Florida Department of Children & Families - Our Role
- What to Know
Steps on the Road
& Facts - About Adoption
- How You Can Help
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 parenting philosophy
You support system
As part of the home study,
the case worker will contact your friends, relatives and employers for
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.
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,
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.
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
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
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
Out of Florida: 904-353-0679