Understanding the ins and outs of the question, “how does adoption FL” work will help you as you contemplate an adoption plan for your baby. Every state is unique in its requirements and process for adopting a baby or placing your baby for adoption. You may be filled with many emotions as you make a decision about placing your baby for adoption. If you live in the state of Florida, it is helpful at the beginning of the process of determining whether to make an adoption plan, to understand, “how does in adoption FL work”. 

As an expectant mother or birth parent, it can seem overwhelming deciding whether to place your baby for adoption, but it does not have to be stressful. The right information will help you make a well-informed and the best decision for you and your baby. A wonderful place to begin researching “how does adoption FL work” is at Adoption.com or Adoption.ORG and its resource guide on adoption in Florida. It is a comprehensive resource guide on state laws and regulations, which can be helpful as a birth mother and/or expectant parent, adoption agencies located in Florida, as well as information for prospective adoptive parents living in or adopting from Florida. 

Where Do I Begin?

At this point, you may be wondering where to begin if you are beginning your process of researching “how does adoption FL work.” Whether you feel pretty certain of your decision to place your baby for adoption, or are still gathering information on all of your options, adoption agencies are a good starting point. A great place to start is by researching Adoption agencies in Florida. This list includes a directory of all adoption agencies in the state of Florida, as well as all other states in the U.S. Links to licensed adoption centers in Florida can be a helpful, but also a potentially overwhelming state to place, as to how do you know what is a great adoption agency versus a non-ethical one? It may be confusing or overwhelming to determine what is a great adoption agency for you and your baby, but it does not have to be. There is no pressure or commitment to work with an agency at the beginning of your process. You may not even be absolutely sure you want to create an adoption plan for your baby. It is okay to reach out to an agency or multiple, even if you are unsure. I would venture to say to do this especially if you are unsure of your plans. Adoption agencies can answer many of your specific questions and give you information on the process that you didn’t even know existed. Speaking with an adoption professional from a licensed adoption agency in Florida early in the process can make a world of difference.  

Which Adoption Agencies in Florida Are Best? 

Deciding which agencies are best for you and your baby can be a daunting task, but as I said before, it need not be one. Narrowing the list based on ones located in FL and services the agencies provide birth mothers (and potentially hopeful adoptive parents) is important. Many people enter the adoption process for the first time with the misconception that all agencies are the same–they are not. Doing your research and making sure each of your questions is answered thoroughly and completely is important. Creating a list of questions important to you before you reach out to agencies is a good idea. Once you have your list of questions and the list of adoption agencies you are interested in interviewing, reach out to each respective one and ask if you can schedule an interview call with one of the adoption coordinators or social workers. Getting the information you need is important, but remember it is also important to get a good feeling in your spirit when talking to them. Adoption agencies and the professionals with whom they work and employ should make you feel valued and respected. These agencies should also give you full freedom and autonomy through the process to make the decision to place your baby. If at any moment you feel any sort of coercion, don’t walk–run away from talking to that agency and look to another on your list. It does not matter how far along you are in the process. It matters most that you are comfortable.

Who Can Adopt My Baby in Florida?

Once you narrowed down your list of adoption agencies with whom you were interested in interviewing to the adoption agency or center with whom you plan to use to help facilitate your baby’s adoption, you may wonder–how does adoption FL work for the hopeful adoptive parents?  

The first step is whether the hopeful adoptive parents are eligible to adopt in Florida. To be eligible to adopt a baby in Florida, the hopeful adoptive parent can be married or single. Most adoption agencies and adoption attorneys have adoption requirements for married couples and singles wishing to adopt. This may mean how many times the individual has been divorced or how long the couple has been married. Until 2010, Florida adoption law prohibited LGBT individuals and couples from adopting. This law was ruled unconstitutional, and, in 2015, the repeal of the ban was officially signed into law.

You may be a parent already through birth or adoption. You may have never been a parent. Florida does not have specific laws regarding adoption requirements for a minimum age or adoption age limit for those adopting a child through private infant adoption. However, adoption agencies and adoption attorneys facilitating adoptions usually have their own adoption age requirements in Florida.

The fact is that there is no one description of a family or couple or individual who can be a hopeful adoptive parent. If you believe the family or individual will show up every day and love your child and build a safe forever home and future in which your child can thrive, those hopeful adoptive parents can adopt. It is up to you to make the choice for your child. A few things will prevent you from becoming an adoptive parent, such as certain felony criminal records or unsafe home, but that will be determined in the hopeful adoptive family’s home study, which looks into almost every detail of his or her life to ensure the parents would be safe for your baby. The home study will include background and FBI checks for every adult in the home, including the hopeful adoptive parents, interviews with friends, children’s teachers, neighbors and employers. In the state of Florida, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, which provides a state by state information on adoption–all members of the household over the age of 12 will require a background check in order for the family to be eligible to adopt. Grounds for disqualification include offenses such as domestic or child abuse, abandonment, or neglect, drug-related offenses and violent offenses. The home will be inspected in person by a licensed social worker from the home study agency, and all of this information will be compiled in a report with financials, driving records, employment history, and medical exams and history. This will be helpful as an expectant parent as you make your final decision on your baby’s adoptive family. 

How Can I Make A Decision on My Baby’s Hopeful Adoptive Parents in Florida?

