Adoptions – Texas Style

Many couples dream of becoming a parent of their own child, but a large number face infertility. While many use an adoption agency when adopting an infant, couples hoping to adopt often turn to a legal professional for older children and step-parent adoptions.

Texas courts complete a high number of adoptions each year. This is one of the happy scenarios in family law, and courts and legal professionals are eager to help. Some employers will pay a significant portion of the legal and professional fees required to complete an adoption. There are plenty of adoption experts out there who can help you adopt a child in Texas.

Regulations governing adoption in Texas are very specific. In many cases, the couple must undergo a home study, an application process if adopting through an agency and pay certain agency fees and expenses. In all adoptions, a criminal background check must be completed with the Texas Department of Public Safety for the adoptive parent. Some courts also require additional steps, such as parental counseling.

If you are an out-of-state couple wanting to adopt a child from Texas, the criminal background checks must be done in Texas. This ensures that every couple adopting a Texas child completed the same process. These measures help eliminate child trafficking across state lines and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all children being adopted in the state.

Consult with Nancy E. Ridgway in case you are thinking of adopting. We can save you time and money, and help you succeed in your effort to expand your family.

Step-Parent Adoption – often the most simple adoption process in Texas. Usually occurs when a custodial parent wishes to marry, and the spouse-to-be has no familial connection to the child. Sometimes the noncustodial parent wishes to terminate parental-rights, opening the door to such an adoption. Where a child has no living biological parent, however, the only impediment to an adoption is approval of the court, and the TDPS check, of course.

Anybody can adopt a child in Texas, single or married, gay or straight. Further, if the parent and applicant is married, both spouses must join in the petition for adoption. Texas Family Code allows a step-parent to adopt if:

  • The parent-child relationship as to each living parent of the child has been terminated or a suit for termination is joined with the suit for adoption (in other words, one existing parent will have his or her parental rights terminated in the same legal process); and
  • The parent whose rights have not been terminated is presently the spouse of the petitioner and the proceeding is for a stepparent adoption; and
  • The child is at least two years of age, the parent-child relationship was terminated with respect to one parent, the person seeking adoption has been a managing conservator or has had actual care, possession and control of the child for at least six months preceding the adoption or is the child’s former stepparent, and the non-terminated parent consents to the adoption; or
  • The child is at least two years of age, the parent-child relationship was terminated with respect to one parent, and the person seeking the adoption is the child’s former stepparent and has been a managing conservator or has had actual care, possession, and control of the child for at least one year before the adoption (significant contacts test).

Distinguishing fact is that the child will only have two legal parents after the adoption is concluded. Where more than two (2) adults may be named a conservator in Texas, a child can only have two (2) parents, when the legal proceeding is completed.

Nancy E. Ridgway first meets with the parent and spouse, discuss any issues in depth, and obtain the TDPS investigation report as soon as possible, before even filing a case. Minor surprises can be dealt with prior to filing, so that the adoption process flows as smoothly as possible.

After filing the adoption application, we will gather all necessary documents, set the case for hearing, and do an in-person final prove-up in open court. The judges most often want to be photographed with the family after the adoption, so we ask that you bring as many friends and family members together for the happy occasion!

Traditional Private or Agency Child Adoption – many couples dream of having a child of their own, however, are unable to because of infertility or medical issues. Deciding to abandon a desire to having a biological child to adopting a child can be a difficult decision. It is important to commit to the adoption before beginning the process. If you are not 100 percent committed, then you are not ready.

First Step to Adoption – many pursue a private adoption, however, most work through an agency,                                           non-profit, for-profit, faith-based, international and domestic.

Following are a few requirements for a Texas adoption:

  • Single or married, at least 21 years of age;
  • Financially stable and full disclosure of your financial information;
  • Complete an application;
  • Full transparency of background and lifestyle;
  • Provide references, proof of marriage and/or divorce;
  • Cooperate with a home study evaluation; and
  • Submit to a criminal background check on all adults residing in the household.

If you’ve decided adoption is the right path for you and you are able to meet all of the requirements, you can officially begin the adoption process.

Types of Adoption

After making the decision to adopt, the next step is to decide what types of adoption are you interested in pursuing. Several factors include:

  • Do you want to adopt an older child or an infant?
  • Do you want to adopt in the U.S. or are you willing to adopt internationally?
  • Are you willing to establish a relationship with the birth parents?
  • Do you want a private or open adoption?

Agencies may specialize in various types of adoption:  domestic, international, faith-based, foster care should be available. Agencies providing domestic adoption services often provide the home study and post-placement services. Not every adoption agency provides the same services, so do your research before making a decision.

We can help you with a private adoption.

Factors to consider include:

  • Wait times
  • Average cost
  • Hidden fees & Financial protection
  • Amount of support, education and guidance

There are many national and local adoption agencies and adoption attorneys that can help you adopt a baby in Texas. Choosing the adoption agency that best fits your needs will ultimately make the process much smoother for you.

Completing an Adoption Home Study

The home study will be required in any adoption, whether domestic, international or through foster care, to help determine whether you are qualified to raise a child. This can be done through a court-appointed adoption evaluator, or through the adoption agency completing the adoption or through a separate home study agency.

Agencies will assign a caseworker to you, who will visit you in your home, to discuss your personal history, family interests and lifestyle, childcare experiences, and your strengths and skills in meeting the child’s needs. All adults in the home are interviewed, and the caseworker will pursue the state and federal criminal background checks and gather the financial and medical information necessary to determine feasibility of you to adopt.

Waiting for ‘The Call’

After the application process, if you select an ‘open’ adoption, in order words, are interested in developing/maintaining a relationship with the birth mother, your profile will be given to prospective birth mothers for them to review before making a decision.

Receiving a Match and Placement of the Child

Your agency will notify you when a match takes place. Depending on the type of adoption you are completing (open, closed or anywhere in between), you may have communication with the mother or family before the adoption. This is an opportunity for her to get to know more about you and feel more comfortable with the life she has chosen for her child. This communication can include conference calls, email exchange, or meetings. In most adoptions, all communication will be mediated through an adoption professional.

Your role in the hospital during the birth of the child is greatly determined by the desires of the birth mother. Some women may want you nearby during labor, while others may prefer that you don’t arrive at the hospital until after she has given birth. Regardless, you will soon be able to meet your child!

In Texas, a birth mother must wait at least 48 hours after the birth before signing a relinquishment of parental rights form allowing for adoption. While her consent is irrevocable at signing, the biological father must also sign a relinquishment form. Until the parental rights have been terminated for both parents, an adoption cannot be finalized.

After the relinquishment procedure, the child may be placed with the adoptive parents, although it will be several months or more before the home study and criminal background check is completed and the adoption finalized, which is when the child becomes a legal member of your family!

Finalizing the Adoption

Finalization marks the legal completion of the adoption. This is an exciting time for the adoptive family as your child becomes an official member of your family.

Before the adoption can be finalized, there are a few steps adoptive families must take:

  • Complete ICPC – if your adoption occurs across state lines, you must remain in the state until Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) process is completed, which takes a week or more.
  • Post-Placement Visits – the home study caseworker will perform a number of post placement visits to your home, to ensure the family is adjusting to the new addition. The state of Texas typically requires five post-placement visits.
  • Finalization Hearing – A judge will perform a final review to ensure necessary post-placement visits were completed, ICPC was conducted where required (adoption crossing state lines), and both birth parents’ parental rights were legally terminated. Texas further requires that an adoption can only be finalized after the child has been with the adoptive family for at least six months. In-state adoptions usually require the adoptive parents to be present for the final hearing.