Adoption Process in Texas
The state of Texas completes one of the highest numbers of adoptions each year. This is great news for couples hoping to adopt, as it means that there are plenty of adoption professionals out there who can help you understand how to adopt a child in Texas.
There are certain laws and regulations that make the adoption process in Texas a bit different from other states. Though the steps may vary slightly between agencies, the overall process is the same.
For couples who are just starting to look into adoption, the process can be incredibly overwhelming; with all the paperwork and complicated legal jargon, there is a lot to learn. Below we’ve broken down the Texas adoption process into eight steps to help answer any questions you may have about how to adopt in Texas.
Moving from Infertility to Adoption
Many couples dream of becoming pregnant and having a child of their own, but 1 in 8 of these couples will face infertility. After struggling with infertility for years, many couples turn to adoption to expand their families. However, the decision to abandon the idea of having a biological child and turn to adoption is a hard one to make.
When deciding to adopt, it is important that couples have completely committed to the adoption before beginning the process. Couples should take time to grieve and move on from their struggles to conceive in order to have a successful adoption.
If you are considering adopting a child in Texas, but you aren’t yet 100 percent committed to adoption, then you probably aren’t ready to adopt. You may, however, contact a local adoption professional to get a better understanding of what adoption is and how it works.
For couples who have committed to adoption and are ready to move forward, there are a few requirements you must meet. In Texas, a prospective adoptive parent can be either single or married, and must:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Be financially stable
- Complete an application to adopt
- Share background and lifestyle information
- Provide references
- Provide proof of marriage and/or divorce (if applicable)
- Have a completed home study
- Submit to a criminal background and child abuse checks on all adults living 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.
Selecting the Type of Adoption
After making the decision to adopt, the next step is to decide what type of adoption you are interested in pursuing. This decision is based on several factors, including your level of comfort with each situation.
- Are you interested in adopting an older child or an infant?
- Do you want to adopt domestically or internationally?
- Do you want to have communication with the birth parents or not?
Answering these simple questions is a crucial step in the process, as it will help you determine which agency you will work with. Some agencies work only with kids in the foster care system and do not perform private adoptions. Some agencies specialize in domestic adoptions while others specialize in international adoptions. These questions will help you weed out the agencies that won’t fit your needs.
If you are struggling to answer these questions, attending an information meeting in your Texas area can help you determine which type of adoption will best suit your family. It is important that you and your spouse are in agreement on these issues. Keep an open line of communication between you and your spouse as this will help the adoption process to proceed smoothly.
Choosing an Adoption Professional
Some adoptive families may believe that each adoption agency provides the same services and has the same success rate; however, this is untrue. Not every adoption agency is the same, so it is essential to research many agencies and examine all of their services and benefits before making a decision.
Factors to consider include:
- Wait times
- Disruption rates
- Average cost
- Hidden fees
- Financial protection
- Amount of support, education and guidance
There are hundreds of national and local adoption agencies and adoption attorneys that can help you adopt a baby in Texas. The list can be overwhelming, but 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, as it determines whether you and your home are deemed fit to raise a child. This can be done through the state, through the adoption agency completing the adoption or through a separate home study agency like Adoption Answers [link to home study info page].
During this process, your caseworker will visit your home to discuss your personal history, family interests and lifestyle, childcare experiences, and your strengths and skills in meeting the child’s needs. This will include an interview with you (the adoptive parents) and any other resident of your home. It will also include state and federal criminal background checks and financial and medical information.
If you are an out-of-state couple wanting to adopt a child from Texas, the state requires that your criminal background checks be performed in Texas. This is a security measure put into place to ensure that every couple adopting a Texan child has completed the same requirements. Many of these security measures were put into place to eliminate child trafficking across state lines and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all children being adopted in the state.
Waiting for ‘The Call’
Once you have successfully completed the necessary steps to becoming a waiting family through your agency, your profile will be given to prospective birth mothers for them to review before making a decision.
This waiting period can be the most difficult part of the adoption process, so it is important to have the right attitude about the process. During this time it is recommended that you continue your day-to-day activities as normal. It may also be beneficial to take up a new hobby to keep your minds occupied as you wait.
Avoid becoming obsessive over the adoption. At this point the adoption is completely out of your hands and there is nothing you can do to speed the process up. It is acceptable to begin making some preparations for the child so you are ready when you do find a match. However, adoptive families who distance themselves from their wait tend to have much smoother adoptions. Though it may be difficult, patience will be your greatest tool at this point in the adoption process.
Receiving a Match and Placement of the Child
You will be notified by your adoption professional once a birth mother has chosen you to be her child’s adoptive parents. Once this happens, you (the adoptive parents) and the birth parents will be moving toward the same goal: completing a successful adoption.
Depending on the type of adoption you are completing (open, closed or anywhere in between), there may be some form of communication between you and the birth mother 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 will be 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 48 hours after the birth before terminating her parental rights. However, her consent to the adoption is irrevocable upon signing, meaning she cannot change her mind once she has signed the adoption papers. At this point the child will be placed in your custody, though he/she will not be a legal member of your family until the adoption is finalized some months later.
Finalizing the Adoption
After a long and exciting journey, the 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 for the Placement of Children (ICPC) paperwork is cleared, which usually takes between 7 to 10 business days.
- Post-Placement Visits – you will have a select number of post placement visits to complete, usually performed by your home study provider, which will show the adoption professional and the court that the child and your family are adjusting well to one another. The state of Texas requires that a home visit and interview occurs at least once after the child has resided in your home for at least five months.
- Finalization Hearing – A judge’s final review of the adoption ensures the necessary post-placement visits were completed, ICPC was conducted in applicable adoption situations, and both birth parents’ parental rights were legally terminated. The Texas Family Code states that an adoption cannot be finalized until the child has been in the custody of the adoptive parents for at least six months. In some counties, both adoptive parents must be present for the finalization hearing. However, in certain circumstances where the adoptive parents live out of state, the court may not require the family to travel back to the state to finalize their adoption.
The amount of post-placement contact that occurs between you and the birth parents is determined by the adoption plan that you agreed to. There are varying degrees of openness with adoptions which amount to varying degrees of communication.
In most circumstances this will include letters and pictures sent to the birth parents through the adoption agency. Communication will usually be continued for several years after the child’s birth. If you are adopting through an agency you and the birth parents will likely sign an agreement specifying the type and frequency of contact. Though this is a good way to ensure you will always have access to the birth family, these agreements are not legally enforceable in the state of Texas. If the agency loses contact with the birth family there is no way for them to force them to reestablish contact.
For more information on how to adopt a child in Texas, please visit our Texas Adoption Information page.