As a hopeful adoptive parent or an expectant mother considering adoption in the Sunshine State, adoption processes, qualifications and rules can sometimes seem overwhelming. If you are looking for information about adoption in Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, Orlando or anywhere else in the state, this guide will give you the information you need about how to adopt or place a child for adoption in Florida.
Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Adopting a Child in Florida
If you are looking to adopt a child in Florida, you will need to familiarize yourself with state adoption laws. The following guidelines provide information on basic laws and guidelines for adopting in Florida.
What are the laws and qualifications for adopting a child in Florida?
An unmarried adult or married couple jointly can adopt. A married person can file a petition for adoption without his or her spouse in a stepparent adoption, or when the spouse’s failure to join the petition or consent to the adoption is excused by the court.
What adoption expenses can be paid by adoptive families in Florida?
The state of Florida regulates the expenses that can be paid by adoptive parents throughout the adoption process. The following fees may be assessed by the adoption entity or paid by the adoption entity on behalf of the adoptive parents:
- Birth parent expenses during the pregnancy and up to six weeks postpartum, including:
- Reasonable living expenses of the birth mother when she is unable to pay due to unemployment, underemployment or disability. These expenses include rent, utilities, basic telephone service, food, toiletries, necessary clothing, transportation, insurance and expenses necessary for the health and wellbeing of the mother and the baby
- Necessary medical expenses
- Expenses including process services, investigator fees, a preliminary home study and final home investigation and more
- Court filing expenses, court costs and other litigation expenses
- Birth certificate and medical record expenses
- Costs associated with advertising
- Reasonable professional fees, including:
- Fees for legal representation
- Fees for contact with the parents related to the adoption, including clerical support, transportation, transmitting funds, arranging appointments and securing accommodations
- Fees for counseling services provided to the parent or prospective adoptive parents
If the services of a licensed child-placing agency, professional or the Department of Children and Family Services are used, the adoptive parents must pay that person, agency or department for all services performed, such as the cost of conducting the home study, counseling and the post-placement investigation.
In accordance with Florida law, approval of the court is required when:
- legal fees exceed $5,000
- court costs exceed $800
- living and medical expenses exceed $5,000
The following expenses are prohibited and require court approval, based on a finding of extraordinary circumstances, prior to payment:
- Any fee constituting payment for locating a minor for adoption
- Any payment not itemized and documented in an affidavit filed by the adoptive parents with the court
- Any fee included in the affidavit that does not specify the service that was provided, the date the service was provided, the time required to provide the service, the person or entity providing the service or the hourly fee charged
Prospective adoptive parents must file a signed affidavit itemizing all exchanges of anything of value, including professional and legal fees. For each legal or counseling fee itemized, the affidavit must also include the service provided, the date the service was provided, the time required to provide the service, the person or entity that provided the service and the hourly fee charged. If any expenses were paid for by collateral sources like health insurance, Medicaid or Medicare, that must also be stated in the affidavit.
Expenses or receipts listed in the affidavit should include any that were incurred in connection with:
- The birth of the child
- The placement of the child with the adoptive family
- The medical or hospital care received by the mother or child
- The mother’s living expenses
- Services relating to the adoption received by or on behalf of the adoptive parents, adoption entity, the birth parents, the child or any other person.
What are the laws to become a foster parent in Florida?
To become a foster parent in Florida, you must complete an approval process, which includes:
- An orientation and 20–30 hours of foster parent training
- A child abuse and criminal background check
- A home study, including a home inspection, to review your readiness for fostering
For more information about foster care and foster-to-adopt placements in Florida, visit the Florida Department of Children and Families.
What are the requirements to finalize an international adoption in Florida?
Florida will recognize foreign adoption decrees that have been issued in compliance with the laws of the United States and the country that granted the adoption.
The Department of Health will prepare a certificate of foreign birth for a foreign-born adopted person. The certificate will be labeled “Certificate of Foreign Birth” and will show the country and date of birth of the adopted person and will state that it is not evidence of the child’s U.S. citizenship. This certificate will be established upon request when the following documents are submitted:
- The report or certified copy of the adoption decree
- Proof of the child’s date and place of birth
If the adopted person was born in a foreign country but was a U.S. citizen at the time of birth, the department will notify the adoptive parents of the procedure for obtaining a revised birth certificate through the U.S. Department of State.
Is it legal to use advertising or facilitators to adopt in Florida?
It is unlawful for any individual to advertise, in any way, that a child is available for adoption or that a child is sought for adoption. However, licensed adoption agencies or attorneys may place these ads.
