How to Adopt in Florida: The Adoption Process
Adoption is a popular option for many families because it allows you to grow your family while providing a home to a waiting child.
Have you considered adopting a child in Florida? If you’ve done any research, you may have found the adoption process in Florida to be complex and confusing. You may have many questions, such as:
- How can I adopt a child in Florida?
- Is adoption the right choice for my family?
- What are the steps in the legal adoption process in Florida?
- How much does it cost to adopt a child in Florida?
- What are the types of adoption?
These questions and many more will be answered in this guide. If, after reading, you still have questions, you can contact adoption professionals with local adoption agencies to help you get the answers you seek and begin the adoption process.
How to Adopt a Child in Florida [A Complete Guide]
Step 1: Decide if Adoption is Right for You
Adopting a child in Florida is not an option that any potential adoptive family should take lightly. Adoption involves a lifelong commitment that comes with great responsibility.
No two situations are alike, and therefore every adoption is different. Therefore, prospective adoptive parents need to be flexible and understand that although adoption will be challenging, it will also be worth it.
Every adoption journey follows its own winding path, and prospective adoptive families have a range of reasons for pursuing adoption in Florida. Some prospective parents may have experienced infertility and want to adopt an infant, while others may feel a sense of calling to adoption. Others may want to provide a home to a waiting child in the foster care system.
For prospective parents who may have tried fertility treatments without success, the road to adoption can be exhausting, expensive, and emotionally difficult, which leads many families to consider adoption. This transition can be overwhelming, but you can get counseling and assistance from adoption professionals.
Conversely, if you’re a birth parent who is considering placement of a child for adoption, your reasons for doing so may be very different. To learn more about how to create an adoption plan for your baby, make sure to read our guide for prospective birth parents in Florida.
Step 2: Decide the Right Type of Adoption for You
Before you can determine the type of adoption you should pursue, you must few answer a few questions about your adoption goals. Those questions are:
- Do you want to adopt from within the United States or from another country?
- What age of child do you want to adopt?
- Are you interested in an open or semi-open adoption?
- Would you prefer to adopt directly from the birth parents or through the foster care system?
The answers to these questions will guide you to the proper type of adoption in Florida. For example, if your preference is to adopt an infant, you’ll likely pursue private domestic adoptions. If you are open to adopting an older child, foster care adoption may be the right path for your family.
There are three primary methods of adopting a child in Florida. Those types of adoption are:
- Private domestic adoption
- Foster care adoption
- International adoption
Private Domestic Adoption in Florida
Private domestic adoption is when a prospective adoptive family directly adopts an infant from the birth parents immediately after birth. Adoption professionals may identify adoption opportunities, but the birth parents select the adoptive family. The private domestic adoption process in Florida offers a direct route to adoption for many families.
Foster Care Adoption in Florida
Foster care adoption is a viable option for families who are interested in adopting a waiting child from the foster care system. Families must meet the state requirements to foster in order to adopt. Foster care adoption is rewarding because it allows you to grow your family while providing a home to a child.
International Adoption in Florida
International adoption, as the name indicates, is when an adoptive family adopts a child from another nation outside of the U.S. The process can be complex, but can be made easier with the help of a Hague-accredited international adoption agency.
After choosing which type of adoption to pursue, you’ll need to identify the right adoption professional to help you on your way. Depending on the type of adoption you’d like to pursue, you can choose a corresponding type of agency:
- Local private domestic adoption agencies
- National private domestic adoption agencies
- Foster care adoption agencies
- International adoption agencies
Some agencies may focus on one specific part of the child adoption process in Florida, such as the home study. Others may offer full service and can assist with an array of adoption procedures in Florida.
Step 3: Create an Adoption Plan
Once you’ve decided adoption is the right choice for your family and have chosen a method of adoption, the next step is to develop an adoption plan with the help of your agency.
All successful endeavors begin with a plan, and adoption is no different. No matter what type of adoption you want to pursue, there are some key considerations that you should build into your plan to increase your odds of a successful adoption.
It’s important for prospective birth parents to also create a plan when choosing to place a child for adoption. That will ensure your comfort level with the adoption process and give your child their best chance of a great life in the prospective adoptive home.
Here are a few factors to consider when creating your personal adoption plan:
- Choose the Right Adoption Professional: When starting the adoption process in Florida, it’s important that you choose a great adoption professional. Your chosen adoption professional will become your ally and advocate throughout the process, so it’s important to do your research and select wisely.
- Consider Your Wishes: It’s also a good idea to think about the potential outcomes of the adoption process. That means prospective adoptive families should think about the range of situations with which they’re comfortable. Prospective birth parents should also define their expectations and wishes for the adoption process.
- Identify Key Players: Your adoption journey is your own. You get to control who is involved and who you will depend upon for support throughout the process. When planning for adoption, be sure to create a support system to help you get through the process.
