International Adoption in Florida
International adoption in Florida is a rewarding way to expand your family because it allows you to provide a home to a waiting child from another nation. Have you considered adopting a child from a country outside of the U.S.?
If so, you may have many questions about the international adoption process. Those could include:
- How can I explore international adoption opportunities?
- What are the requirements for international adoption?
- How much does international adoption cost?
- What are the best countries for international adoptions?
- What agencies assist prospective adoptive parents who want to adopt internationally?
The international adoption process includes additional details not required in other forms of adoption since the rules of two nations must be observed.
Fortunately, you’re not alone when learning how to find international adoption opportunities or how to petition for recognition of foreign adoption in Florida. There are international adoption agencies in Florida that will walk you through every step of the way and ensure that your adoption goals are met.
If you have questions about the international adoption process, help is just an email or phone call away. Click here to find a listing of adoption professionals in Florida who can help you explore your international adoption options.
What is International Adoption?
As the name indicates, international adoptions occur when a family in the U.S. adopts a child from another country. Of the three primary ways to adopt a child in Florida, international adoption is the least common. For example, only 146 Florida families adopted internationally in 2019.
One of the reasons that international adoption is less common than foster care adoption and private adoption is that there is an additional layer of detail involved in the process. Not only must Florida adoption requirements be met, but the rules of the adoptee’s home nation must also be observed.
Who Chooses International Adoption in Florida?
The additional requirements and cost of international adoption in Florida mean that this process may not be the right choice for every prospective adoptive family. However, for some potential adoptive parents, it is the perfect option.
International adoption in Florida is appealing to prospective adoptive families that fall into one or more of the following categories:
- Families who are open to adopting a child of any age: While it’s certainly possible to adopt an infant from another nation, many waiting children in institutional homes in other countries are older. Most children adopted internationally are between the ages of five and 12.
- Prospective parents who don’t want contact with birth parents: Some forms of adoption offer the option of open or semi-open adoption in which birth parents, adoptive parents, and the adoptee have some degree of contact. That’s not usually possible with international adoptions. Most international adoptions are considered closed adoptions.
- Those who aren’t concerned with adopting children with medical challenges: Many children in institutional homes in other nations have significant health challenges. Therefore, prospective adoptive parents interested in international adoption in Florida should be open to and able to provide care for children with special needs.
- Families who aren’t worried about the medical history of a child’s family: The medical history of a child’s family can be important to some potential adoptive parents. The family medical details of children in institutional homes in other countries are often unknown, so parents who aren’t concerned with that knowledge may be open to international adoption in Florida.
As is the case with any type of adoption, there are a few requirements that prospective adoptive parents considering international adoption must meet. However, in the case of international adoptions, those requirements are dictated by federal law rather than just state or local regulations.
The governing body that sets the guidelines for international adoption in Florida is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Those requirements include:
- Both parents must be U.S. citizens
- The child must be adopted legally by both parents
- If unmarried, both parents must be a minimum of 25 years of age
- The family is deemed suitable to adopt and raise a child
To be determined eligible to adopt and raise a child, several factors may be considered, including successful completion of an international adoption home study, criminal background checks, fingerprinting, and other requirements.
How much does international adoption in Florida cost?
The cost of international adoption in Florida can vary widely. There are many factors that can influence the final cost, including the home country of the child, the international adoption agency you use, and the travel requirements for adoption abroad.
Here are a few of the factors that can influence the cost of your international adoption:
- Country of origin: The cost of adopting a child varies from country to country. It can cost as little as $15,000 to adopt a child from the Philippines, or as much as $38,000 (or more) to adopt from South Korea.
- Cost of international adoption agency services: The cost of adoption professionals can also vary based on the services they provide and the type of fee structure they employ.
- Travel requirements: If you are only required to make one trip to the child’s home country to complete the adoption, your travel costs will be minimized. However, some countries require multiple trips before the custody is transferred, which will cause travel expenses to multiply.
There are many types of expenses in addition to those mentioned above that can impact the cost of your international adoption. Some of the typical costs you expect during an international adoption in Florida are:
- Registration and application fees
- Adoption program fees
- Home study fees
- Adoptive family training fees
- Documentation and authentication fees
- Travel expenses
- Legal fees
- And other miscellaneous fees
International adoption in Florida can be quite expensive. However, there are fewer unexpected costs than with other types of adoptions, which makes it preferable for families who want to accurately estimate the costs to adopt.
How to Pursue International Adoption in Florida
If international adoption sounds like the best option for building your family, there is a formal process you must follow. Read below to learn the steps for a successful international adoption.
