Florida Department of Children & Families - Our Role

Adoption  - What to Know

Adoption - Steps on the Road

Myths & Facts - About Adoption

Partners - How You Can Help

Our Role

The Department of Children and Family Services is the state agency charged with ensuring the well-being of children and helping families to be stable and self sufficient. We have primary responsibility to assist children who are victims of child abuse and neglect, in most cases by providing support services for children in foster care.

The department works with families to reunify them with their children when that can be accomplished safely. If it becomes clear that a child's biological family cannot provide a safe, stable home, a judge may terminate the parent's rights to the child. When parental rights are terminated, the department works to find a permanent, adoptive home for the child as quickly as possible.

However, some children may wait for months or even years for an adoptive home, especially older children or sibling groups who are seeking to be adopted together. Certainly, adopting a child who has been abused, neglected or abandoned is different from adopting an infant, and it's a decision that prospective adoptive parents should make with great care. For the parents, the rewards can be considerable. For a child, it may be the most important event of his or her life.

The Mission of the Department of Children & Family Services is to work in partnership with local communities to help people be self-sufficient and live in stable families and communities.

Adoption -
What to Know

What is it?

Adoption is a legal action that transfers all parental rights to adoptive parents, making the adoptive child a legal member of the new family with all the rights and privileges of a biological child.

Who can adopt?

Most adults who can provide a stable, loving home to a child can adopt; however, state law provides some restrictions. In most cases, married couples, single parents, working mothers. Parents who already have children, people who live in apartments and people of any religious faith, race and education level will be considered.

Who can be adopted?

Any child in foster care whose birth parents' parental rights have been terminated by the courts may be adopted.

Who are the children waiting for adoption?

Right now, about 800 children in foster care are available for adoption and are actively seeking permanent families. These are children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned and whose parental rights have been terminated.

Of these, the children who are likely to wait the longest for a family are older children, especially teenagers, and sibling groups. In most cases, the department tries to keep brothers and sisters together in foster care and in adoptive homes.

Many children in their late teens often want the security of a permanent family. As one teen put it. "I just want a place to go home to for the holidays. I want someone to remember my birthday." About one-fifth of the children waiting to be adopted are teenagers, many of whom are part of sibling groups that include younger children. Nearly half the children waiting to be adopted are between the ages of six and 12, while a third are under six.

Many of the children waiting to be adopted are part of a group of siblings. The department tries to keep siblings together whenever possible. About 40 percent of the children waiting have brothers and sisters. More than half of the sibling groups consist of two children. There are some groups with as many as six or seven brothers and sisters looking for a forever home. In most sibling groups (60 percent), all the children are younger than 12 years of age.

How do I find out about the children available for adoption?

Your counselor will provide information about and pictures of children available for adoption. You might also look at a Children in Waiting brochure or browse through the department's Adoption Homepage on the Internet at http://www.adoptflorida.org.

What does it cost to adopt?

Florida does not charge for pre-adoptive training, home studies or placement of foster children in adoptive homes. The main costs associated with an adoption through Children and Family Services are court costs and attorney's fees. In most cases these costs are less than $500 and may be reimbursed by the state.

How long does it take to adopt?

The answer varies from case to case, depending on how quickly your family is matched with one or more of our children. The process to become a prospective adoptive parent-including background checks, medical exams, Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (MAPP) training and home studies-can usually be completed within eight months.

Will I get the historical information of the child I adopt?

You will be given information on the child's history (medical, foster placements and developmental level), daily habits (educational, eating, sleeping, playing, etc.), and other likes and dislikes.

What kind of post-adoption support is available?

Cash assistance plus assistance for treatment of preexisting medical or psychological conditions may be available. Support groups and counselor services are also available in many areas.

Adoption -
Steps on the Road

Once you decide to pursue adoption, you will begin a mutual approval process. The specific process may vary slightly in different parts of the state. Overall, the purpose of this process is twofold: to help prospective adoptive parents decide whether they truly want to adopt a foster child and for the department to evaluate prospective adoptive parents. Not everyone who completes the process will be approved to adopt.

Early in the process every prospective adoptive parent must complete the Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (MAPP) training. The class usually meets once a week for 10 weeks. During this time you will explore the issues of adoption and decide if you really want to adopt and, if so, whether you would like to become a family for an older child, a group of brothers and sisters, or a younger child with medical needs.

Case workers will visit your home one or more times to do a home study to help determine if you would be a good prospective parent for a foster child and which child might fit you family. They will interview you and your spouse, if you have one, and your children if you have any.

