In Florida, foster care adoption offers a rewarding way to grow your family because it also allows you to provide a home to a waiting child. Have you thought about opening your home through foster care adoption?
If so, you have probably discovered there are many details that must be considered. Learning how to adopt from foster care in Florida can be difficult without the help of adoption professionals. Fortunately, foster care adoption agencies in Florida can help you through the process.
If you have questions about how you can foster to adopt in Florida, the information you seek is just a click away. In the meantime, this guide can serve as your primer to foster care adoption in Florida.
What is Foster Care Adoption?
Simply stated, foster care adoption occurs when a family becomes licensed to foster, then adopts a child through the foster system. Of the three primary methods of adoption in the state, adopting a foster child in Florida is the most common.
There are approximately 19,000 children in foster care in Florida, and hundreds of them are eligible for adoption. Children in foster care sometimes face challenges to adoption since they are often older and sometimes have siblings who they can’t be separated from.
Before adopting a child from foster care in Florida, a family must first become licensed to foster. There are three primary types of foster parents in Florida: foster parenting (temporary care), fostering to adopt (temporary to permanent care), and adopting from foster care (permanent care).
Foster Parenting (Temporary Care)
Foster parenting is when a family becomes licensed to provide temporary care for a child while a permanent living arrangement is sought. In some cases, this temporary care is extended until the child is reunited with the biological family. Temporary care may also be necessary while an adoption opportunity is arranged.
Fostering-to-Adopt (Temporary to Permanent Care)
Some families in Florida begin their adoption journey by fostering a child with the intention of pursuing an adoption. Many children in foster care can only be adopted after parental rights are terminated. A family may foster a child with the understanding that adoption may be possible in the future.
Foster Care Adoption (Permanent Care)
Some families open their homes to an older child and want to permanently adopt from the outset. Instead of fostering, you can adopt directly through the foster care system. You’ll still need to meet the requirements to foster, but you’ll be doing so with the primary goal of adopting a child.
Who Chooses Foster Care Adoption, and Why?
There are some specific reasons that families choose to adopt a child through foster care. Those factors can include:
- Families want to change a child’s life: Adopting a child can bring joy to a family. It can also be life-changing for a waiting child in foster care. Many children grow up without a loving, safe home. Some face additional obstacles to a happy future. Offering your home to an older child can be transformative and provide hope for children who deserve a loving family and safe home.
- Families that want to adopt an older child: Many families choose to adopt infants for many reasons. However, there are other prospective adoptive parents who prefer to adopt an older child. The average foster child is 8 years old. As a child ages, the adoption probability decreases. However, through foster care adoption, you can provide an older child with the home they need.
- Families that want cost-effective family growth: Many types of private adoption are expensive. One of the attractive aspects of foster care adoption is that it is cost-effective. It’s the least expensive type of adoption. In fact, the state of Florida often reimburses foster care adoptive parents for some of their expenses.
Adoption in Florida from foster care offers many inherent benefits for the adoptee and adoptive parents. Some of the benefits that lead prospective adoptive families to pursue foster care adoption are:
- A community of support: There is a wealth of resources available to families who pursue foster care adoption in Florida. There are digital forums and message boards dedicated to foster care adoption as well as civic, community, and faith-based organizations that are there to lend their wisdom and resources.
- A guided journey: Agency-assisted foster care adoptions have the added advantage of a wide scope of services. That means that one agency can meet the full range of legal and emotional adoption needs and facilitate successful adoptions.
- College tuition: In Florida, children adopted from the foster care system are eligible for free tuition at any state university, vocational school or community college.
- Health care provided: Children adopted from foster care are guaranteed health coverage through Medicaid through age 18.
- Monthly subsidy: If you adopt a child through foster care in Florida, you’ll likely be eligible for a monthly subsidy through the Florida Adoption Assistance Program to offset the additional expense of raising a child.
- Creating a family: If you always wanted a family, foster care adoption can provide an avenue for adoption of more than one child. Some sibling groups can only be adopted together, and you can instantly build a family by adopting siblings.
It’s easy to see why foster care adoption is the most common form of adoption in Florida.
How to Adopt Through Foster Care in Florida
Adopting a foster child in Florida can come through fostering-to-adopt or foster care adoption. In either case, there are some clear-cut steps that must be followed by families who wish to open their home to a waiting child.
Read below to learn how to adopt a foster child in Florida.
Step 1: Find the Right Adoption Professional
If you plan to pursue foster care adoption in Florida, your journey should begin with finding the right foster care adoption professional to guide you. Navigating the system can be difficult, and an experienced professional can help ensure the process results in a successful outcome.
Below is a list of the types of adoption professionals that are often used in foster care adoptions:
- Foster care adoption agencies: Foster care adoption agencies can provide you with all the knowledge and counsel you’ll need to navigate the system. The agency may help you create a family profile, get licensed as a foster family, and provide education and training to prepare you for foster care adoption in Florida.
- State foster care agencies: Because the foster system in Florida is operated by the state, there are public organizations that coordinate foster care adoptions in Florida. They make sure that foster requirements are met and that children are assimilating well into the home.
- Home study providers: Home study providers schedule and perform the adoption home studies required by Florida law for every adoption.
- Adoption attorneys and law firms: There are legal processes that must be completed to adopt, which makes adoption attorneys necessary. However, their services are narrow in scope and include only the legal aspects of adoption of a foster child in Florida.
Step 2: Orientation and Preparation Courses
Unlike other types of adoption, parents who adopt through foster care in Florida have additional steps to perform before beginning the home study and matching process. Foster parents must go through an orientation to learn about the foster care adoption process and the assumed responsibility.