- Choose an Adoptive Family: Expectant birth parents get to choose the prospective adoptive family for their child. Therefore, it’s important to communicate with prospective adoptive families and determine how to select the right adoption opportunity for your child.
- Consider the Specific Needs of Your Adoption Method: There are different requirements and details that apply to each type of adoption in Florida. Therefore, it’s important to focus on what will be needed to navigate your chosen adoption route. This could include adoption professionals, budgetary concerns, or pre-birth and post-birth communication with birth parents.
For families that wish to adopt a child in Florida, the home study is another required part of the adoption process. It’s designed to evaluate the fitness of a prospective adoptive home and conducted by adoption home study professionals.
The home study process includes interviews in the home, financial reviews, and background checks to ensure the stability and safety of the potential adoptive home. It can be time consuming, so it’s important to include the home study timeline in any adoption plan.
Adoption in Florida is a complex process with many details that must be managed. However, it can also be emotionally complicated for both expectant birth parents and prospective adoptive families.
However, by developing a solid plan early in the Florida child adoption process, you can set the stage for a smooth and successful adoption experience.
Step 4: Seek Adoption Opportunities
Finding the right adoption opportunity is a critical step in the process to adopt a child in Florida. Whether you plan to pursue a domestic private adoption, an international adoption or a foster care adoption, you’ll work closely with your adoption professional to find an opportunity that is perfect for your family.
The type of adoption you choose will determine what finding an opportunity looks like for you.
Adoption Opportunities in Private Domestic Adoption
If you’re seeking expectant birth parents for a private domestic adoption, the agency may have you fill out a questionnaire that will help your specialist know what to look for. Many services use an Adoption Planning Questionnaire, or APQ.
The questionnaire could include questions about topic such as:
- Medical background
- Addictive behaviors
- Financial status and adoption budget
- Whether you are interested in open or semi-open adoption
- Family size
- And many other topics
Many agencies also encourage you as a prospective adoptive parent to include videos, photos and written narratives to allow prospective birth parents to learn more about your family. Remember, the more information you provide and the more flexible your preferences, the more adoption opportunities you may have.
While less common, some private domestic adoptions are independent. That means that they are conducted without the help of an adoption agency. Opportunities are identified through your personal network or through advertising.
In independent adoptions, matching isn’t as important because the involved parties may already know one another. However, an adoption attorney will still be needed to facilitate the legal components of the private adoption process in Florida.
Finding a Match in the Foster Care System
If you are planning to adopt through the foster care system, there are a few other steps in finding the right adoption opportunity. Those adoption steps in Florida include:
- Foster family licensing
- Participation in a preparation course
- A foster care adoption home study
First, prospective families must meet the Florida requirements to foster. This is done through the completion of a licensing study.
After the licensing study and subsequent steps are completed, the prospective foster parents will undergo the required home study. It typically takes between six and eight months for families who wish to pursue foster care adoption to be deemed eligible.
Once you complete the steps to become a licensed foster family, you will work with agencies or the Florida Department of Children and Families to find a waiting child to be placed in your home. You can view waiting foster children on the web, work with an adoption professional, or attend events for prospective foster families.
When a good situation has been identified for your family, you’ll get to know the child. Your adoption professional will also provide the child with information about you and your family. Eventually, visits will be scheduled to determine if the child will be a great match for your home.
Waiting for Your Opportunity in International Adoption
In the case of an international adoption, finding a match requires that you depend on a Hague-accredited international adoption agency. You’ll also be required to apply through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to be deemed eligible to adopt internationally.
Most prospective adoptive families interested in international adoption begin by identifying a country from which they want to adopt. Then, an adoption agency operating in that country is selected.
The agency will have you fill out a questionnaire that will be used to identify potential adoption opportunities. It will include questions about many topics, including your ability and desire to adopt children with special needs. Make sure to be realistic and answer honestly to get the best range of options for matches.
Step 5: Complete the Adoption
The placement of a child can be one of the most emotional parts of the Florida child adoption process for everyone involved. It’s important that no two adoptions are exactly alike.
In the private adoption process in Florida, for example, the expectant birth mother has the right to create her own hospital plan and birth plan, which may require prospective adoptive parents to be flexible. The birth mother can choose every facet of her hospital and birth experience, including:
- Who will be present at the birth
- Who will be present at the hospital
- When the prospective adoptive parents should arrive
- How much time the birth mother will have with the child after birth
- Whether there will be birth pictures with the birth mother and baby
- Where the baby will stay at the hospital
For all parties involved in the adoption, flexibility is key. No hospital or birth plans are ever set in stone. That means they can be changed as the desires of the birth mother evolve. For example, if a birth mother decides she wants more time with the baby than originally planned, it’s important that she has that opportunity.
