Initiating the adoption process can be as intimidating and stressful as it is exciting for the prospective parents. It can be challenging to know who you should turn to for advice and what you can expect from them as you move through the adoption process.
Today, we're giving you a step-by-step rundown of how domestic adoption works in Texas. If you're not sure whether domestic adoption is the right option for you, you may be interested in this blog we wrote covering the most common types of adoption.
At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, we work with families throughout Denton, Collin, Tarrant, and Dallas counties, TX, to facilitate successful adoptions. We're excited to share what you can expect from adoption officials in Texas (and how to prepare your house for your adoptive child), so you can navigate your adoption with confidence.
For help with your adoption, contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313.
What Are the Requirements to Adopt in Texas?
First things first, let's cover the eligibility requirements prospective parents must meet to adopt a child. To adopt in Texas, the prospective parent(s) must be:
- At least 21 years old;
- Financially stable (and have proof of economic stability);
- Capable of passing a background check administered by adoption officials;
- Willing to fill out an adoption application with their selected adoption agency;
- Able to show proof of marriage (if they are married), proof of divorce (if they are divorced), and proof of death (if they are a widow or widower). Prospective adoptive parents who have remained single do not need to have any of these documents;
- Willing to cooperate with adoption officials as they conduct home studies;
- Capable and willing to attend adoption training classes.
If you meet these requirements, you should be eligible to adopt in Texas. With that covered, let's move on to defining what a domestic adoption is.
What Is a Domestic Adoption?
In a domestic adoption, the parents adopt a child from within the US, typically from within their own state. There are two basic types of domestic adoption: Private domestic adoption and domestic foster care adoption.
Our blog about the most common types of adoption covers these options in-depth, so we'll just provide a brief overview here.
In a private domestic adoption, the parents work with a private adoption agency to adopt a child. Parents often use private domestic adoption when they want to bring an infant into the family, since it's harder to find infants in the foster care system. During a private domestic adoption, the family works with adoption professionals from the private adoption agency supervising the adoption.
In a domestic foster care adoption, the parents work directly with the Texas foster care system to adopt a child currently housed with a foster family. Some parents may prefer knowing that the state is directly involved in the adoption process, which isn't always the case to the same degree with private adoptions. Others may want to adopt an older child, who are often involved in the foster care system. Domestic foster care adoption is also often considerably less expensive than private adoption since some fees are covered by the state.
Fortunately, private adoption agencies and foster care adoption professionals from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) often utilize similar requirements for prospective parents.
Deciding What You Want from Adoption
Nothing will change the trajectory of the adoption process more than deciding the type of child you want to bring into your family. Things you need to consider before initiating the adoption process include:
- Do you want to adopt an older child or an infant? If you're fine with adopting an older child, what age would be the cutoff for you?
- How willing are you to help an adoptive child work through their trauma? Many adoptive children in the foster care system have experienced abusive parents or are in the system due to parental death.
- What dynamic are you bringing the child into? Do you already have children? If so, the age of the adoptee could dramatically affect the family dynamic. It's also worth thinking about how your career will interface with your (and your partner's if you have one) responsibilities as a parent.
You should create a reference sheet detailing the type of child you'd like to bring into your family. Once that's done, you'll be more capable of choosing between private and foster care adoption.
Since private adoption agencies often follow in the DFPS' footsteps when it comes to adoption requirements, we're going to be walking you through the steps of adopting a child from the foster care system in Texas. Some private adoption agencies may handle the process differently—if you choose to use a private agency, you should ask them about their approach to adoption before proceeding.
Step 1: The Informational Meeting
Before you can apply to adopt a child from the foster care system in Texas, you need to attend an adoption information meeting hosted by the DFPS in your area.
You should be able to look up your local DFPS office online. If you call them, they can provide you with meeting dates and times.
During the meeting, DFPS officials will cover the adoption process and eligibility requirements for prospective adoptive parents. You don't need to schedule your attendance—you can just show up to the meeting.
If you do meet the eligibility requirements for adopting in Texas and indicate your desire to adopt from the foster care system, the DFPS professionals running the meeting will work with you to kick off the adoption. This starts the next step of the process.
Step 2: Training
In conjunction with Child Protective Services (CPS), the DFPS provides prospective parents with a training program called the Parent Resource Information Development Education (PRIDE) initiative.
Adoptive parents must attend PRIDE training to adopt a child from a foster care agency. PRIDE covers unique aspects of adopting a child from the foster care system, such as educating parents on common types of trauma among foster children, and how parents can help their child healthily process and handle those psychological or behavioral ordeals.
The entire PRIDE training program takes 35 hours to complete. In addition to PRIDE, adoptive parents must complete several other training programs:
- Universal precautions training, which covers elements like how to child-proof your home, dealing with behavioral issues effectively, and other basic best practices for parenting.
- Psychotropic medication training, which educates parents on psychotropic medications their child may receive;
- Infant/child/adult CPR and First Aid certification, to help parents deal with unexpected medical emergencies.
Once parents finish the required trainings, they're ready to embark on the last part of their journey towards becoming an adoptive parent.
Step 3: Family Home Study
Finally, a DFPS caseworker visits prospective parents in their home. The caseworker ensures the home is child-proofed and appropriate for the adoptive child, depending on their age.
The caseworker will also discuss the adoption with the parents to make sure that finalizing the adoption is in the child's best interests. This may include discussing the parent's motives, their parental philosophy, how they intend to raise the child and meet their needs, etc.
If the caseworker approves the parents in the home study, the DFPS finalizes the adoption. However, there are subsequent steps DFPS officials typically require, such as post-adoption check-ins to ensure the adoption process is going well.
Most private adoption agencies follow the same framework, even if their requirements differ slightly. For example, while a private agency may not require parents to attend the same exact trainings, they will usually host substitute trainings that fill the same role, conduct their own home studies, etc.
Parents who engage in the private adoption process will also need to decide whether they want a closed or open adoption, which isn't a decision that parents typically have to make during foster adoptions. In an open adoption, the child's biological parents maintain contact with the family and child (sometimes, even after the adoption is finalized). In a closed adoption, the biological parents do not factor into the process at all.
A lawyer with adoption experience can help streamline your adoption, removing confusion and stress from the process. At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, we're proud to help Texans complete adoptions and bring families together.
To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313.