Step 1: Select a Country
The first step that you should take when planning an international adoption is deciding which country you’d prefer to adopt from. While the nation of origin may not matter to some prospective adoptive families, others may have preferences that will guide the selection.
Choosing the right birth country isn’t just about personal preference, however. There may be other factors that can influence the decision, such as changing adoption laws, the political climate in the home country, and travel bans that could impact your adoption outcome.
A few other factors that could impact your choice of country are:
- The requirements for adoption in some countries may be more stringent than in others
- Availability of children in desired age groups and genders can vary from one nation to another
- Costs for adoption-related travel and accommodations can differ widely among different countries
- Culture and ethnicity of the adoptee must be understood and embraced by adoptive parents
Therefore, selecting a country is important. Make sure to research the adoption requirements for any country you’re considering, and account for social factors that can impact the success of your adoption.
Step 2: Find an International Adoption Agency in Florida
Even if you’ve done your research on adopting a child from another country, you’ll still need help from international adoption agencies in Florida to navigate the process. Domestic adoptions can be complicated, but the process becomes more complex when the laws of a second nation must be observed.
Because adoption laws can widely vary from one country to another, international adoption agencies in Florida are certified to facilitate adoptions in specific nations. That’s one reason it’s important to determine the country from which you’d like to adopt before finding an adoption professional.
Once you’ve identified your chosen country, search for an international adoption agency in Florida that is certified for that nation. You should make sure that the agency is Hague-accredited as specified in the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012.
Some, but not all, countries subscribe to an adoption treaty known formally as the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. It’s designed to protect the interests of all parties involved in international adoption, including children, adoptive parents and birth parents.
Whether you plan to adopt from a Hague Process country or not, you’re still required to select a Hague-accredited international adoption agency in Florida.
Step 3: Find an International Adoption Attorney in Florida
Given the amount of legal work involved in international adoption in Florida, it’s important that you have a knowledgeable advocate to ensure the legal requirements are met. To successfully adopt internationally, you’ll need an international adoption attorney in Florida on your side.
Having international adoption lawyers in Florida on your adoption team will help you understand the legal requirements in both countries. It will make the entire process run more smoothly if you have an attorney well-versed in the Hague Convention and the adoption laws of the country you’ve selected.
Not only do international adoption attorneys in Florida help with intercountry adoption, they may also assist in completion of an international home study by offering you guidance and counsel. Finally, your attorney can help you apply for U.S. citizenship once you have custody of the child in the home nation.
Step 4: Complete an International Adoption Home Study
Every adoption in the state of Florida requires a home study. However, the home studies required for an international adoption in Florida are slightly different than those required for other forms of adoption.
Home study requirements vary from state to state. In the case of international adoptions, home studies must meet the requirements set forth by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The purpose of the home study is to not only establish the fitness of a potential adoptive home, but also to ensure the child will fit in well in the home. It determines whether potential adoptive parents are suitable and eligible to adopt a child in another country then bring the child into the U.S.
The home study is thorough by design, and includes in-home interviews, background checks, and financial record reviews. It can take up to three months. Information gathered from the study is used by USCIS and the adoption authority in the adoptee’s home country to determine adoption eligibility.
You’ll need to be prepared to comply with requests related to the home study. The home study can include:
- Health records
- Financial records
- Adoption reference letters
- Criminal background checks for everyone in the prospective adoptive household over the age of 14
- Narratives explaining your adoption motivations
- In-home interview
- Post-placement visits and interviews
You should work with an accredited international agency to complete the home study. If the home study provider isn’t accredited for international home studies, the home study findings must be reviewed and approved by an accredited international adoption agency in Florida.
Step 5: Gain USCIS Eligibility for International Adoption
Once the home study is complete, you can request to be confirmed as eligible for international adoption through the USCIS.
The process for requesting eligibility differs depending on whether the selected country uses the Hague Process or not.
If you’re adopting from a Hague Process country, you and your international adoption attorney in Florida will complete Form 1-800A and submit the required documents and home study results. If you’ve chosen a non-Hague Process country, you’ll complete form 1-600A if you haven’t been matched with a child and form 1-600 if you have been matched.
Once your adoption status has been confirmed by the USCIS, you’ll have a window of eligibility for international adoption. For Hague Process countries, eligibility lasts 15 months. For non-Hague Process countries, the process lasts 18 months.
After your eligibility is established, your international adoption agency in Florida will create your adoption dossier. The dossier will contain all the relevant documentation and is transmitted to the adoption authority in the chosen nation. There, eligibility is confirmed by local authorities.
