For Adoptive Parents
The decision to welcome a child into your family is made from the heart. But adoption can be a complex process, with unexpected issues, details and questions. We’re here to help you to understand and use the law for a smooth transition, and for the legal security of your parental rights. After discussing your goals and circumstances, we can determine whether your needs will be better served by an adoption attorney or by an adoption agency.
CHOOSING A LAW FIRM
If you are adopting a child that you’ve already identified, or if you have already taken care of some of the steps of the process, choosing our law firm to assist with terminating parental rights and finalizing the adoption may be the most efficient way to complete the process.
Final steps include the Home Study assessment; termination of the parental rights of the birth parents; and finalization of adoption for the adoptive parents.
Legal assistance may also be needed for specific circumstances, such as interstate, international, intermediary, special-needs, second parent, relative, stepparent and same-sex adoptions, as well as complex, appealed or contested cases.
CHOOSING AN ADOPTION AGENCY
An adoption agency may be the best choice for adoptive parents who are just beginning the adoption process. Our sister adoption agency, Heart of Adoptions, Inc., is a fully-licensed child placing agency that was launched in 2001 by Jeanne T. Tate. The agency will help match adoptive parents with a child, will conduct the home study and advise and consult every step of the way throughout the entire process.
Heart of Adoptions Alliance, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) licensed adoption agency founded by Jeanne T. Tate to assist with special needs, international and foster care adoptions. It is COA accredited.
MORE INFOrmation on specific topics
Frequently Asked Questions by Adoptive Parents
How long will it take to adopt a child?
There is a wide variety of waiting periods dependent upon a host of controllable and non-controllable factors. Generally, the average waiting period to be matched with a birth mother is 6 to 18 months. However, waits can be dramatically shorter or longer depending on individual situations and the restrictions you have on the type of child you desire.
How much does adoption cost?
The costs of adoption are wide-ranging, primarily depending on the birth mother’s living and medical expense needs and the type of adoption you wish to pursue. This literally can range from $1,000 to $35,000. You will be able to tell us your adoption budget so that we can stay within your parameters, and we can direct you to grants and other funding sources if desired.
What is a home study?
An independent investigation to verify your suitability as adoptive parents. They are valid for one year in Florida and can be updated easily. If you need assistance in obtaining a home study, please advise, as our sister adoption agency, Heart of Adoptions, Inc. can complete your home study or refer you to a qualified professional.
Do you work with same sex couples on second parent adoptions?
Yes. Please click here for more information.
Will you work with military families?
Will you work with out-of-state families?
Yes. We process many Interstate Compact cases and will assist in reconciling the conflict of laws that often exists between states.
Where do birthmothers come from?
We work with birthmothers from all over Florida and across the nation.
What information will I have on the birth parents?
A lengthy family, social and medical history compiled by the birth mother, and sometimes the birth father. Where possible, we also obtain medical records from the OB/GYN and the hospital. If requested, we can obtain criminal records or other third party documents. We cannot guarantee the health or medical history of the baby.
What information will the birth parents have about me?
Your birth mother letter and family profile. The birth parents may also ask additional questions which will be answered with your approval. It is not uncommon, for example, for a birth mother to want to know the first name you select for the baby.
What tests will be run on the birth mother?
We generally request HIV, drug screening, hepatitis and all the normal OB/GYN tests. You can usually ask for any other type of testing, excluding amniocentesis which the doctors will only perform for a medical reason. Sonograms are also routinely done.
What tests will be run on the baby?
Where indicated, we order HIV, drug screen, hepatitis and thyroid tests. If you request others, these can almost always be obtained.
What kind of contact will we have with the birth parents?
Whatever you agree. It is common for birth parents to want to speak to the adoptive parents on the phone, exchange letters and/or meet at lunch or the time of placement. Almost always, this contact is limited to pre-birth and the hospital period, although some birth mothers request a baby dedication or one-time meeting shortly after birth.
What should we say or not say in communicating with the birth parents?
You should focus on being yourselves, letting the birth parents get to know you and establishing a comfort level. We want the birth parents to have concern and empathy for your situation, and for you to understand theirs. You should not be interrogative, ask for personal or confidential information or question medical history. If you have a question in this regard, let us handle it.
When will the consent for adoption be signed?
Pursuant to Florida law, the consent will be signed no sooner than 48 hours after delivery unless the birth mother is being discharged earlier by her doctor. With a c-section, the wait may be slightly longer as we must ensure that the birth mother is free of narcotic medication.
