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Texas Adoption Laws

Though the process of domestic adoption is largely the same nationwide, each state has its own adoption laws that may differ. Below is a list of various Texas adoption laws that make the adoption process different from other states.

For Adoptive Families:

Requirements to Adopt in Texas

Each state has different requirements for those wishing to adopt. The Department of Family and Protective Services in Texas states that prospective adoptive parents can be either single or married and must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Be financially stable
  • Be responsible and mature
  • 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

For out-of-state couples hoping to adopt in Texas, the state requires that the criminal check 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.

Same-Sex Adoption

Though same-sex marriage is now legal across the country, many states have not adapted their adoption practices to mirror the change. For instance, when applying for a supplemental birth certificate (which are issued to establish parental rights to adoptive parents) the state of Texas will allow for two parents to be listed, “one of whom must be a female, named as the mother, and the other of whom must be a male, named as the father.” As a result, only one parent can be listed for same-sex couples. Requests to change this, and many other adoption-based laws, have been made to the state government.

For the most up-to-date information on same-sex adoption in Texas please visit the Human Rights Campaign website.

ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children)

Any adoption that occurs across state lines will involve the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, or ICPC. This law has been adopted in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands to establish uniform procedures for the placement of children in other states. It is a way for state governments to ensure that each child adopted and placed in a different state from his/her birth place will receive the same protections as a child placed within the state.

If you are completing an interstate adoption, ICPC requires you and the child to remain in the child’s state of residence and/or birth until ICPC has been approved. In order for ICPC to be approved the state in which you are adopting your child will need to review your home study and background checks and ensure that the child will be placed in a safe environment. The state of Texas has very specific requirements for the home study, so families whose home studies were completed in a different state may need to submit additional documents before ICPC can be approved.

On average, ICPC is expected to take between 7 to 10 business days to complete. However, depending on the number of other families waiting for ICPC approval this can take up to 30 business days.

For more information on the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children see Texas Family Code Sec. 162 Subchapter B

Finalization/Post-Placement Visits

After a child is placed with a family, there will be a period of supervision before the adoption is finalized. As part of the home study process, Texas requires at least one post-placement visit to be made by a family’s social worker, during which he or she must conduct an interview. The social worker is required to conduct this interview after the child has resided with the prospective adoptive parents for at least five months. He or she will then submit their findings and recommendations to the court for a final review.

An adoption in Texas cannot be finalized until the post-placement social study is completed. 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.

Source: Texas Administrative Code, Texas Family Code Sec. 107.052 and Sec. 162.014

Open Adoption (Enforceable Agreements)

An open adoption is an agreement between the birth parents and the adoptive parents to keep in contact throughout the child’s life. This is often done through pictures, letters, email, phone calls, texting or in-person visits.

In agency adoptions, the family and birth parents will likely sign a contact agreement specifying the type and frequency of contact. Though this is a good way to ensure the family will always have access to the birth family, these agreements are only legally enforceable in the state of Texas under certain circumstances.

Source: Texas Family Code Sec. 161.2061

For Expectant Mothers:

Safe Haven/Baby Moses Law

Texas was the first state to enact a Baby Moses Law in 1999 to encourage parents to safely and legally surrender their infants instead of aborting or discarding them. Today, all U.S. states have some version of the safe-haven law that allows parents to anonymously surrender their children to designated persons so the child becomes a ward of the state.

In Texas, a parent who believes they cannot care for their child can place their infant, younger than 60 days old, with any Texas hospital, fire station or EMS service station. She may simply give her child to an employee and tell him/her that she would like to place the baby in a safe haven; the baby must be unharmed. The employee may ask for family and medical history so he/she can address any medical needs of the child, but the parent’s identity will remain anonymous. After being examined by a medical professional, the child will likely be placed for adoption through a local adoption agency.

Source: Texas Department of Family and Protective Services

Compensation

Pregnant mothers considering adoption are often concerned about their finances and how they will pay their bills while they may be unable to work. For this reason, many prospective adoptive parents and adoption agencies will provide financial assistance to expectant mothers who decide to place their baby for adoption.

The state of Texas allows medical, legal, counseling and living expenses to be paid by adoptive families. This includes rent, clothing, food and transportation, which includes gas but not car payments. This assistance can begin after a pregnant mother contacts the agency and can continue until six weeks after the birth, but expenses incurred prior to this contact will not be reimbursed. Amount and types of expenses paid may vary by county.

Source: Texas Penal Code 25.08

Termination of Parental Rights

Before an adoption can be completed, the birth parents of the child must terminate their parental rights. In some states this can be done as soon as 24 hours after the birth, while in others this cannot be done until days or weeks later. Texas allows a birth mother to terminate her parental rights 48 hours after the birth of her child.

By terminating her parental rights, she is signing parental rights over to the state, an adoption agency, or the adoptive family. In Texas if she is completing an adoption through an agency, this consent is irrevocable upon signing, meaning she cannot change her mind after it has been done. Therefore, it important that any woman pursuing adoption is comfortable with her decision before signing the consent paperwork.

Source: Texas Family Code Sec. 161.103

Rights of the Birth Father

Every state has different laws regarding the rights of the birth father. Texas is one of several states that has a Putative Father Registry. The Registry was created in 1997 as a way for fathers to acknowledge and assert paternity of a child with no presumed father (ie. A child born outside of marriage). The Registry is located at the Texas Department of State Health Services, Vital Statistics, and for more information you can visit www.dshs.state.tx.us.

For more information on the rights of the birth father see the Texas Family Code Sec. 161.

Open Adoption (Enforceable Agreements)

An open adoption is an agreement between the birth parents and the adoptive parents to keep in contact throughout the child’s life. This is often done through pictures, letters, email, phone calls, texting or in-person visits.

A birth mother and adoptive family will likely sign a contact agreement that states the type and frequency of the contact. Though this is a good way to ensure she will receive updates on her child, these types of agreements are only legally enforceable in the state of Texas under certain circumstances. Most agencies will ensure that both parties maintain contact with the agency so pictures and letters can be exchanged; however, if contact is lost, it is up to a judge whether they will be required to reestablish contact.

Source: Texas Family Code Sec. 161.2061

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