Deciding to place your child for adoption in Florida or to adopt a child from Florida is a very big decision. Understanding the various steps, regulations, and requirements to pursue adoption in Florida is critical before you take the first step. Adoption in Florida is similar to adoption requirements in other states; however, there are some differences that are important to understand as you move forward.
Who Can Adopt in Florida?
Every person who decides to complete an adoption in Florida must meet certain criteria of requirements in order to legally adopt a child. As a birth mother or adoptive parent, many of these requirements may seem obvious. But, there are some you may not have thought of before.
Florida laws on adoption allow for single adults or married couples to adopt a child in Florida. Most agencies will have their own requirements on age (minimum and maximum). Before 2010, gay, lesbian, and bisexual prospective adoptive parents were unable to adopt, but that law as since been overturned.
The prospective adoptive family will need to complete a Florida adoption home study in order to be deemed qualified to adopt a child in Florida. The home study will include background checks on every person over the age of 12 in the home. They will also need to complete FBI fingerprint checks. The home study will include interviews with the adults and children in the home. It will include a tour of the home by a licensed social worker who will determine whether the home is fit for a child in terms of space, safety, and childproofing measures. The home study will determine if the adoptive parents are sufficiently healthy physically, emotionally, and financially to adopt a child. If they are a faith-based agency, they may require the adoptive family to get letters from their house of worship and be spiritually healthy as well. The home study will include letters of recommendation from friends and teachers of any children in the home, as well as medical records, driving records, and birth certificates. It is a lengthy process to ensure the prospective adoptive family is prepared and safe to raise another child. This will give birth parents peace of mind as they make a decision on placing their baby for adoption in Florida.
Adoption from Foster Care in Florida
Prospective families who are interested in becoming a foster parent in order to complete an adoption in Florida must understand the process of adoption from foster care specific to the state of Florida. A prospective adoptive parent will be diligently working with the individuals in the child’s life, like a court ad litem, CASA workers, social workers, teachers, and counselors to see if everything is being done to reunite the child with his or her biological family. Sometimes, however, this is not possible. Understand that prospective adoptive parents may have an opportunity to adopt their child through foster care in Florida, but it may not always work out that way. Children who are not able to return to their biological families for numerous reasons may be eligible for adoption in Florida. Others may age out of the foster care system without ever joining a forever family. Prospective adoptive parents can play an important role in the child’s life to ensure they have permanency. It is also important to understand some other risks, such as the likelihood and danger of foster children who run away from their foster home. If you are interested in adopting a child in Florida through the foster care system, parents can begin by looking at photolistings of available children. Many of the children available for adoption in Florida are older or in sibling groups who are in critical need of a permanent, loving family before they age out of the system. It is critical to understand that the process of adoption in Florida is different for adopting a child or children from foster care. Many parents wonder how long it takes to adopt from foster care in the state of Florida. This all depends on the specific situation.
International Adoption in Florida
The adoption requirements, restrictions, and costs to adopt a child internationally will depend on the country you adopt from, as well as the Florida international adoption agency with whom you will work. Intercountry adoption means you must meet U.S. adoption requirements in addition to the child’s country’s adoption requirements, which may vary. The state of Florida will have its own requirements that will be similar to other states’ regulations. Some prospective adoptive parents go into the process knowing exactly which country they would like to adopt a child from—however, some are open to any country. Staying up-to-date on which countries are open to adoption to Florida and the United States or are closed to intercountry adoptions is critical. The Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues shares detailed updates on the adoption status for each country, which can be accessed on the United States State Department travel website.
If you are planning to adopt from a Hague Convention country, you will have specific regulations for adopting and bringing a child home to Florida. Intercountry adoption can be more expensive than a private infant adoption in Florida, but that is not always true. The cost to adopt in Florida or internationally can vary among agencies and countries.