Florida laws regulate the activities intermediaries or facilitators are permitted to perform and the services they are required to offer. In Florida, facilitators and intermediaries are required to:
- Provide written information about the adoption process to all parties
- Report to the court all fees and expenses paid
- Provide to the adoptive parents any available information about the child’s background
- Obtain all necessary consents, file petitions and affidavits as well as serve notices of hearings
Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Placing a Baby for Adoption in Florida
Florida has several laws in place to protect the rights of birth parents throughout the adoption process. If you are considering adoption for your child, the following information can help answer your questions about the rules and regulations of placing a baby for adoption in Florida.
When and how can birth parents consent to the adoption?
In Florida, the birth mother can give her consent to the adoption 48 hours after the baby’s birth or the day she is notified in writing that she is able to be released from the hospital, whichever is earlier. Consent by the birth father or legal father may be executed at any time after the birth of the child, though an affidavit of nonpaternity may be executed before the birth of the minor.
Consent to an adoption or an affidavit of nonpaternity must be executed as follows:
- If the adopted person is consenting to the adoption, their consent must be given by oral or written statement in the presence of the court or a notary public and in the presence of two witnesses
- If consent is being given by an agency, consent must be given in an affidavit from its authorized representative
- If consent is being executed by any other person, it must be done in the presence of the court or as an affidavit acknowledged before a notary public and in the presence of two witnesses
- If consent is being given by the court, it must be executed by an appropriate order or certificate of the court
Who must consent to the adoption?
In Florida, consent must be given by:
- The mother
- The father, if:
- The child was conceived or born while he was married to the mother
- The child is his by adoption
- The child has been established by court proceedings to be his child
- He has filed an affidavit of paternity
- He is not married to the mother, but has acknowledged in writing and signed in the presence of a competent witness that he is the father. This acknowledgement must be filed with the Office of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health within the required timeframes.
- Any person lawfully entitled to custody of the minor
If parental rights to the child have previously been terminated and the child has been placed with an adoption entity for subsequent adoption, the agency may consent to the adoption. In that case, no other consent is required.
In an older child adoption, the child must consent to the adoption if he or she is 12 or older.
Consent may not be needed by the following individuals:
- A parent who has anonymously deserted the child or who has abandoned the child
- A parent whose parental rights have been terminated by court order
- A parent who has been declared incompetent and who is not medically likely to regain competency
- A legal guardian or lawful custodian other than a parent who has failed to respond in writing to a request for consent for a period of 60 days or who is found to be withholding consent unreasonably
(See “What rights does the father of the baby have in Missouri adoptions?” for more information about when parental consent may not be necessary.)
Can minors consent to adoption in Florida?
A minor may consent to the adoption of his or her child and may relinquish control or custody to an adoption entity. A minor’s consent or relinquishment has the same validity and effect as an adult parent’s consent or relinquishment. A minor parent may not revoke his or her consent upon reaching the age of majority.
For minors age 14 or younger, the consent or affidavit of nonpaternity must be witnessed by a parent, legal guardian or court-appointed guardian. The consent must be signed in the presence of two witnesses and be acknowledged before a notary public.
When does the birth parents’ consent become irrevocable?
For consent signed within 48 hours of the child’s birth, the consent becomes irrevocable upon execution and may be revoked only if the court finds that it was obtained by fraud or duress. For children older than 6 months at the time of consent, there is a three-day revocation period.
If the person seeking to withdraw consent claims to be the father of the child but has not been established as the father, the court may order paternity testing and rule on the removal of the child after the test results have been filed with the court.
An affidavit of nonpaternity may be withdrawn only if the court finds that it was obtained by fraud or duress.
What rights does the father of the baby have in Florida adoptions?
In Florida, a man is considered the father of a child and must execute written consent to an adoption of the child if:
- The child was conceived or born while he was married to the mother
- The child is his by adoption
- The child has been established by court proceedings to be his child
- He has filed an affidavit of paternity or is listed on the child’s birth certificate before a petition for termination of parental rights is filed
- He has acknowledged in writing, signed in the presence of a competent witness, that he is the father and has filed this acknowledgment with the Office of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health within the required timeframes.
A court may waive the consent of the father if:
- He has deserted a child without means of identification or has abandoned a child
- His parental rights have been terminated by court order
- He has been judicially declared incompetent, and restoration of competency is medically improbably
Florida maintains a putative father registry to preserve the right to notice and consent to adoption for individuals who are or may be the biological father of a child whose paternity has not been established and whose mother was unmarried when the child was conceived and born.
To protect his right to notice and consent to adoption, the unmarried biological father must file a notarized claim of paternity form with the registry and confirm his willingness and intent to support the child. The claim of paternity may be filed any time prior to the child’s birth but must be filed before a petition is filed for termination of parental rights. The failure of an unmarried biological father to file a claim of paternity before the filing of a petition for termination of parental rights bars him from filing a paternity claim. By filing a claim of paternity, the registrant agrees to DNA testing upon request.