For prospective adoptive families, the birth plan can help introduce order into an emotional time. Though the birth mother can alter the plan as she wishes, a hospital plan will help you understand critical details about the adoption such as:
- When you should arrive at the hospital
- How much contact you’ll have with the birth mother
- If you’ll be present during the delivery
- Whether you’ll be allowed to take pictures with the baby
- How you will leave the hospital with the baby
- And many more
Part of the Florida private adoption process stipulates that birth parents can’t sign adoption papers until at least 48 hours after the birth or when the hospital stay ends, whichever time comes first. That applies to adoptions in which the birth parents and adoptive parents reside within the state.
Florida is also part of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. It stipulates that if the adoptive parents reside outside of the state, you will need to stay in the state where the child was born for 7 to 10 business days after the birth.
It’s important to stress that the hospital stay will be the emotional pinnacle of the adoption process. The birth parents will experience a range of emotions. The adoptive family will also be emotional and will deal with excitement about the adoption blended with sympathy for the birth family.
Though the hospital stay may represent an emotionally charged time for everyone involved, it need not be a negative experience. With thoughtful planning and a dose of flexibility, all involved parties can leave the hospital with positive feelings about the adoption process in Florida and the future of the adoptee.
The foster care adoption process in Florida is sometimes simpler. Once you’ve been matched with a waiting child, the child can join your family as a foster child. After placement, there will be a supervision period during which an adoption professional will assess the transition and the child’s adjustment to your home.
The adoption professional may determine that the child needs additional services to facilitate adjustment. However, once the professional has determined that the placement is satisfactory, a Consent to Adopt document will be sent to your attorney.
When adopting a child in Florida from another nation, the process can be complicated. In an adoption from a Hague Adoption Convention nation, you must first gain custody of the child in their home country. That means hearings must be scheduled in observance of the laws of the adoptee’s nation of origin.
It also requires prospective adoptive parents to travel to the home country of the adoptee to appear at hearings and meet the legal requirements for adoption in that nation.
Step 6: Finalize the Adoption
Placement is not the end of the adoption process in most cases. In fact, it marks the beginning of a lifelong journey. After the placement, all parties will need time to transition and adjust to the new circumstances.
The next step after the adoption placement is to finalize the adoption through the designated process in Florida. That means that full custody is awarded to the adoptive parents by a judge issuing a final decree of adoption.
The adoption is finalized only after a judge has approved the adoption to ensure it complies with the applicable laws. There is usually a hearing at which the adoptive family will appear, and the judge will sign off on the legal aspects of the process.
There may be several requirements that must be satisfied before the process of adopting a child in Florida can be finalized. Those can include:
- Termination of Parental Rights: Both birth parents must have their parental rights legally terminated in an ethical fashion. That can happen through voluntary termination of parental rights or involuntarily by order of the court. No adoption can be finalized until this step is complete.
- Indian Child Welfare Act Clearance: This act was designed to preserve the integrity of Indigenous American tribes and families in any proceeding involving a child who is a member of a federally recognized tribe.
- Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children Clearance: In adoptions that occur across state lines, an ICPC hearing is held to make sure all applicable laws were observed. It ensures children are placed in a safe environment and acts as a check and balance system between states to make sure adoptions are legal.
- Post-Placement Visitation Plan: Florida law requires post-placement visits must be a part of becoming an adoptive parent in Florida. The post-placement visits are essentially an extension of the original home study and are designed to ensure that the child is in a safe, stable adoptive home. The first post-placement visit occurs within one week of the placement and there can be three or more visits within 90 days of the placement.
The finalization hearing can happen between three months and a year after the placement. Your lawyer or case worker will notify you of the date. At the hearing, you’ll likely experience the following:
- You’ll be introduced to the court by your attorney
- You’ll be asked to answer questions about your reasons for pursuing adoption
- If you’re adopting a child over the age of 12, the child must give consent to the adoption
- The judge may ask you a few questions about your family and adoption motivations
- The judge will finalize the procedure by signing a decree
For families adopting a child in Florida through private adoption, post-adoption contact can be a critical part of the process for both birth parents and adoptive parents. Birth parents can choose to have open communication with the adoptee or no communication at all.
The contact stipulated in the post-adoption contact plan can include:
- In-person visits
- Phone calls
- Video calls
- Email correspondence
When adopting a child in Florida from foster care, the adoption is finalized at a hearing, just as in the case of a private adoption. Usually, a child lives with the foster family for a period of at least six months after placement. At that time, your attorney will schedule a hearing to finalize the adoption.
Finalization of an international adoption comes after custody of the child is granted by the country of origin. Once custody is granted, the adoptive family must obtain an immigration visa for the child. You will be asked to provide several documents, including:
- A new birth certificate for the child featuring your name from the country of origin
- A passport for the child from the country of origin
- A U.S. immigration visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate in the adoptee’s country of origin
Adoption of a child in Florida does not end when the adoption is finalized legally. It’s only the beginning of what will be a lifelong journey. Raising a child you’ve adopted is a great responsibility, but it comes with great rewards. You can contact adoption professionals in your area to learn more about the process and explore your options, or you can contact us today to be connected with a helpful adoption professional.