Once you have interviewed and decided on the adoption agency or adoption attorney and make your choice on which agency you plan, most adoption agencies also have a number of hopeful adoptive parents. These agencies work with those families who are looking to build a family through adoption. Agencies may have profiles for you to view hopeful adoptive parents and families. Social workers and agencies can organize in-person interviews and meetings so that you can personally choose the family with whom you place your baby. Those hopeful adoptive parents will often provide a profile or even a photo album of photos of the couple, children, pets, and family history. Hopeful adoptive parents and families will also go through the home study, as described above, to ensure the home is safe and have the proper education and preparation going into adoption. The home study needs to be done by licensed social workers or licensed adoption professionals in the hopeful adoptive parents’ resident state. The home study is inclusive of all of the information you and the social worker will need to deem the family suitable. The home study ensures the home and family are safe and prepared for adopting your baby. The hopeful adoptive parents will need to complete parenting training, have interviews with the social worker and home visits to ensure it is safe and prepared for a child. The home study also includes recommendations from employers, friends, family, and teachers of children in the home, as previously described.

Once the home study is completed by the home study adoption agency or licensed social worker, your adoption agency or adoption attorney will work with the hopeful adoptive family on building the profile and photo pages for your viewing.

Once you have chosen one or a few sets of parents with whom you would like to connect, the agency will act as an intermediary and help facilitate that first conversation. The agency will work with you as you navigate that process of connecting with and interviewing prospective parents for your child. The agency also makes the process as seamless and stress-free as possible for you.

You may also be working through the process in the opposite direction. As you find yourself as an expectant mother, you may have already found a family through family photolistings, like the one on Adoption.com or through your house of worship, family or the neighborhood. An adoption agency or adoption attorney can and should help you finalize the adoption, even if the agency is not helping you decide on a forever family for your baby.

Whether you previously found the prospective adoptive parents yourself or through your adoption service provider, the adoption agency or adoption attorney can also work with you and the adoptive parents to determine what birth mother expenses will be paid for by your baby’s adoptive parents. Florida law permits adoptive families to pay the “actual and reasonable living expenses during the pregnancy” and up to a maximum of six weeks following delivery if the birth mother is unemployed, underemployed or suffering from a medically diagnosed disability.

These expenses usually include medical expenses during the pregnancy and postpartum period, counseling, rent or mortgage payments, utilities, maternity clothing and supplies, transportation, and food. Your adoption agency or adoption attorney can help you understand what expenses can be covered. Your agency will be with you during each step and help you in communicating with the hopeful adoptive family, if necessary, creating your birth and adoption plan and helping with necessary paperwork each step of the way.

At the end of your pregnancy, when you are in labor, your adoption agency will inform the hopeful adoptive parents, if you have not done so already, that you are at the hospital or birthing center. In your birth plan, which you may or may not have discussed with your baby’s prospective adoptive family, you made a decision of when the family would be contacted about labor and by whom. Your adoption center will make sure your plan is communicated with the prospective adoptive parents.  

After birth, there are various steps in completing the relinquishment paperwork and finalizing the adoption in Florida. Florida allows you as much time as you need before you sign any paperwork relinquishing your maternal or parental rights. You can have as much time as you need with your baby alone after the birth. Some mothers want a few minutes alone, others want many hours. There is no right or wrong choice; this is entirely your decision. According to Florida law, the adoption consent paperwork will be signed no sooner than 48 hours after delivery unless you, as the birth mother, are being discharged earlier by your doctor. If you have a C-Section, the wait may be slightly longer. Your baby is legally your child until you sign the relinquishment paperwork. The decision of when or even if you sign the relinquishment paperwork is up to you. You can change your mind. You can ask all of the questions you need, speak to your support people or social workers. You have the right to make sure this is the decision you still want to make–to place your child for adoption.  

During this time, you will begin the level of communication upon which all parties agreed to at the start of your adoption journey when interviewing and deciding on an adoptive family for your baby. You may receive calls or photos or even visit. The level of communication is up to you and agreed upon before the child is born. You may want to receive photos at certain milestones, letters, or even visit your child in person. Some birth mothers want photo albums once a year. Others enjoy regular phone calls scheduled weekly or monthly. Other mothers want a semi-open adoption where only letters are received one way from the adoptive parents and do not have open and regular communication from the adoptive parents. Most birth mothers and parents do not have a closed adoption plan. In the state of Florida, however, in a closed adoption, records are sealed. A closed adoption, for now, according to Florida law, can be recognized. The records can be obtained by court order, but identifying information about any party involved in the adoption triad, which includes the adoptee, adoptive parent, birth parent, will likely not be disclosed unless the birth mother consents in writing. It is important to remember that laws change, including adoption laws, and that may happen in Florida in the future. This essentially means that one day, potentially, records, once sealed and unable to be disclosed to any party to the adoption, could be reopened to any requesting party involved in the adoption in Florida. This is just something to consider as you try to understand “how does adoption FL work.”  

After your baby is born, and you place your baby with your adoptive parents and you sign the relinquishment paperwork, you will likely feel a plethora of emotions. No emotion is too small or big or wrong. You may feel a range of emotions during this time including sadness, grief, relief, confusion or peace. Reaching out to loved ones–including friends, your social worker, therapist, and loved ones, is important.  Self-care, patience with yourself, and time is needed.

Above all else, as you begin this adoption journey, conducting research, speaking with a social worker, adoption attorney adoption service provider in Florida on the options available to you regarding adoption in Florida, and understanding the steps involved on how adoption works, will help you take this first step. Each step in your journey will lead you to the next. Understanding the intricacies of your particular state as you make an adoption plan is helpful. How does adoption FL work isn’t answered without a lot of information, and that is a good thing–the more you know, the better informed you will be as you take each step on this adoption journey.

If you would like to speak confidentially with an adoption professional about your pregnancy options, click here.

 

Jennifer Mellon is the co-founder and president of Trustify, providing private investigators on demand to consumers and businesses. She has worked in the child welfare field for more than a decade, serving as the executive director and chief development officer at Joint Council on International Children’s Services. She also worked for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) and served on the board of the Campagna Center, which provides critical educational services to children and families in the DC Metro region. She currently serves on the development board for the National Council for Adoption and currently resides in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband and five children.