How does one even figure out how to get started when looking into adoption?? It can be quite an overwhelming thing!! So, we are going to give you the skinny on how each of the different options works. Holly and Saul have personally experienced adoption from the foster care system and Carrie and David have experienced private domestic adoption. We are going to give you both the process and steps of how to go about it and also what our own personal experiences are. In Florida (specifically Hillsborough County), there are 2 ways you can adopt from the foster care system:
1. As a foster parent, if the child in your care has their parent's parent rights terminated (TPR), and they have exhausted all family and friends then the foster parent generally is given the opportunity to adopt. This is the specific experience that Holly is going to share below.
2. The other option is that you get licensed as an adoptive home. You take similar classes and get licensed as an adoptive home. So you aren't fostering at all your family profile is actually presented at a match meeting of children who are available for adoption because the parents' rights have already been terminated and there is no family, friends or adoptive parents to adopt them. Most people don't realize it, but adoption through the state is generally free, you get a monthly stipend for the child, they get free in state college tuition, and medicaid until they are 21. Generally the cost is low, but the time waiting and frustration levels can be high.
Here's how Holly and Saul's personal experience went:
Almost 3 years ago, we started the process to become licensed foster parents. Previously, we had been working through the process of private adoption and soon realized God was steering us in a very different direction. While we thought we were called to adopt, it was clear, God was saying trust me and just be willing to love on whatever kids I put in your home. So, we somewhat hesitantly began classes to get licensed. Right away, and throughout the licensing ups and downs God never changed His mission for us. It was evident we were in the right place.
In October 2011, before we even knew we had received our official license from DCF (Department of Children and Families), we had a call for a baby, they were placing 3 babies that day and felt the 4 month old baby girl would fit us best. Little did they know I was praying for a 4-6 month old, but God knew. We couldn't believe the gorgeous baby that was dropped off by the CPI the next day. We worked through visits, court hearings, etc. learning along the way. Two and a half years later, there has been alot that has happened, including a return to her bio mom and back to us. We got official approval from the judge literally today that we will get to adopt her so we will be going through this adoption process again and are so happy!
About 4 months after we had our first placement, my husband felt God was saying it's time to take another. We had one open space left. I mentioned to our FDS (family development specialist) we would love to keep one, to which he laughed and said "you know foster parents don't sign up to keep them". It is not looked fondly upon when you sign up to foster parent just in hopes of adoption. I said I knew and I trusted he would find the right kid for our family. Our only preference was a child 2 & under with no major medical issues (we felt we wouldn't be prepared for that at this time). Less than 48 hours later, he called sounding a little surprised on the phone and said we have a 19 month African American boy who looks to be going up for a match meeting soon! He is an a respite (temporary) placement right now and we need to move him somewhere more permanently until he is matched.
A match meeting means that parents rights have been terminated, they cannot locate any other relatives or even non-relatives (friends of the family) to take the child and the child's case will be placed in front of a few families that are licensed to adopt. They then will determine which family is the best match for that child. If we were to take him and decide we would like to adopt him, we would have the first option to adopt! We knew God had set this up, this little guy had to be for our family! 2 days later the tiniest little man who waddled like a duck showed up on my front door. He was so handsome and the only word he could say was "mama"! I couldn't believe it!
We were pretty quickly able to start the process to adopt him. It still took 8 months from the time he showed up to his adoption day. They first determined if us adopting him was the best option (that was quick meeting). Then we had to have an adoption home study performed (which is slightly different than a foster home study), lots of paperwork, there was a child study to written up by the adoption specialist, and physicals by my husband and I. Once all the paperwork was complete, we had to go in for disclosure. This is a meeting where they record the adoption specialist reading everything from the child's history that they are aware of.
It was during that disclosure meeting that we truly got to understand why this little guy was so traumatized and totally explained the behaviors he exhibited when he first came to our home. I am sure reality was 10 times worse for him than what was explained to us in words at that meeting.
Saul and I decided right then and there we would pray over these things and we knew God had put him in our family because this child was going to have a life filled with hope and love with not only 2 parents who really loved him, but a whole new family who did too. These things were in his past, but they didn't define his future!
He arrived in February and a judge made him officially Micah David Nazario on October 1st, 2012!! Micah means "Who is like Yaweh". We owe his adoption to God and his perfect timing. Micah is a huge blessing to our family, a ball of energy and so much fun! He loves his brothers and sister, anything chocolate and rides a razor like a pro. He is still our little peanut and most people think his younger sister is older than him, but we know one day he will catch up:) He turns 4 in a few months and it has been a true miracle to watch this little boy change and grow. He was drug addicted at birth, weighed 2.3 lbs, severely traumatized before he arrived at our home, glued to me 24/7 for at least the first 6 months, desperate and screaming if I left him for a second, terrified to let his daddy touch him, and wouldn't make eye contact with anyone. Now he's a loving, caring, talkative, very friendly and outgoing little boy who loves his daddy sometimes more than his mommy! That is one of the joys and struggles you miss out on when you take a child that is perfectly healthy and has no struggles. We are glad God called us to foster first, so we could truly appreciate the change only He could bring through prayer and love in our little man. And we have been forever changed by adoption.