[expand title=”What is adoption?” trigclass=”arrowright”]Adoption is when adoptive families seek to legally provide a permanent home for a child or children. It is a lifelong commitment wherein these new parents will provide the child’s short and long-term needs until he or she reaches adulthood. The adoptive parents and will be responsible in providing the child’s important needs according to his or her developmental growth. This also means that you will be legally taking on the rights and responsibilities of a parent to a child that is not biologically yours.
For more information, check out our blog post on Adoption in Texas.[/expand]
What are the requirements in order to adopt a child?
First of all, you need to connect with a child-placing agency in Texas. There will be a home study where you will be trained. Your references will also be checked, as well as your background. In looking for an agency, you can choose between a public state agency or from many private adoption agencies. In most public state agencies, the children available through these public agencies are those with special needs. These children could be school-age ones, siblings, those with medical, physical, or emotional conditions and children with African-American, Hispanic and other ethnicities.
Before an adoption is finalized, you should provide proof that you have a good relationship with the child, and you are able to provide a good environment and continuous care for the child.
For more information, check out our post on Texas adoptions.
Where can we find different adoption agencies in Texas?
For a list of adoption agencies you can contact, you can check out http://www.txchildcaresearch.org to commence your adoption process. The facilities listed here are regularly inspected. Results are also available online for you to check.
If I don’t live in Texas, can I still adopt a child from Texas?
Yes, you can. Your home must be approved by a certified agency for adoptive home studies in your state. This is because Texas is a part of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, an agreement among different states to cooperate with each other when it comes to interstate placement of children. However, the home study and the placement of the child should meet the Minimum Standards for Child-Placing Agencies by the Child Care Licensing Division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Once approved to be an adoptive parent in my state, what should I do next?
There are many options for you to proceed once you have been approved to be an adoptive parent. First, you can submit your interest regarding a child or sibling group after you review the Texas Foster Care and Adoption Information. You can do so by using the inquiry form that you can find on the profile page of each child. You can also express your interest by sending an email to the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange with the name of the child that you want to adopt and their identification number. You should also include in your email your personal information, such as your name, address and telephone number. To top that off, you need to provide the name of the agency you are working with plus your caseworker’s name and phone number. You will then receive the name of the child’s caseworker and his or her phone number. You can also call 1-800-233-4305 for more information.
I have not received adoption approval yet. Where do I start?
First you need to be approved to adopt in your state. You can ensure that happens by calling a certified adoption agency in your state. In Texas, you can fill out an interest form or you can call the Foster Care and Adoption inquiry line at 1-800-233-3405.
How can you be eligible for the adoption assistance program?
Usually, the State of Texas provides assistance to adoptive parents who are adopting a child with special needs. The child with special needs meets the set criteria which can include age, ethnicity, family background and level of disability. For more information, you can check out http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/f_subsid.cfm#federal or http://www.acf.hhs.gov/cwpm/programs/cb/laws_policies/laws/cwpm/policy_dsp.jsp?citID=49
How much can a family receive as reimbursement for one-time adoption expenses?
You can receive up to $1200 per child.
When will adoption assistance be given to you in Texas?
Adoption assistance payments begins from the first month after the adoption date.
When can adoptive parents request changes to the adoption assistance agreement?
A review of the adoption assistance agreement can be made anytime there is a change in the child needs or in the circumstances of the adoptive family. It can be initiated by either the adoptive parents or the Texas DFPS.
How can adoptive parents request a change in the adoption assistance agreement?
The request must be made in writing and it should be addressed to the adoption benefits negotiator. The negotiator will contact the adoptive parents within 10 business days from the date of receipt of the written request. There will then be a negotiation regarding the new payment amount. Once the new agreement is signed, the changes in the benefits will be effective after the first of the following month.
For more information, contact the Texas DFPS at https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Contact_Us/Default.asp.
What is a fair hearing and how can you initiate it?
A fair hearing is something you can request if there is a conflict with the child’s adoption benefits. You can apply for a fair hearing if the processing of the adoption assistance is incredibly and unreasonably delayed. You can initiate a fear hearing by making a request to the adoption assistance worker. The request must be made in writing and it should be submitted within 90 days from the time the changes in the adoption assistance benefits has been made. A family attorney can represent you, you can represent yourself, or a family member can represent you at a fair hearing.