Can a birth parent change his/her mind once a consent for adoption is signed?
Pursuant to Florida law, a birth mother who executes a consent for adoption involving a child six months or younger, does not have a grace period in which to change her mind. The consent for adoption is permanent and irrevocable from the moment it is signed, and can only be overturned based on fraud or duress. However, in cases where the birth mother is placing a child older than six months, the birth mother has 3 business days to revoke her consent for any reason. Once this period passes, if the child has been placed with the adoptive parents, the consent can only be overturned based on fraud or duress. If placement of the child with the adoptive family has not occurred, the birth mother may revoke her consent even if she is outside the 3-day revocation period.
What rights do birth fathers have?
In Florida, if able and aware of the pregnancy, a birth father that desires to establish and/or protect his rights is expected to pay a fair and reasonable amount of the expenses incurred in connection with the mother's pregnancy and the child's birth, in accordance with his financial ability, when not prevented from doing so by the birth mother. We attempt to locate and contact birth fathers to see if they will voluntarily cooperate with the adoption and sign a consent or affidavit of nonpaternity.
For unmarried biological fathers who are located and will not cooperate, the Florida Supreme Court has mandated that we serve them with a notice of the birth mother's intended adoption plan. The notice gives the potential father a period of 30 days within which to indicate his intent to contest the adoption by taking certain specified actions. If the unmarried biological father fails to timely complete the required actions, we seek a court determination that he has no rights to the child. If the unmarried biological father timely completes the required actions, he preserves his right to notice and his consent to the adoption is required as if he had been married to the birth mother or otherwise established to be the child's legal father. All placements are at-risk. This means you may have to return the child should termination or finalization be denied by the court. Additionally, birth parents and legal parents have a minimum period of 1 year to challenge termination of parental rights and any subsequent adoption, measured from the time the termination of parental rights order is entered. Arguments may be made to extend these time frames if there is fraud or other misconduct.
Can birth mothers receive living expenses?
Yes. Florida law permits adoptive parents 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.
Will I receive a refund of living expenses if the birth mother does not place?
We have the birth mother sign a financial agreement, which obligates her to repay such monies if the placement disrupts. In reality, very few have the resources to do so. The financial agreement may allow you to write off such losses as a bad debt. In addition, you can pursue a judgment against the birth mother, which is valid in Florida for 20 years (and renewable for another 20). An attorney that specializes in creditors’ issues can then handle pursuit and enforcement of the judgment.
When will my adoption be finalized?
Florida law permits finalization once the 90 day post-placement supervision period has expired, however, the Petition for Adoption cannot be set for final hearing until 30 days after entry of the Final Judgment Terminating Parental Rights. Finalization generally occurs within five months after placement, but can be delayed by a birth parent’s failure to cooperate or the court’s crowded docket. We will notify you when your final hearing is set.
What is post placement supervision?
Florida law requires monthly post placement supervision visits for a minimum of 90 days and this is usually done by the individual or entity that did your home study. If additional visits are needed, you will be notified. Please be sure to notify them when you receive a placement.
Is there a tax credit for adoption?
There is a substantial tax credit for adoption that is adjusted each year based on the cost of living allowance, and phases out at high income levels. The adjusted numbers are published by the IRS each year and can be found online at www.irs.gov/taxtopics under the heading “Tax Credits” and titled “Adoption Credit and Adoption Assistance Program.” The modified adjusted gross income that qualifies for the full credit, and the details on when the credit phases out, are also explained. Please consult with your tax advisor or the IRS to determine your eligibility, as well as the many other tax related benefits associated with children.
Families adopting a child domestically can claim the tax credit whether or not the adoption goes through. This helps families that cover the expenses of a birth mother who later decides not to release the child for adoption. Families adopting a child from overseas can take the tax credit only if the adoption becomes final.
Adoptive parents must keep records of their expenses, but the IRS defines the allowable expenses broadly as “reasonable and necessary” fees including: adoption fees, court costs and attorney fees, travel costs (including meals and lodging), and other expenses related to the legal adoption of an eligible child.
When and how can I take the dependency deduction?
Check with your tax advisor, but generally in the year you accept placement of the child. If you do not yet have a social security number, an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number can be issued in the interim. You must complete IRS Form W-7A, which can be downloaded at http://www.irs.ustreas.gov or you can call the IRS at 800.829.3676.
Is the earned income credit and child tax credit available for adopted children?
Yes, if you otherwise qualify under the IRS rules and regulations. These are two separate tax benefits.
