Older Child (or Non-Relative) Adoption
Adoption of a minor child known to you, who may or may not already be in your care, may be the most prudent way to assure the legal security of the child and protect your ability to raise the child. Given the significant divorce rate, economic hardship, psychological instability, teen pregnancy, and substance abuse we see all around us, it is not surprising that there are many situations in which parents are unable to provide for or raise their children. In a fair number of cases, the child’s parents have been unable, or in some cases unwilling, to adequately parent the child and have reached out to friends or colleagues for help. Some parents are unable to provide financially for themselves much less their child; some are not emotionally ready or capable of providing for the physical, mental, and emotional needs of a child; some through admirable self-evaluation have concluded that they are not suited for the responsibilities of parenthood; and in some sad cases, parents have neglected or abused their children or have abandoned them to the care of a friend.
It is not uncommon for birth parents to approach a friend or colleague with a voluntary plan for adoption. Birth parents may search for a solution to their dire circumstances, and hope to find a good family who can adopt and raise their child, but don’t know where to start. In other scenarios, a non-relative caregiver has been the sole caregiver for months or years, the child’s parents have been largely or completely absent from the child’s life, and as a consequence the child has identified with the caregiver as his or her parent. In the second situation, the caregiver has become the child’s de facto parent, paying for medical care, school, and recreational expenses, ferrying the child to and from sports practice, dance lessons, school plays, and other activities, and attending doctor visits and teacher conferences. In rare cases, the non-relative caregiver is the only mother or father the child has ever known.
In all such cases, the parties must enlist the assistance of an adoption entity under Florida law for the adoptive placement of the child. Under Florida law, a Florida licensed attorney, or a Florida licensed adoption agency or child caring agency can function as an adoption entity for the placement of a minor child for adoption. Prospective adoptive parents who are not related to the adoptive child within the third degree of consanguinity must have a completed home study before they can accept a child for adoption, even if the child is already in their care. The adoption entity can take the birth parents’ consents to adoption, which in the case of a child 6 months of age or older are irrevocable after three days from execution, absent fraud or duress. Available medical information is provided to the adoptive family so that the adoptive family can fully consider the match. The birth mother and birth father are also asked to complete social and medical background forms and this information is provided to the adoptive family, de-identified to protect confidentiality in the case of a confidential, non-identified placement. Depending upon the age of the child and duration of the child’s time with the birth parents, the degree of confidentiality desired, and other factors, the birth and adoptive families may arrange for the future exchange of letters and pictures and future contact in the best interest of the child.
If you have questions about adoption of a child known to you, if you are interested in adopting a non-relative child in your care, if you are a parent who wishes to have your child adopted by an identified family, or you are a parent considering an adoptive placement of your child and need assistance in finding a family, please contact Jeanne T. Tate, P.A. (firstname.lastname@example.org or 813.258.3355). Jeanne has focused her practice on adoption law for over 30 years and we have helped complete adoptions for thousands of families, including innumerable older child adoptions.