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Adoption options in Texas: What you need to know

Fortunately for those of us who are lucky enough to call ourselves Texans, there are many options to explore if you are interested in growing your family via adoption. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is the most direct method in that a child can be placed into your home and family directly by that state agency. In addition, there are many other agencies that are licensed by the state of Texas that can perform that function. Finally, private adoption through a family that you know or international adoption are options that Texas families can choose to undertake. 

Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will help you to learn more about the adoption process and which of these options are best for you and your family. We want to assist you in making educated choices about a process that could wind up being the most important thing that you have ever done. It is our experience that clients have similar questions and concerns about adoption and we have done our best in this blog to synthesize those questions down to provide answers that should assist you and your family. 

We invite any of you with additional questions or those seeking clarification on anything contained in this blog post to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We have a team of attorneys who are experienced and knowledgeable in the field of family law and adoption who are here to help guide you towards your ultimate goal of adding to your family. 

What sort of contact will you be able to have with the adopted child’s birth parents?

For many people considering adoption, the ability to meet and get to know the child’s birth parents is important. Depending upon which of the above options that you ultimately choose to pursue, you may have a great deal of contact with those parents or have little to no contact at all. In some adoptions where you work directly with the birth parents, you will be able to meet with them before the birth of your child and will even participate in post-adoption visitation sessions as well. In these scenarios, the birth parents will often play a role in the child’s life as they grow up. 

On the other end of the spectrum, closed adoption will occur most frequently with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. In these situations, you will never meet your child's birth parents. Once you adopt your child his or her birth parents will receive no information about the child. Keep in mind that completely open or completely closed adoptions are not the norm. Most adoptions that we encounter have elements of each contained within them.

In these hybrid adoption processes, you as an adoptive parent will meet with the child's birth parents during the adoption process and will keep up with the birth parents through letters, emails and the like as your child grows up. As the adoptive parent, the frequency and duration of the contact that your child has with their birth parents are completely up to you.

The role of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services maintains a list of children who are eligible to be adopted. For the most part, these children are ones that were removed from their parent’s home due to issues regarding abuse or neglect. As a result, it is not uncommon for these children to have learning disabilities, behavioral problems or other issues that will need to be dealt with by you. 

If you are reading this blog post and are envisioning a prototypical adoption, this is not likely what you have envisioned. Children that are eligible for adoption through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services can be older and present challenges that some potential adoptive families are not prepared to take on. However, if you are patient and prepared to handle these challenges then there is no reason that you would not be able to successfully and lovingly raise a child adopted from the state of Texas.

Fostering the child that you intend to adopt is a very normal course of action that many potential adoptive parents undertake. In the event that a child has to be removed from an abusive and/or neglectful home and there is not a relative another suitable home for that child to live in, a Texas juvenile court will ask the state to place that child with a foster family for a period of time.

In many cases, the foster family will already be working in that capacity before their future adoptive child comes into their home. In other situations, you may adopt a child and then make a decision to foster children in your home after learning about the process as well.

Foster care for most kids is not a situation that they will be in until they reach adulthood. Rather, they will remain in foster care until the state can make a determination that any risk of harm in their household has been removed. In other situations, a relative or close family friend will be located or will volunteer to take on the responsibility of raising that child. However, in the event that the child cannot be placed into the home of a relative, or adoption has not presented itself as an option the child can be fostered all the way until he or she reaches 18 years of age.

What to do if you are interested in becoming a foster parent?

In the event that you would like to learn more about the process of becoming a foster parent in Texas, there are a few steps that you will need to undertake. You must first be trained by Child Protective Services (CPS) in how to foster a child. A department of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) called Residential Child Care Licensing will need to license you as well. A background check, social study of your home and family, training program and first aid/CPR certification will have to be earned as well.

A window into the world of private adoptions in Texas

The law in Texas is such that a child can only be placed for adoption by someone who is either the birth parent, adoptive parent or another legally recognized guardian of the child. No person other than one of these entities may act an as an intermediary in the adoption process, either. With all of this said, adoptions where a state or private adoption agency is not involved, cannot be done with complete confidentiality in place. The reason is obvious- without intermediary acting on your behalves then you will need to work directly with the birth parents of the child in order to facilitate the adoption.

Private adoptions are a part of state law in order to give a birth mother and father the ability to have a say in where their child ends up. In many cases, there are relatives of the birth parents who are able to step up to the plate and adopt the child. Sometimes the child's birth mother will on her own place the child up for adoption with a person who is not a member of the family.

Costs associated with private adoptions are usually a major concern for families considering this route. In Texas, it is against the law to pay money towards the placement of a child into your home. Essentially you cannot buy a child. The child's birth parent cannot choose to have you and your spouse adopt their child because you can provide more in the way of money or other gifts in exchange for their child.

You and your spouse are able to pay for reasonable medical expenses related to the adoption of the child or the child's mother. Doctor visits, medication costs and things of this nature are what I have in mind when I am talking about reasonable medical costs. If you are in the middle of adoption and find yourself being asked to pay for medical charges that seem a little fishy to you I would speak to a family law attorney about that. If you knowingly pay for medical expenses that may or may not be reasonable in nature you could find yourself facing criminal charges.

What to do if you are engaging in a private adoption

If you are involved in a private adoption then I would recommend that you pay the birth mother no money. It is a slippery slope to pay her money and simply state that you are doing so in order to cover medical charges. If there is a legitimate medical need it is wise to request a copy of the bill from the medical provider. You can then pay that medical provider directly without any issue. 

You also may not hire an attorney to do work that is illegal for you. However, what you can do is hire an experienced family law attorney money to do things like draft paperwork and in representing you in legal proceedings. For instance, it is going to be necessary to terminate the birth parent’s parental rights in relation to that child. It would be wise to have an attorney by your side throughout this process. 

Adoption of a child from another country

International adoptions are complicated if for no other reason that the child you are adopting is a citizen of another country. If you choose to go this route to adopt a child it is strongly recommended that you hire a family law attorney who has experience with international adoptions in order to guide you. If you were to work towards an international adoption and you missed a step in the process it could happen that your child was not able to legally enter the United States. Keep in mind that not every country in the world allows for U.S. citizens to adopt children from that country. 

There are immigration factors at play in international divorce cases. For the child, you adopt to be able to enter the United States, either you or your spouse must be a citizen of the U.S. Obtaining a visa and then being able to travel to the U.S. your child must have been abandoned by his or her parents. The other option would be for the child's only parent to state in writing that he or she is unable to care for that child moving forward and declare this in writing.

It is crucial that you seek pre-approval from the government and the country of origin for that child in order to begin the international adoption process. This process can take some time to complete but it is well worth it. The smoother the adoption and immigration process can be made, the better for you, your child and your family. 

What happens in an international adoption after pre-approval? Read our blog tomorrow to find out

If you are interested in the topic of adoption, and more importantly are interested in the topic of international adoption it is a great idea to return to our blog tomorrow. We will pick up where we left off today by discussing what happens in an international adoption case once your child has been pre-approved to immigrate to the United States. 

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material that we covered today please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week where we can answer your questions and address your concerns in a comfortable and pressure-free environment.

Our staff and attorneys take a great deal of pride in being able to advocate on behalf of our clients in courtrooms across southeast Texas. We pledge to always put the interests of our clients ahead of ourselves and look forward to being able to serve you and your family in whatever family law capacity we are needed. Thank you for spending part of your day with us here on our blog. 

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