Adoptions of children in Florida can be public or private, depending on whether the child is in the state’s custody. Public adoptions of children in the child welfare system occur when the birth parents’ rights are voluntarily relinquished or the state terminates a parent’s rights due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment, as outlined in Ch. 39, Florida Statutes, and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) finds an adoptive home for the child. Private adoptions of minors, in which the birth parents voluntarily surrender their parental rights, are conducted by adoption agencies or private attorneys. All adoptions in Florida are regulated by the state under the Florida Adoption Act, Ch. 63, Florida Statutes.
In public adoptions, several steps occur to achieve permanency for a child who has been removed from their home. If DCF determines that adoption is the best permanency option and the court terminates the parents’ rights, staff of community-based care lead agencies under contract with the department provide adoption-related services to adoptive parents and children. Community-based care lead agencies provide these services using one of three service delivery models—in-house lead agency staff, subcontracted staff employed by case management organizations, or a combination of in-house and subcontracted staff.
Several barriers to timely adoption exist in the child welfare system, including systemic barriers (e.g., frequent staff turnover and high caseloads, and child characteristics (e.g., age, sibling grouping, and behavioral, mental, and physical health needs) that may make it difficult to find suitable families.
Private adoption is primarily governed by state law, with Florida and other states regulating specific aspects such as advertising and fees for adoption services. Florida is 1 of 24 states where agencies are permitted to advertise adoption-related services. Florida is also 1 of 16 states that allow adoption attorneys to advertise their services.
Adoption agencies and attorneys charge adoptive parents fees for various services, with the total cost of private adoptions estimated to range from $30,000 to $60,000. Florida statutes and rules establish limits and requirements for the assessment of adoption-related fees, delineating the types of fees that may be assessed by adoption agencies and paid on behalf of prospective adoptive parents. While rules provide additional requirements related to fee assessment, DCF provides limited oversight on fee amounts.
Florida also regulates a specific kind of adoption called intervention. This process allows a child welfare involved parent to place their child for adoption with a private adoption agency while the child is under the jurisdiction of the child welfare system and receiving DCF services, as long as parental rights have not been terminated. There is not a reliable source of data on the number of intervention adoptions in Florida, but information suggests that these adoptions occur relatively infrequently.