Adoption and Permanency
A Guide to Adoption, Permanent Legal Custody, and Foster-to-Adopt
Types of Permanency
The goal for all foster children is to return to a permanent, safe living situation. There are three primary permanency goals: reunification, adoption, and permanent guardianship.
The first goal of foster care is always reunification of children to their birth families. When a child is placed in foster care, the court sets forth goals for the birth family to achieve before reunification can be considered. If the birth parents are able to meet these goals, then the family can be restored. Approximately 43% of Central Florida children are reunified.
If a child cannot be returned home safely and in a timely manner, the next most permanent plan is for adoption by a qualified and loving family. The adoption process involves the termination of the birth parents’ rights and the creation of parental rights to new adoptive parents. Adoptive families may or may not be related to the child or youth before the adoption. Most children in placement are adopted by their current relative/non-relative caregiver or their foster parent. Approximately 28% of Central Florida children are adopted. Of these, approximately 25% of these are adopted by a foster parent and 75% are adopted by a relative or non-relative.
Permanent guardianship is intended to be a permanent arrangement, but, unlike adoption, does not involve termination of the parents’ rights. This is only considered when both reunification and adoption are not possible. Under guardianship, birth parents may retain certain rights, such as visitation, that they would not have under adoption. Most often, the current relative/non-relative caregiver or foster parent becomes the permanent legal guardian. Approximately 22% of Central Florida receive a permanent guardian.
Permanency Through Adoption
When a parent’s rights are terminated, the next permanency goal is adoption. Adoptive parents may or may not be previously related to the child.
1. Family Relatives
The first choice of adoptive home is placement with another relative or family member. Relatives are considered, even if they have little or no relationship with the child.
2. Foster Family
When no relatives are willing or able to adopt a child, the next best option is adoption by the current foster family.
Parents can care for children in need of a home through multiple paths.
Foster care involves caring for a child who cannot live with their birth family for a variety of reasons. The goal of foster care is family reunification. Foster parents care for a child while a caseworker works towards future permanency goals, such as reunification, adoption, or permanent guardianship. If the parental rights of the birth parents are terminated, the foster family may assist in helping find an adoptive family for their child through Adopt Florida. They may also choose to be considered as an adoptive family.
Foster to Adopt
Timeframe: temporary and permanent
Some states have a foster to adopt program for foster parents where a child whose parent’s rights have been or are being terminated would be moved from a pure foster home to a pre-adoptive foster home. Orlando’s foster care system does not have a program like this, but many foster parents adopt the children that are in their care.
It is important to note that other birth relatives generally have priority in adoption over the current foster family, and the caseworker and court will make an effort to find options for kinship adoption. However, if no family relatives are identified that would be able to adopt, the current foster family is typically offered the chance to adopt before other preadoptive families.
Adoption from Foster Care
Sometimes, potential parents are not able to participate in foster care, but are still interested in adoption. As mentioned previously, when parental rights have been terminated, other family relatives have the first opportunity to adopt. Next, the current foster family is often given the choice to adopt.
If neither of those options is possible, the child is listed on a statewide adoption registry called Adopt Florida. A list of available children can be found on the Adopt Florida site or the Heart Gallery.
Typically, the children available for adoption are older youth, sibling groups or children with disabilities.
Preadoptive families require much of the same clearances and training that foster parents do.
Aside from the state adoption registry, there are many other private adoption agencies looking to match potential preadoptive parents to children in need of a home. It is important to note that while adoption through the foster care system is free of charge and includes an adoption subsidy, private adoption typically costs anywhere from $25,000-$50,000.
Learn More About Foster Care
The following guides can help get you up to speed on several important aspects of foster care in Orlando.