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 have answers to, “How does adoption FL work?” 

You may have begun your process towards deciding whether to place your baby for adoption by wondering how the adoption process works in FL. As you begin this process there can be a lot of information to take in as you make your decision whether to place your baby for adoption, but it does not need to be. The right information will help you make the most well-informed and best decision for you and your baby. A wonderful place to begin researching “how does adoption FL work” is at Adoption.com and its resource guide on adoption in Florida. Adoption.com offers wonderfully comprehensive resource guides on each respective state’s laws and regulations regarding adoption, 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.” You may have just found out you’re pregnant, or maybe you’ve known you are expecting for many months. You may feel confident in your decision to place your baby for adoption, or you may just be beginning to research your options. A good place to start your journey is to begin to research adoption agencies in FL. Adoption.com offers a very thorough and exhaustive list of adoption agencies in Florida and other states in the US. Links to licensed adoption centers in Florida can be a helpful but also overwhelming place to start, since how are you to know what a great adoption agency looks like versus an unethical adoption agency? You may not have even considered there are unethical adoption centers. 

Finding a great adoption agency for you and your baby is not impossible. There is a right agency for everyone. Just know, as you start the process, there is no obligation for you to work with any agency at any point in your process. You can change your mind and start working with another agency at any point. You may not even be absolutely sure you want to create an adoption plan for your baby. It is okay to reach out to one 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 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 perhaps hopeful adoptive parents) is important. Many people enter the adoption process for the first time with the misconception that all agencies are the samethey are not. Doing your research and making sure each of your questions are 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 while talking to them. Adoption agencies and the adoption service providers with whom they work and employ should make you feel valued and respected. These agencies should also give you full freedom and autonomy throughout the process of deciding to place your baby. If at any moment you feel any sort of coercion, don’t walkrun away from 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 have narrowed down your list of adoption agencies you are interested in interviewing to the adoption agency or center 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 for the hopeful adoptive parents to become 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. These requirements from the agency or adoption attorney may mean how many times the individual has been divorced or how long the couple has been married or how high their income needs to be to support everyone in their home. Florida once had an adoption law which did not allow LGBT individuals or couples to adopt children in FL. This law was ruled unconstitutional and now anyone can adopt a baby regardless of whether they are gay or straight. 

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, nor whether you have had children before or how many children you are already raising. However, adoption agencies and adoption attorneys facilitating adoptions in FL usually have their own adoption age requirements, as well as other requirements. 

The fact is, 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 an 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 they would be safe for your baby. 

The home study needs to be done by licensed social workers in the state of FL (if the parents live in FL) or licensed adoption professionals in the hopeful adoptive parents’ resident state. It 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. All of this information will be compiled in a report with financials, driving records, employment history, and medical exams and history; everything you and the social worker will need to deem the family suitable for your baby

The hopeful adoptive parents will also need to complete extensive parenting training, have interviews with the social workers and home visits to ensure it is safe and prepared for a child. 

Once the home study is completed by the home study adoption agency or licensed social worker in the hopeful adoptive parents’ respective state, your adoption agency or adoption attorney will work with the hopeful adoptive family through their next steps. If you have not previously met parents for your child on an adoption forum or through an adoption photolisting, your agency will help you get connected with potential adoptive parents for you to interview. This will be helpful as an expectant parent when you make the final decision on your baby’s adoptive family. 

Making a Decision on Your 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 with, 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 books with information on individuals, couples or families for you to view as potential adoptive parents for your baby. 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. These books can include information like a profile on them as a family or an album full of stories or photos about their family, pets, and careers. Hopeful adoptive parents and families will have gone through the home study, as described above, to ensure their home is safe and they have the proper education and preparedness level to adopt.  

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. In Florida, the prospective adoptive parents are allowed 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 meets certain criteria for getting adoption expenses paid for. The birth mother’s agency or attorney will work with you to understand what expenses are allowed to be paid and help you draft the paperwork to begin that process so the adoption does not cost you money.

Many of the expenses the prospective adoptive parents may pay for include any expenses incurred due to doctors appointments, medications, or hospital visits during the pregnancy or after the baby is born. They also can include therapy appointments, rent, paying for housing expenses, any clothes you need during your pregnancy, and groceries. 

As you can see from each of these previous steps in the adoption process, your agency or adoption service provider will be with you during each step of your journey. Your agency or attorney will help you in communicating your desires and plan with the hopeful adoptive family, if necessary, creating your birth plan for the hospital and after the birth—like who you want with you and when you want the adoptive parents to meet the baby, helping with legal paperwork each step of the way.

Another question you may have as an expectant mother is about what happens after you have chosen a family for your baby and reach labor. Will you contact the adoptive parents, or will your agency? You will be in labor and these can seem like other stresses you don’t want or need to worry about. Your agency or attorney can inform the adoptive family when you are in labor and share your birth plan, if it has not already been communicated. They will let them know who can be in the labor or birthing room and when they can meet the baby. The agency you are working with will handle all of that communication, if desired. 

How does adoption FL work after your baby is born? After your baby has arrived, there are some final steps until your baby is adopted by their adoptive parents in FL. FL’s regulations ensure birth parents have as much time as needed before making any final decision to place a baby for adoption after the birth. You can take as much time as you need with your baby before making that final decision to sign any adoption paperwork. FL law gives birth mothers at least two full days before any paperwork can be signed after the birth of the baby to ensure this is the decision you still want to make. If you have a cesarean section, the wait to sign the paperwork may be longer. Your agency can help you understand the process. The decision after those first 48 hours on when you sign is up to you, and you can ask as many questions as you need to ask before doing so. 

Once you sign the paperwork to place your baby with their adoptive family, you may begin the level of communication you agreed upon when you decided whether to have an open, semi-open, or closed adoption. You may even visit your baby the first few days or get photos if you do not want to visit just yet or at all. The level of communication you would like with your baby is agreed upon and written up by your attorney or agency before the baby is born. It is important to remember though, that if you decided on a closed adoption, FL allows records, currently, to be sealed from the adoptive family and child. However, when the child gets to 18, the adoption records can be unsealed by a court order and the paperwork may identify you later in your child’s life. Adoption laws continue to change and evolve in every state, including FL, so it is important to remember things can change in the future. This could be understood to mean that, one day, adoption records which were once sealed could be unsealed for any reason at any time. 

Once you place your baby with their adoptive family, who you chose for him or her, you will likely feel a lot of different feelings. This is normal and you are not alone. You will see that these feelings are universal for all birth mothers. You may feel relief one minute and grief the next and a million other emotions in between. This is normal. It is important to lean on your loved ones and helpers, your family, therapist, social worker, and your circle of trusted people who love you during this time. Practice self-care and remember you are also recovering from a pregnancy and delivery. Being slow and good to yourself is most important. 

As you begin to research “how does adoption FL work,” make sure you get all of your questions answered; no question is too big or too small. Every step you take in the adoption journey is an important one, but there are a lot of women who walked this journey before you, so seek them out and learn about the specifics for adoption in FL.

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