Step 6: Child Referral and Matching
While some prospective adoptive parents are matched with a potential adoptee before eligibility is determined, in many cases eligibility is assessed before a match has been made.
As children in another country become eligible for adoption, adoption professions in the U.S. and the home country of the child seek potential parents for a match.
Finding the right match is important in any international adoption in Florida. A match with a waiting child may come through a referral from authorities in the adoptee’s home country, or your international adoption agency in Florida may identify a suitable opportunity on your behalf.
Once a referral is made, your agency will provide you with information about the child. Under most circumstances, you’ll have a specified time to consider the match and accept or decline it. It’s important to note that some countries don’t allow pre-identification of an adoptee and prospective parents only meet the referred child after visiting the home country.
Once you’ve been provided with a potential match, your international adoption agency in Florida will provide you with a file on the child. You’ll go over it with your adoption professional to learn details about the child’s gender, age, medical history, and developmental history.
You may also receive photos and videos of the child at this point in the process. However, adoption authorities in some nations and some adoption agencies stateside will withhold those materials to prevent prospective adoptive parents from making an emotional decision.
Before making a decision on the referral, make sure that you have as much information as possible to help in deciding whether to accept it. Be sure to ask questions, and your chosen international adoption agency in Florida will help you get the answers you need.
In some cases, the documents with referral information may need to be translated. You should get translation assistance to gain an accurate depiction of the child before deciding.
You will also determine that the child is eligible for international adoption and citizenship in the United States. When your eligibility to adopt was determined, you submitted form 1-800A or 1-600A. For the child, you’ll file form 1-800 for Hague Process countries or 1-600 for non-Hague Process countries.
Step 7: Travel and Adoption
After you accept a referral, it will be time to travel to the home country of the child to adopt.
In some cases, the entire legal adoption process can occur in the home country of the adoptee. Sometimes, you’ll simply gain custody of the child in the home country then finalize it after returning to the U.S. You can plan to spend between one and four weeks in the child’s home country.
Any international adoption in Florida must include a legal transfer of custody, though that doesn’t always happen on the initial trip to the child’s home country. Adoption laws differ from one country to another. In some cases, only one trip is required and the custody is transferred after a few weeks. However, in other nations, there may be several trips required before the custody transfer is completed.
Your chosen international adoption agency in Florida will help arrange for your travel to the birth country of the child. The process for transfer of custody is different in every country, but there may be a hearing or other legal proceeding to finalize the formal transfer of custody. There may also be an exit interview to confirm that all adoption requirements have been fulfilled.
Step 8: Immigration and Travel to the U.S.
Once you’ve gained custody of the child and been cleared to leave the adoptee’s home nation, you must secure a visa for the child. This is usually handled by the U.S. embassy or consulate in the child’s home country.
If both parents are present at the time of application and the adoption is completed in the home country, you’ll either receive an IH-3 (Hague nation) or IR-3 (non-Hague nation) visa. If only one parent is present, an IH-4 or IR-4 visa is granted.
After the visa is granted, you’ll be able to legally return to the country with your newly adopted child.
Step 9: Adoption Finalization or Re-Adoption
Even though custody has been transferred in the home country of the child, there may be additional steps in an international adoption in Florida after you return home.
For example, you will need to get updated documentation for the child after returning to the U.S. That can mean applying for a Social Security number and card for the child, or getting a Florida birth certificate for a foreign adoption.
Also, depending on the type of visa that you were issues, there may be additional steps. If only one parent was present at the time the visa was granted, you will need to finalize the adoption once back in the U.S.
If you received an IH-3 or IR-3 visa, the adoption was completed in the home country. Though the adoption may be final, adoption professionals advise adoptive parents to re-adopt or finalize the adoption in the U.S. to protect the full rights of the child as a U.S. citizen.
Once the re-adoption or finalization is completed, your international adoption in Florida will be complete and your child will have full U.S. citizenship.
International Adoption Professionals in Florida
International adoption in Florida requires expertise and detailed knowledge of intercountry adoption laws. That’s why it’s important that you have an international adoption agency on your side to shepherd you through the process.
Read below for a list of international adoption agencies in Florida that can help you reach your adoption goals:
- Sunshine State Adoption and Home Study Services
- ACF Adoptions
- Adopt International
- Adoption by Shepherd Care
- Island Coast International Adoption
- Heart of Adoptions Alliance, Inc.
- Nightlight Christian Adoptions
- Celebrate Children International
- Gladney Center for Adoption
International adoption in Florida can be complicated, but it’s also rewarding. That’s because it gives you a chance to offer your home to a waiting child from another country while growing your family. If international adoption seems like the right option for your family, get the process started today by contacting one of the groups above.