The orientation is usually brief, consisting of a one- or two-hour session. During the orientation, prospective adoptive parents will get a chance to speak with counselors and parents who’ve adopted from foster care to learn what they can expect from the process.
After the orientation is complete, prospective parents must undergo training through preparation courses. Adopting a child in foster care in Florida can be challenging, since many foster children have experienced early childhood attachment challenges, and may have experienced neglect, abuse or other traumas. Some children may also have special needs.
Therefore, prospective parents mut go through a self-assessment process to ensure that foster care adoption is the right path. The sessions are mandatory and are usually presented on weeknights or weekends to accommodate prospective parents’ schedules.
Step 3: Complete Licensing and Home Studies
To become licensed for foster care adoption in Florida, parents must first apply and complete a licensing study. This study is separate from the home study that is required prior to any type of adoption.
A home study is important because it establishes the fitness of the potential adoptive home. It’s a thorough procedure, as it ensures the safety and quality of life that will be enjoyed by the adoptee.
Home studies are performed by licensed home study professionals in Florida. The process can be time-consuming because it must be thorough. It often includes not only a pre-placement study, but post-placement visits to ensure the child is safe and well cared for in the adoptive home.
- Home inspection: A home study professional or social worker will visit the home to assess its physical state as well as the family dynamic. You may be given advice on ways to better childproof your home and improve safety.
- Document review: You’ll be asked to submit documents such as birth certificates, health records, marriage licenses, financial records and other legal paperwork. A background check for everyone in the home over the age of 12 will be conducted as well.
- In-home interview: The home study professional or social worker will conduct an interview with everyone living in the home to ensure the relationships and living environment for the child will be healthy.
Upon completion of the home study, your information will be compiled and submitted for approval with the help of foster adoption agencies in Florida.. Once you’ve gained approval, your family will be considered an active foster family.
Step 4: Finding a Match
Thanks to the internet, finding the right match for your family within the Florida foster system has never been easier. You can search the online directory to view the profiles of children who are eligible for adoption.
You may also find matches by attending prospective parent matching events where foster children are present. Your assigned social worker or adoption and foster care agencies in Florida can also help locate potential matches for your family.
There are many tools at your disposal when searching for a match. They can include:
- Web listings
- Foster child profiles
- Photos and videos of foster children
- Group activities
- Visits with children who may be a match
Adopting out of foster care in Florida isn’t a one-way street, however. Once a potential match is identified, an adoption professional will share details about you and your family with the prospective adoptee. In Florida, children over 12 must consent to the foster care adoption, so it’s important that the child learns about you, too.
Depending on your adoption goals, your wait time before finding a successful match can vary significantly. For example, if you want to adopt from foster care only, your wait may be longer than if you are open to taking the fostering-to-adopt route.
Conversely, if you plan to foster to adopt in Florida, you may have a placement quickly. However, there could be an extended wait period before the parental rights of the birth parents are terminated and the adoption can be finalized.
Though there are things you can do to limit your wait, the adoption process can take time. It requires due diligence to ensure the placement will be in the best interest of everyone involved.
Step 5: Placement
Once all parties agree that a match has been made, you can proceed with placement of the child in your home. The adoption from foster care in Florida will only move forward once you, the adoptee (if they are old enough) and the adoption professional agree that the time has come to move forward with the adoption.
When the child is first placed in the home, there’s a transition period that must be observed before the formal petition to adopt can be made. Again, if you are fostering-to-adopt, that means there could be an extended wait time before paternal rights are terminated.
During this transition period, an adoption professional or social worker will make monthly visits to assess the child’s progress and level of comfort in the home. Some children adapt quickly while others require more time, so there’s no set transition timeline.
Your adoption professional may determine that the child needs different or additional services to make the transition. In most cases, the state will assist with those resources.
Once the social worker or adoption professional determines that the supervision period is complete, a Consent to Adopt statement will be issued to your attorney. You and your attorney can then file a petition for adoption through the state of Florida to finalize the process.
Step 6: Finalization of the Adoption
Once your petition to adopt is filed, your attorney will schedule a hearing to finalize the adoption.
Your adoption will be examined to ensure that it clears some legal hurdles prior to the hearing. For example, if the child is a member of an Indigenous American tribe, the adoption must get Indian Child Welfare Act clearance.
The hearing typically lasts 30-60 minutes. Your attorney, case worker and family can join you for the hearing, as it marks a joyous day that begins a new era for your growing family.
Your attorney will present your family to the court and ask you a few questions about your motivations to adopt and your experience. In the case of foster care adoption in Florida, the adoptee will be asked to consent to the adoption as well in most cases. The judge may ask a few questions before signing an adoption decree.
After all of this has been completed, the adoption can be finalized. A judge will review the adoption to make sure legal requirements have been met. Once satisfied that the foster care adoption in Florida was conducted legally, the decree will be signed and the adoption will be finalized.
Foster Care Adoption Professionals in Florida
There’s no shortage of adoption professionals in Florida who can help you reach your adoption goals. Here are a few of them, below:
Foster Care Adoption Agencies
- Children’s Home Society
- Eckerd Connects
- Fostering Hope Florida
- Jewish Adoption and Family Care
- Kids Central Florida
State Foster Care Adoption Agencies
Adoption Home Study Agencies
- American Adoptions
- Sunshine State Adoption and Home Study Services
- Connecting Hearts – Adoption and Home Study Services
Foster care adoption is fulfilling because it provides a home to a waiting child while allowing your family to grow. You can begin your journey to foster care adoption today by contacting foster care adoption agencies in Florida near you to learn about your options and start the process.