth and calm as they can.

Adoption agencies and attorneys can help you and the adoptive parents to figure out what birth mother costs will be covered for by the prospective parents. Florida law allows prospective adoptive parents to cover practical living expenses both during pregnancy and sometimes for as long as six weeks (maximum) after the delivery. However, this is usually only when the birth mother is unemployed, underemployed, or has diagnosed disabilities.

These costs typically cover pregnancy and postpartum-period induced medical expenses, counseling, housing payments, utilities, maternity clothing and supplies, transportation, and food. Your adoption agency or adoption attorney can help you understand what expenses could be covered. Your agency will stand by you every step of the way to help you communicate with the prospective adoptive family, create your birth and adoption plan, and complete required paperwork.

The adoption agency will notify the prospective parents (if you didn’t) when you go into labor. Whether or not you discussed it with the prospective adoptive parents, your birth plan documents your decision of when the adoptive parents would be contacted about labor and who would do it. Your agency or adoption attorney will make ensure the adoptive parents are informed of the plan.

After delivering, there are steps for the relinquishment paperwork and adoption finalization. You won’t be required to sign paperwork relinquishing parental rights immediately; there will be some time for you to be with your child after her or his birth. Some parents just want a few minutes alone, and others want and/or need many hours with their child before giving the adoptive parents full parental rights. There’s not a right or wrong way to go through the closure process; it is up to you, your discretion, your needs, and your feelings.

There is a law in Florida that states the adoption consent paperwork cannot be signed within 48 hours of delivery unless the birth mother is discharged by her doctor within 48 hours. In the event of a C-section, the wait could be a little longer. Your baby stays your child by law until you consent to the termination of your parental rights. The decision to sign relinquishment paperwork is yours; until you sign on the dotted line, you can still change your mind. Ask whatever questions you need or want to, and talk to people in your support group. You can even talk to your social workers who will likely be at the hospital to aid the process. Your right is to make sure placing your child for adoption is still the choice you want to carry through with.

After placement, you will start communicating the way all parties said they would during the interviewing and selecting part of the adoption process. This could mean you will get calls, photos, and visits. It could mean you will have less interaction. The amount and type of communication you get to send and receive is up to you before your baby’s birth. You may require pictures of milestones, regular letters, or in-person visits to your child. Some birth mothers request annual albums full of pictures. Other moms like casual phone calls expected each week or each month. Sometimes, mothers prefer a semi-open adoption where they may only receive letters from the adoptive family, without free-flowing communication from the adoptive parents. Besides open and semi-open adoption, the only other adoption type is closed adoption, and very few birth mothers and parents choose to have a closed adoption plan.

In Florida, closed adoptions are recognized and records for closed adoptions are sealed. Adoption records may be obtained by a court order, but any information about parties involved in the adoption (adoptee, adoptive parent(s), birth parent(s)) that could identify them probably won’t be released until the birth mother give disclosure consent in writing. But laws change, especially adoption laws. Perhaps one day sealed records will be free to be opened by any requesting party in the adoption triad.

After placing your baby for adoption, you might experience many emotions. You might feel sadness, grief, relief, confusion, or peace. Allowing friends, social workers, therapists, and loved ones support you is important. Taking time for yourself as you go through the process is crucial. Self-care and time will be needed.

As you embark on this adoption journey, doing research, counseling with social workers, hiring an adoption attorney or adoption agency, and comprehending all the steps involved in the adoption process will make it easier for you to take your first step.

If you would like to speak confidentially with an adoption professional about your pregnancy options, click here.