Private Infant Adoption in Florida
As a birth mother, you would be creating an adoption plan for your baby to be adopted through a private infant adoption in Florida. Prospective adoptive families who wish to build their family through adoption and believe infant adoption is the best option for their family find it helpful to work with an adoption agency close to them in Florida. This is true regardless of what type of adoption in Florida they are completing. Although having an adoption agency in your own state is not necessary, some prospective adoptive families like being able to attend orientation sessions at an adoption agency’s headquarters and meet the social workers who will help with the process in person. However, having your agency near you in Florida is only absolutely essential if they are your home study agency, as they must be social workers licensed in your state.
The next steps after finding an adoption service provider—an adoption center or agency, adoption attorney, or licensed social worker specializing in adoption—you will be matched with a birth mother or adoptive parent(s). Birth mothers will work with their adoption agency or adoption attorney to choose an adoptive couple or family, if they have not identified a family for their baby already. This could happen through adoption forums, adoption photolistings, social media, or word of mouth. For adoption in Florida, once the baby is born, the birth mom can sign consent paperwork 48 hours after her baby is born (more on that below). However, the birth father may give his consent to the adoption in Florida at any time before the child is born.
Next Steps for Adoption in Florida
After the birth mother has chosen an adoptive family for her baby, the adoption agency or adoption attorney will work with the birth parents and the adoptive parents to determine what birth mother expenses the hopeful adoptive parents will be responsible for covering for the birth mother. Adoption in Florida allows adoptive families to only pay the birth mother’s living expenses during the pregnancy and up to a maximum of six weeks following delivery. This can only happen if the birth mom is unemployed, underemployed, or disabled.
After deciding on the birth mother expenses, the adoption agency will be supportive of both the birth mom and adoptive family throughout the next steps, which can include creating the details surrounding both the birth and adoption plans. They will work with all parties to ensure all necessary paperwork is completed at each step.
When the birth mother is in labor at the hospital or birthing center, the adoption agency social worker will let the adoptive family know the status, unless the birth was scheduled or the birth mom lets them know directly. In the birth plan, the birth mom makes a decision about who will be in the birthing room and other details of time with the baby.
Finalization of Adoption in Florida
After the birth, there are various steps in completing the relinquishment paperwork and finalizing the adoption in Florida. There will be time before you sign any adoption paperwork. In Florida, the adoption consent paperwork cannot be signed until 48 hours after the birth of the child. In the state of Florida, this decisional paperwork is irrevocable. As a birth mother, it is important to take the time you need with your baby, even more than 48 hours if necessary. You may want a few minutes to see the baby or none at all. Other birth mothers would like quiet hours together, just them and their baby, and others have the adoptive family in the room so everyone bonds together.
Once the child is placed with the adoptive parents, a Florida social worker (most likely the same social worker who completed the prospective adoptive family’s home study if they live in the same state where the agency is licensed) will visit the adoptive parents and baby at least three times before the adoption in Florida is finalized. Just as the birth mother had time to ensure this was the best decision for her and her baby, the prospective adoptive parents have the same time in Florida to contemplate their decision and ensure it is the right one. The process of adoption in Florida is final after six months.
Communication among the Adoption Triad
During the time after placement, the birth mother and adoptive parents will begin communicating as decided upon prior to the birth. You may have agreed upon an open adoption where you visit, call, and email. You may have decided upon how often that is—once a year, every month, etc. In a semi-open adoption, you may only have decided upon sending and receiving photos or a letter at milestones. It is up to members of the adoption triad to decide how communication will work. Most birth mothers and parents decide on some level of openness in the adoption; few have a closed adoption. In Florida, having a closed adoption means records are sealed by the court. As of when this article was published, records can only be secured by a member of the adoption triad via a court order, but any identifying information about the adoptee, birth mom, or adoptive parents will not be given unless the birth mother allows in writing for her identity to be disclosed. However, like all states, the adoption laws could someday change in Florida, allowing records previously sealed to be opened.
All of this information provided on adoption in Florida is meant to help you as the birth parent or hopeful adoptive parent to better understand the intricacies of adoption in Florida as you take your next step on the adoption journey. Do your research, connect with others who are going through their own adoption journey (or have completed one), and lean on those you trust.
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