Should I update my will?
Once the adoption process is complete and you have welcomed your son or daughter home, take a few minutes to let it all sink in, and then make an appointment with your attorney to revise your Last Will and Testament. Having an up-to-date Will is important for all of your children whether they came to you through birth or adoption.
There are many reasons why parents should have a current Will. The two most important reasons involve naming your children as beneficiaries of your estate and appointing their guardians. Although most states treat adopted children the same as birthchildren, it is best to specifically identify your adopted child(ren) as a beneficiary of your estate. The second reason has to do with appointing a guardian of the child and a conservator of the child's property. A Will is the only place you can make these designations. If you fail to designate someone to act in these capacities, the Court will make the determination for you.
What is the Indian Child Welfare Act?
The ICWA is a federal law that was enacted in 1978 to protect American Indian children who are members of or are eligible for membership in an Indian tribe from being placed for adoption with non-Indian families. The ICWA allows for a tribe to intervene in a termination of parental rights proceeding and, in some cases, allows for jurisdiction to be transferred to the tribe. In order to determine that a child placed for adoption does not fall within the ICWA, we request information from the birth parents as to whether they, or their relatives, are eligible for tribal membership. In order to comply with the ICWA, we write to any tribe that the birth parents indicate may have an interest in the child. In most cases, the child does not qualify for tribal membership and the tribe responds that it has no intention to intervene in the placement. An adoptive placement that involves a child with American Indian heritage is at risk until such time as the tribe indicates that it has no intention to intervene and until the birth parents’ rights are terminated.
What Is the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children?
The ICPC is a uniform law drafted in the 1950’s, which today has been enacted in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The ICPC contains 10 articles, which establish the procedures for interstate placements and assign responsibilities for all parties involved in placing a child for adoption. The ICPC applies only to children who are placed for adoption across state lines, but not to placements made with a parent, stepparent, grandparent, or other close adult relatives.
How does the Interstate Compact work?
If an adoptive family is from state A (receiving state) and the baby is born in state B (sending state), ICPC applies.
In this situation:
- The family would travel to the sending state for the adoption of the child.
- Before they are allowed to leave the sending state, the adoption agency would submit (by Federal Express) the ICPC paperwork to the sending state’s ICPC office.
- After the sending state has approved the adoption, all of the paperwork would then be forwarded (by Federal Express) to the receiving state’s ICPC office.
- Once the receiving state has approved the paperwork, the family is notified of the approval, and only then can they return to their state.
- If ICPC is not followed, or the family leaves before ICPC approval, the adoption could be jeopardized and the child may be returned to the sending state.
- Florida allows for the adoptive family to stay with the child during the wait.
What are the ICPC Safeguards?
The ICPC offers safeguards to all parties involved in the adoption, especially the child.
- Requires both a home study of the adoptive family and that an evaluation of the interstate placement be completed.
- Ensures the sending and receiving state’s laws and policies are followed before it approves the interstate placement.
- Assigns responsibility to the sending agency, thus guaranteeing the child’s legal and financial protection.
- Allows the prospective receiving state the opportunity to consent to or deny the adoptive placement.
- Provides for continual supervision and regular reports on each interstate placement.
- Ensures the sending agency does not lose legal jurisdiction of the child after moving to the receiving state.
What time is needed to process ICPC? (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children)
ICPC typically requires the submission of your baby’s discharge paperwork and medical records so only when these items become available can the ICPC package be completed and sent out. Once the ICPC paperwork has been submitted, it takes an average of 7-10 business days to process. This is an average time frame and some ICPC offices can take longer. Adoptive families should make the necessary arrangements to stay in the state for at least 2 weeks. Only one parent must stay with the child or foster care can be arranged if necessary.
Adoptive families will be notified immediately upon ICPC approval. We need to know where you are at all times during this wait and have as many contact numbers as possible. Clearance for you to return home MUST be received by you from our office, not your home study agency or the ICPC offices of your home state.
We understand the adoptive family’s desire to get back to their home and share their excitement and joy with family and friends as quickly as possible. We encourage you to use the time to bond with your newest family member during the ICPC process. Looking at the clock or counting the days that have passed will only make the wait seem longer. We will endeavor to minimize your wait. However, the wait for ICPC approval is generally out of the control of the agency and your attorney. You will be contacted only when ICPC approval has been given. Until that time, we appreciate your patience and understanding and ask that you refrain from contacting the agency or your attorney to see if ICPC approval has been granted. These requests are not favored by the Florida ICPC office.