Adoption Law – Foster Care

March 20, 2014

By: DeLand Attorney Richard “Jake” Jackson

What To Expect When You’re Expecting To Adopt Through The Florida Foster Care System

-Finalization Of The Adoption

When a child is to be placed for adoption out of the Florida Foster Care system, the court proceedings are handled in the Juvenile Division of the Circuit Court. In Volusia County, the case may proceed either in DeLand or in Daytona Beach. The process for termination of parental rights (“T.P.R.”) of the birth parents is often long and complicated. Once the T.P.R. process is completed, the process for finalization of the adoption is relatively quick and simple.

If you have been selected as the approved adoptive family, you will be notified by an Adoption Specialist working with the Florida Department of Children and Families (“D.C.F.”) or one of its affiliated community-based agencies that the case is ready to proceed to finalization of the adoption. In the central Florida region, Community Partnership For Children, Inc. is the lead agency affiliated with D.C.F. in Volusia, Flagler and Putnam Counties; Community Based Care of Central Florida is the lead agency affiliated with D.C.F. in Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties; Kids Central, Inc. is the lead agency affiliated with D.C.F. in Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter Counties.

If you are eligible for an adoption subsidy, the Adoption Specialist should confirm the amount of funding for which you have been approved. The Adoption Specialist should also provide you with a list of attorneys who are available to represent you in the adoption finalization process. Typically the listed attorneys have agreed to finalize these adoptions for a flat fee paid by the community-based agency, so that you will not have to pay any attorney fees. However, any costs (such as the fees for amended Birth Certificates, and any Court fees) are typically paid by the adoptive family. The adoptive family may be entitled to a tax credit for any qualified adoption expenses. You are not required to choose an attorney from the list provided. Any attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Florida may handle the finalization of the adoption.

Your attorney will prepare your Petition For Adoption and any related forms that you may need to sign for the Court. The Petition For Adoption will include background information about you and the child to be adopted; a description of your home, income and resources; your reasons for adopting; and the name to be given to the child. Several documents to be attached to the Petition will be provided by the Adoption Specialist, including your Home Study and Post Placement Reports, a Study of the Child, and the Agency’s Recommendation and Consent for the adoption. After you sign the Petition For Adoption, your attorney will file it with the Court and schedule the Final Hearing.

You and the child will need to appear at the Final Hearing with your attorney. This hearing is closed to the public, but most Judges will allow you to invite family members and friends to attend the proceeding. Your attorney will handle the presentation of evidence, which typically includes brief testimony from you verifying that: you wish to proceed with the adoption; that you understand that the legal effect of the adoption is that you become legally responsible as a parent of the child as fully as if the child had been born to you; that you love the child; and that you are prepared to provide for all of the needs of the child.

Normally the Judge will approve the adoption and sign the Final Judgment of Adoption (prepared ahead of time by your attorney) at the conclusion of the Final Hearing. In most cases the Judge will allow you to take pictures in the courtroom to commemorate the event. You become the legal parent of the child as soon as the Judge signs the Final Judgment of Adoption.

After the adoption proceeding is concluded, your attorney will apply for a new Birth Certificate for the child. The new Birth Certificate will name the adoptive parents as the parents of the child, and if the child’s name is changed by the adoption, it will reflect the child’s new name. Your attorney should provide you with the new Birth Certificate and a Certified Copy of the Final Judgment of Adoption. It will then be your responsibility to take those two documents to the Social Security Administration to get a new Social Security card for the child.

If you have any questions about the process of adoption from the Florida Foster Care System, please contact the Law Office of Richard S. Jackson.

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