The State of Texas has specific requirements that you must meet to be legally able to adopt a child in our state. For starters, you must be at least 21 years old and be a responsible adult with a steady job and income. It does not matter if you are single or married, but you (and your spouse, if applicable) must fill out an application with the Department of Family and Protective Services or a private adoption agency to begin being considered for adoption of a child.
The application goes into relatively in-depth detail and will ask you to disclose information about your home, lifestyle, and background to determine the likelihood that you will be a suitable adoptive parent. If you are applying for a job, you will be asked to provide a list of references to the agency. These references should be people that know you well and have done so for an extended period. The authorities should be comprised of both relatives and non-relatives, preferably.
You must be willing to have a home study done.
A home study is a critical element to any petition for adoption. Once you have asked a court to adopt a child or legally have asked DFPS to allow you to be a foster parent, you must be willing to have a social study done on your home. Social research involves a social worker coming into your home on multiple occasions to inspect the condition and safety of your own, ensure that all persons living in the house are "safe" to be around children, and interview all persons residing inside the home.
A criminal background search will also be completed of you and likely any person living in your home. You will need to explain any charges made against you- especially those that involve harming family members. Along these same lines, a background search regarding prior Child Protective Services (CPS) investigations into you and your spouse will be conducted as well.
Attend free of charge classes as provided by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)
DFPS will provide you with multiple opportunities to attend classes that detail the extent of the responsibility that you are attempting to undertake as an adoptive parent. The content in these presentations will not be mind-blowing, outside-the-box information by any means. Still, it will be a good refresher for you if you are unclear on the adoption process or the responsibilities that come with it.
What sort of commitments come with the adoption of a child
If you have successfully petitioned a court to adopt a child, you are the legal parent from that point forward. You have the same rights and duties to that child as a biological parent would. No distinction is drawn. As I tell clients all the time, there is no "sliding scale" applied to adoptive parents when it comes to care and upbringing.
First and foremost, you are responsible for providing a permanent and healthy home for the child to be raised in. Along with this comes a lifelong commitment to providing a stable home and upbringing for the child. Your rights and duties officially cease as to that child once he turns eighteen, but as a parent, your relationship with your child does not end at that point.
Rights and duties are split between educational, medical, and mental health reasons. The way you parent your child should be consistent in that you parent from the vantage point of loving that child unconditionally. However, you must change your methods and tactics as your child ages and develops.
If you are fostering a child, can you then adopt that child?
If you are currently a foster parent, you should know that you can adopt the child you are fostering. This is not a sentiment or desire that you alone share. Many foster families find that after encouraging a child for an extended period, that is natural to adopt the child if a permanent home/reunification with the birth family cannot be accomplished.
First of all, the child's needs and well-being will be considered what is in their best interests. Your role as a foster mother or father is to ensure that your child is put in the best possible position to be reunified with their family of birth. You may even be where you can mentor or help the birth parents get into a situation where they can be reunited with their child. Keep in mind that a relative may be given preference for permanent placement.
Termination of a parent's parental rights would be necessary for you to adopt the child.
If you as a single foster parent, or you and your spouse as a married foster couple, would need to have the parental rights of the child's biological/legal parents terminated before you can adopt your foster child. Again, it would need to be determined that doing so is in the child's best interests. Foster parents are in a uniquely strong position if this is the case regarding the ability to adopt a child. The reason being is that you have a long history of being in control and custody of the child before the adoption process begins.
At the outset of your fostering, you can apply to become certified through DFPS to be able to both foster and adopt children. This can potentially speed up the adoption process down the line should you and your spouse want to adopt the child. As far as the child is concerned, they will likely not have to be moved near as much if you take the initiative to do so at the beginning of your application process. When it comes to children in DFPS foster care, half of the adoptions regarding these children are by their foster parents.
Can adoptive families foster other children?
If you have adopted a child, you can still accept the placement of children as a foster family through DFPS. Experienced foster families can often meet with and mentor younger foster families to guide the foster/adoption process. This is key for those children who are not free to be adopted quite yet but have a plan for adoption in place. If you become certified as a potential adoptive parent when approved to foster a child, you are in a great position.
Child Placement Agencies
A child-placing agency (CPA) is a private foster care agency that works with DFPS to train and develop foster and adoptive parents while finding temporary and permanent homes for children. These agencies do charge a fee, but they are minimal. Depending on your location, many CPAs are available to you, each of varying degrees of experience and skills. DFPS has resources available to learn which may be right for you and your family to work with.
Questions about foster care, adoption, or any subject in family law? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
The decision to become a foster or adoptive parent is a significant one. It will be a challenge but can also be incredibly rewarding. If you are attempting to adopt a child, you should have the experience and skills of a licensed family law attorney available to you.
The attorneys and staff with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, combine many years of experience with a client-first attitude that has helped us assist clients just like you from all parts of southeast Texas. Please contact our office today to learn more about our office and what services we can provide to you and your family. We would be honored to schedule a free-of-charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys- at no charge.