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.