A registrant can revoke his claim of paternity with the registry at any time prior to the birth of the child. If a court determines that the registrant is not the father of the child or has no parental rights, the court will order the removal of his name from the registry.
Home Study and Post-Placement Requirements in Florida
To determine whether you are able to provide a safe, nurturing home to a child, you will need to undergo a pre-placement and post-placement assessment prior to beginning the adoption or foster process. All prospective adoptive or foster parents will need to meet certain requirements to complete the home study process.
What is included in the Florida home study process?
At minimum, the Florida home study process includes an interview with the intended adoptive parents, criminal record and abuse registry checks, an assessment of the physical environment of the home, a determination of the parents’ financial security and documentation of the adoptive parents’ required counseling and training.
In addition, a minimum of five written references will be required, with at least two of the references being from nonrelatives. The approved adoptive parent training must be successfully completed by all prospective adoptive parents except licensed foster parents and relative caregivers who have previously attended the approved training.
Who is included in the home study process?
In Florida, the adoptive applicant and all other adult household members must be included in the home study. Criminal background checks will be required for the applicants and all residents of the adoptive home age 12 or older.
Who will conduct the home study?
The home study must be completed by a licensed child-placing agency, a registered child-caring agency or a licensed professional. The Department of Children and Family Services will perform the preliminary home study only if there is no licensed child-placing agency, child-caring agency or licensed professional in the county where the adoptive parents reside.
On what grounds will the home study not be approved in Florida?
In Florida, a home study will not be approved if anyone residing in the home is a sexual predator or has been convicted of child abuse, murder or sexual battery.
An application may also be denied for any of the following reasons:
- The adoptive applicant has a serious or chronic medical condition that could compromise his or her ability to provide physical, emotional, social or economic support to the child
- The child abuse records check reveals verified findings of abuse, neglect or abandonment
- The applicant is a current or former foster parent, and the review of the foster parent file reveals that there have been care and supervision concerns or a violation of licensing standards
When should the home study be completed? When must the home study be renewed?
Before placing the child in the intended adoptive home in Florida, a preliminary home study must be completed. Home studies must be updated annually.
What is a post-placement study in the adoption process? What are the post-placement study requirements for Florida?
The department will provide services for at least 90 days after placement until the finalization of the adoption. A home visit will be made within one week of placement and will be followed by a minimum of three supervisory visits in non-problematic placements. For placements that do not proceed smoothly, additional and more frequent contact may be necessary. The adoptive child must be contacted a minimum of once every calendar month until the adoption is final. The entire family must be seen together at least once during the post-placement supervision period.
What are the home study requirements for stepparent or relative adoptions in Florida?
Unless ordered by the court, the home study is not required when the placement is a stepparent adoption or when the minor is a relative of one of the adoptive parents.
What are the home study requirements to adopt a child from another state?
Any placement of a child outside of the state is subject to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). A child born in Florida will not be sent to the adoptive parents’ state until the appropriate public authorities in that state notify the Florida agency, in writing, that the proposed placement does not appear to be contrary to the interests of the child.
Families from other states wishing to adopt Florida children may complete their home study through an agency authorized to practice adoption in their state of residence. Out-of-state placements must comply with ICPC requirements.
What are the requirements to adopt a child that is currently in my care?
If a child becomes eligible for adoption while in foster care, the foster parent can apply to adopt the child and must be evaluated to determine suitability through an adoptive home study, which will assess the length of time the child has lived in a stable environment and the depth of the relationship existing between the child and the foster parent.
To start the home study process, contact one of these trusted Florida home study providers:
- American Adoptions of Florida
American Adoptions is one of the largest domestic adoption agencies in the country and is licensed to provide home study services in Florida. They perform both international and domestic home studies.
- The Adoption Authority
The Adoption Authority is a licensed child-placing agency in Georgia and Florida and can complete domestic or international home studies, home study updates and post-placement reports.
Florida Adoption Professionals
For more information about adoption in Florida or to begin the adoption process, contact one of these local adoption professionals:
- American Adoptions
- Advocates for Children and Families
- Embraced by Grace
- Home at Last Adoption Agency
- Gift of Life Adoptions
For more information about foster care in Florida, visit:
Things to do in Florida
Whether you find yourself in the Sunshine State for visits with prospective birth parents or you’re waiting for ICPC approval, here are a few fun things for adoptive families to do in Florida:
- Walt Disney World (Orlando)
- Everglades National Park
- Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral
- Busch Gardens (Tampa)
- Miami Beach
For more information about traveling to Florida, visit www.visitflorida.com.