There are approximately 135,000 children adopted in the United States every year. About 59% of the adoptions are from foster care, 15% are American babies whose mothers decided on an adoption plan, and 26% are from other countries.
These numbers, of course, vary by state, but the highest number of adoptions in Florida’s history was 4,572 between 2018 and 2019. This trend is likely to increase as there are approximately 19,000 children in Florida’s foster care system.
If you are interested in adopting or are in the process of adopting, you may have questions about the process. There are many agencies available in Florida that can assist. But here are the answers to some adoption finalization questions you may have.
What is Adoption Finalization?
Adoption finalization is the final step in your journey to becoming adoptive parents. It’s the culmination of the adoption process which would have included:
- Choosing the ideal situation for your family including formulating an adoption plan
- The legal process – such as court approval for expenses, and working on consent documents
- Placement of the child in your home
Finalization can take place either in the birth state of your child or in your state of residence. It’s usually best to do it in the state where the laws are more favorable for you as adoptive parents. This would include considering factors such as the state with the shorter revocation period or one with a putative father registry that’s well maintained.
In the state of Florida, before adoption finalization can take place, there are a few final steps.
What Is Necessary to Finalize a Florida Adoption?
Adoption in Florida only becomes final after a court issues a decree of adoption. But before a judge will issue this, the following must take place:
Post Placement Visits
Adoptive parents have a period of post-placement supervision. It involves visits to your home by a social worker. It is a way to monitor the adjustment of both the child and the parents after the placement. The social worker will observe and discuss topics about the child’s development with you.
It is a way to ensure that the placement is suitable for both the child and the adoptive parents. The social worker must complete at least one visit before finalization can take place.
Termination of Parental Rights
Birth parents have a revocation period which can range from a few hours to months. In Florida, there is no revocation period if the child is younger than six months. Birth parents of children older than six months have a revocation period of three business days after they sign the consent.
In the case of the adoption of a child from foster care, finalization can occur after your child is deemed legally free.
The finalization hearing could take as little as three months to as much as a year after you bring your child home. It usually takes place when you satisfy Florida’s post-placement requirements.
What Happens at the Finalization Hearing?
Your finalization hearing not only legally and permanently establishes your relationship as parent and child, but it provides an opportunity to tell your child that you love them and want them forever.
Your family and friends can witness this special moment as you can invite them to the hearing. However, it is closed to the general public. Before the hearing, which usually takes about 30 to 60 minutes, the judge or court staff will check your paperwork to ensure everything is in order.
Here is what happens next:
The judge swears in both you and your adopted child in his/her chambers. Your attorney will be present and in some cases, your social worker as well.
Your attorney will ask you to introduce yourselves which would include testimony to substantiate that the adoption should happen. Your attorney may also ask your child, once he/she is old enough if they would like the adoption to take place.
This step reinforces your understanding that the adoption is an irreversible commitment that should be equally shared by both parents in the event of a separation or divorce.
You will be prompted by your attorney to confirm to the judge that you intend to provide a loving home for your child. The judge may also ask some questions, after which, he/she may encourage everyone to take a family photo together.
The final step involves the judge signing the decree of adoption and any other associated orders, including termination of a father’s parental rights or approval of living expenses for the birth mother.
You should keep your certified copy of your decree of adoption in a safe place such as a fireproof box or a safe deposit box. You will eventually be able to add your child’s new birth certificate which is also issued upon finalization of the adoption.
When Can You Expect to Get Your Child’s New Birth Certificate?
Your child’s new birth certificate will reflect your new role as your child’s natural parents. You will receive it once the clerk at the court sends a certified copy of the decree to the relevant state agency.
The only exception to this will be if your child’s birth state is different from the state where the adoption takes place. In such a case, both state agencies will make the necessary arrangements to have the new birth certificate issued. It may take a few months but you will eventually receive it in the mail.
To obtain a U.S birth certificate after an international adoption, you may have to readopt your child in your state. This will be necessary even if you have a decree of adoption or birth certificate from your child’s home country.
Adopting may seem daunting at first, but once you get closer to completing the process, you must ensure you get the answers to any adoption finalization questions you may have. It’s the final step as you start creating memories with your new family. Your new role as a parent will be challenging and fulfilling all at once, but well worth the journey.
If you and your spouse or partner are considering adopting a child, or if you are an expectant mother that would like guidance as you formulate your adoption plan, Florida Adoptions can help you.
We are a small practice and we’re passionate about what we do. Each adoption is unique and we help personalize each experience to meet your family’s needs. Contact us to find out how we can help you have the same amazing journey too!