Who can adopt a child in Florida?
Any individual may be an adoptive parent in Florida as long as they meet a set of criteria outlined by the state. Ideally, the adoptive parent(s) live and work within Florida; however, the state does not have residency requirements for adoptive parent(s).
Florida adoption law has no stipulations regarding the marital status of the intended adoptive parent(s). Single, married, step-parent(s), same-sex couples, may petition for adoption. This being said, some domestic and international adoption agencies often have more stringent requirements for minimum and maximum age, marital status, and length of marriage as a precursor to adoption.
The health of the intended adoptive parent(s) is a determining role in the adoption process. Recent medical records may be requested for review to determine that the physical aspect of raising a child is supported and a stable home environment is established. Parent(s) with physical disabilities are not prevented from the adoption process as long as the disability does not prevent the individual from serving as an effective parent.
Who can be adopted?
Anyone may be adopted in Florida, regardless of age, though adoptees 12 years of age and older must give consent to the adoption unless waived by the court for the adoptee’s best interest. Proper written consent must be received from:
- The birth mother.
- The birth father.
- The minor – if the adoptee is 12 years of age or older and the court agrees for the best interest of the child.
- Any person lawfully entitled to custody of the minor if required by the court.
What is the oldest age to adopt a child?
There is no legal age limit to adopt a child in Florida. The age of the intended adoptive parent(s) is a determining factor during the adoption process. In general, the minimum age to adopt a child falls between 18 and 25 years old with some agencies requiring a minimum age difference of 10 – 15 years between the adoptive parent(s) and adoptee. Foster Care Adoption requires that adoptive parents be at least 21 years old and these parents are often the first consideration if the child becomes available for adoption. Many Independent and International Adoption agencies try to work with the potential adoptive parent(s) between the ages of 25 and 50.
What are the costs to adopt a child?
The cost of adoption varies among the different adoption types with international and private adoptions frequently more expensive than foster care adoption. A financial review will be conducted before adoption to determine whether the basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, health, education, and developmental opportunities can be met. Allowable adoption expenses in Florida include prospective birth parent expenses during pregnancy up to six (6) weeks postpartum, court fees, advertising costs incurred by the adoption professional, birth certificate and medical record expenses, and reasonable fees for professional services involved in the pregnancy or adoption process.
What are the DCF home study requirements?
A preliminary home study is made to determine the suitability of the intended adoptive parents and may be required before the identification of the prospective minor. At a minimum, the study must include:
- An interview with the intended adoptive parent(s).
- Records checks of the department’s central abuse registry and criminal records.
- An assessment of the physical environment of the home.
- Determination of the financial security of the intended adoptive parents.
- Documentation of counseling and education of intended adoptive parents on adoptive parenting.
- Documentation that information on adoption and the adoption process has been provided to the intended adoptive parent(s).
- Documentation that information on available support services in the community has been provided to the intended adoptive parent(s).
- A copy of each signed acknowledgment of receipt of the disclosure.
This study must be performed by a licensed child-placing agency, a child-caring agency, a licensed professional, or an agency described in s.61.20(2). Favorable home studies are valid for one (1) year after the date of completion and a signed copy must be provided to the intended adoptive parents who were the subject of the home study. Home study’s are waived for some relative adoptions.
How long does it take to process an adoption?
The length of time it takes to process an adoption varies from case to case and how long it takes for the intended adoptive parent(s) to complete background checks, adoptive parent training, a home study, and a finalization hearing. Flexibility is important as these steps can take three (3) months to a year on average to complete.
Following a favorable home study, private adoption requires a minimum of forty-eight (48) hours after the birth or when the hospital stay ends, whichever time comes first, for child placement. As part of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, Florida requires that adoptive parents from out of state must stay in the state where the child is born for seven to ten (7 to 10) business days.
Placement is not always the final step of the adoption process. A finalization hearing may be held between three (3) months to a year after placement. Finalization of adoption can only be approved by a judge after review that all legal aspects of the process have been approved. These can include:
- Termination of Parental Rights.
- Indian Child Welfare Act Clearance.
- Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children Clearance.
- Post-Placement Visitation Plan.
What does the adoption process look like?
The adoption process may vary depending on where the intended adoptive parent(s) live. Typically, the process includes an orientation session, in-depth training program, home study, background check, application approval, match-making between minor and adoptive parent(s), placement supervision, and legal finalization of the adoption.
- Orientation – is one to a two-hour presentation where the intended adoptive parent(s) have the chance to meet and speak with experienced adoptive parents and counselors to provide an overview of the adoption process from start to finish.
- Preparation Course – these are mandatory courses designed to educate intended adoptive parent(s) about adoption issues while assessing their and their family’s ability to provide a stable and effective home environment.
- Home Study – The ultimate purpose of the Home Study is to make sure that the intended adoptive parent(s) can provide a safe, secure, and stable home. Background checks, employer and character references, financial reviews, and interviews will be conducted during this time to help all parties ensure successful adoption.
- Background Check – Local, state and federal background checks will be conducted on all members being considered, including nonrelative placements. These checks additionally include all members of the household and frequent visitors to the household. Child placement will not occur with a person with a felony conviction that falls within:
- Child Abuse, Abandonment, or Neglect.
- Domestic Violence.
- First-degree or Second-degree murder.
- Sexual Battery which constitutes a capital, life, or first-degree felony.
- Child Pornography or another felony where a child was a victim of the offense.
- Homicide, Sexual Battery, or other felony involving violence.
- Assault – within the previous 5 years.
- Battery – within the previous 5 years.
- Drug-related Offense – within the previous 5 years.
- Application Approval – All information gathered in the home study packet will be sent to an adoption specialist for approval. The intended adoptive parent(s) will be notified as soon as the application is approved.
- Matching – Once the home study is completed, intended adoptive parents may attend recruitment activities such as picnics or events where foster children who are available for adoption are in attendance. Intended adoptive parents should notify the adoption worker about their interest in a certain child or sibling group. The adoption worker will share information with you about the minor, their personality, and background while also sharing information with the minor about the intended adoptive parent(s), their family, and their general neighborhood. An initial short visit will occur once the minor is comfortable which can extend to longer visits with both the intended adoptive parent(s) and the child’s approval. Official placement will occur when all parties determine that the minor is ready.
- Placement Supervision – After the minor is placed in the home an adoption worker must make monthly visits to assess the minor’s adjustment and determine if new or additional services are needed. The supervision period ends when the counselor provides a Consent to Adoption form to the adoptive parent(s)’ attorney.
- Finalization – Typically, three (3) months to a year after placement, the adoptive parent(s)’ attorney will schedule a hearing before a judge where the adoption will be legalized and the minor officially becomes part of the family.
Do I need an attorney to adopt a child?
Learn more about adoption
Any individual may be looking to adopt in the state of Florida. They may not know the law, whether or not they qualify as adoptive parents, or if the person they want to adopt can be adopted. If you need an adoption attorney to assist in adoption proceedings in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake, or other counties throughout Florida call Schwam-Wilcox & Associates at 407-245-7700, or Contact Us by completing the form below to schedule a consultation. Schwam-Wilcox & Associates is a firm you can trust, and our attorneys are ready to help you with your legal needs. The main office is conveniently located in Altamonte Springs with appointments also available in The Villages.