What post-adoption services are available for you in Texas?
Post adoption services are made available by the Texas DFPS through different agencies. Such services often include case work and service planning, outpatient therapy, parent training, support groups, residential treatment as well as information and referrals.
How can you avail of the post adoption services?
You can access the post adoption services through a referral. This is made by DFPS workers. They will provide you with the agencies’ names, addresses and telephone numbers for you to contact.
What mental health services are available for you in line with the adoption?
The Health and Human Services Commission provides mental health services for children in Texas. The public mental health services they provide include psychiatric, behavioral and psychological services as well as in-patient hospital services and rehabilitative services. Outpatient counseling for chemical dependency and pharmacy services are also available. You will have access to case management for mental illness as well. You can contact them through https://www.hhsc.state.tx.us/medicaid/contacts.shtml. For more information, you can also check out http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/mhservices/default.shtm.
What additional financial services and support are available for children receiving adoption assistance?
There is no specific program offering additional financial support for medical needs. However, adoptive parents can receive additional support through the Post Adoption Service Program.
STEP PARENT ADOPTION
Who can initiate a stepparent adoption case?
The stepparent of the child, together with the child’s parent should file a petition for an adoption case.
Where can you file a stepparent adoption case?
You can file a stepparent adoption case in a district court or a statutory court in your state, provided that these has jurisdiction over family law cases.
Where should I begin if I push through with a stepparent adoption case?
If the other parent of the child is alive, you will need to file an Original Petition to Terminate Parent-Child Relationship before you can file a petition for adoption. In case the other parent is deceased, or if his or her parental rights have already been terminated legally, you can just go ahead and file an Original Petition for Adoption.
Should I consult a lawyer for advice?
Definitely! If you want expert guidance and advice, help with filling out and reviewing your forms and help in preparing for the adoption hearing, hiring a family law attorney would be your best bet. If you want to handle the rest of the adoption case by yourself, you can hire a lawyer just for the advice. This is also called ‘limited scope representation’. There are also many lawyers who offer free advice and consultation in their office.
What fees do I have to pay when I submit an Original Petition for Termination and Adoption or an Original Petition for Adoption?
You would be required to pay a filing fee, which varies by county. You can get in touch with the district clerk’s office near you or the statutory court where you plan to file your petition to learn more about the specific fees. If you have a financial issue, you can ask the judge to waive the fees for you. In order to do so, you need to file a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs.
Who are referred to as the petitioner in a stepparent adoption case?
The petitioners are the stepparent and the biological parent who will not have his or her parental rights terminated.
Who is the respondent?
In this case, the respondent is the other living parent or anyone associated with the child with a relationship ordered by the court.
Is it necessary to terminate parental rights before a stepparent adoption can be finalized?
Yes. An order terminating parental rights between the child and the parent of the child is necessary. The other parent, who is married to the stepparent can keep his or her rights though. He or she will also join the stepparent as petitioner in the case. In most cases, if needed, the courts will allow the termination of parental rights and the adoption case to happen in the same court hearing.
Can I avoid going to court?
No, it is imperative that both petitioners as well as the child to be adopted are present in court at the time of the adoption hearing.
Do I need the child’s consent before we can go through with the adoption?
Yes, the child’s consent is necessary if the child is older than 12 years old.
What will be finalized at the completion of a stepparent adoption case?
At the end of a stepparent adoption case, the relationship of the child to the other parent will be officially terminated. Other court-ordered relationship with the child will also be terminated. The adoption will also grant the stepparent parental rights to the child, hence the child will also have the right to inherit from the stepparent.
Is it a must for the stepparent and the child to live together before the adoption is finalized?
Yes. In Texas, the law says that the child must live with the stepparent for at least six months prior to the adoption date. However, this requirement can be waived by the court if it is not in the child’s best interest.
What factors will the judge consider before approving the adoption?
The child must be eligible to be adopted and the requirements for adoption should be completely submitted to the court. These requirement can include the adoption evaluation, criminal history and background check results, and a child custody evaluation. The adoption should also be in the best interest of the child.