The kinds of topics you will discuss include:

·         Why you want to adopt a child

·         What your childhood was like

·         Your marriage (if applicable)

·         Your lifestyle and how it would accommodate a child

·         Your finances

·         Your parenting philosophy

·         You support system

As part of the home study, the case worker will contact your friends, relatives and employers for character references.

You will be asked to see your doctor for a physical examination to determine your state of health, and your doctor will be asked to supply your medical records for the past two years.

When your application has been approved, your name will join a pool of waiting families. The task of the adoption staff is to match the strengths of the family with the needs of the child. In order to get better acquainted with the children in need of a foster home, you may attend department-sponsored events with children seeking families or look at the Children in Waiting brochures or the department's adoption homepage on the Internet at http://www.adoptflorida.org.

When a "match" between your family and a child has been made, we will provide you with information and a picture of the child. When you decide you want to meet the child, the adoption counselor will arrange it for you. If you feel you and the child are right for each other, you will visit together several times until everyone is comfortable, and then the child will come to live with your family. To ensure everyone is happy with the adoption, there is a three month "adjustment" period before the adoption is complete.

The process will be over when you finalize the adoption before a judge. Your child will receive a new birth certificate with his or her new last name on it - yours. Then you and your child are a family in the eyes of the law.

Myths & Facts
About Adoption

Myth: It takes a long time to adopt.

Fact: The process to adopt a foster child -attending a 10-week parenting course, completing a home study and physical exams-can usually be completed within eight months. Once a child comes to live with you, you will have a trial period to make sure your family and the child are a good fit. Then you can proceed with the adoption as soon as you are ready and the child's adoption counselor agrees. Many people wait for years to adopt an infant through a private adoption agency. But, you may be able to adopt an older child, a group of siblings or a child with special emotional, physical or developmental needs much more quickly through the state's adoption program.

Myth: It is expensive to adopt a child.

Fact: While it is true that some parents pay tens of thousands of dollars to arrange a private adoption, adopting a foster child is not expensive. The main costs associated with an adoption through Children and Family Services are court costs and attorney's fees. In most cases these costs are less than $500 and may be reimbursed by the state.

Myth: It is easier to adopt if you are a foster parent first.

Fact: It is true that 52% of our adoptive placements are with foster parents who cared for the child as a foster family first. So, foster parenting can be a good route to matching children with permanent homes. However, foster parents must never assume that a foster child will become eligible for adoption because almost half of our foster children eventually go back to live with their biological families. Most foster parents who become adoptive parents have cared for and relinquished dozens of children before they are matched with a foster child who is available for adoption.

Myth: All the children available for adoption through the department have disabilities.

Fact: Some foster children looking for permanent homes have physical or mental disabilities. But many have no health problems or disabilities. Most Children with disabilities reach their best potential in loving, permanent homes.

Myth: You have to young or financially well-off to adopt.

Fact: Many of our most successful adoptive parents are older or have modest incomes. Age is not an automatic disqualification, and, in fact, older parents may be a better match for an older child or teenager. Children need loving homes, not necessarily wealthy ones.

Myth: You can't adopt a child of another race.

Fact: Almost 60 percent of the children waiting for adoption are African-Americanving home.. The department has a special initiative, One Church, One Child, that focuses on finding homes for these children. We recognize that what a child needs most is a permanent, loving home.

Partners -
How You Can Help

We hope you want to become an adoptive parent. But even if you decide that adoption is not for you, you can still be part of the partnership to find loving homes for our foster children. Here are some suggestions for how you can help.

You can help in a variety of ways:

·         Distribute Partners for Adoption recruitment materials.

·         Arrange for an adoption specialist from Children and Family Services to speak at your place of worship, civic group or parent/teacher organization.

·         Tell other people about adoption and the needs of special children. Donate your time, talents or skills to work on this effort.

·         Encourage your employer to become a Partner for Adoption by promoting adoption in other ways. Share this information kit on adoption with a company that might want to help.

·         Conduct fund-raising events to help with the extracurricular needs of children in foster homes and shelters. These needs include special tutors, camps, sports and music and art lessons.

·         Pass on this brochure to someone else when you are finished with it.

The decision to adopt requires thoughtful consideration and communication with your family. By discussing adoption with people you know, you may help them to realize that they want to give a child the chance to be part of a forever home. So join your friends and neighbors in the partnership to match children with families. You can make the difference by opening your heart to Florida's foster children.

If you have any suggestions or questions, or if you want to volunteer, please contact us and ask for the department's adoption office nearest you.

Florida's Adoption Information Center
4203 Southpoint Blvd.
Jacksonville, Florida 32216
In Florida:1-800-96-ADOPT
Out of Florida: 904-353-0679

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