Do you want to adopt a child? Whether there is a child already in your life, such as a foster care child for whom you want to take permanent responsibility, or you want to welcome a child in need into your home, your choice to become an adoptive parent could make a massive difference in someone’s life. However, the Texas adoption process is lengthy, complex, and confusing, especially if you do not know what you are doing.
Fortunately, the Law Office of Chris Schmiedeke is here to help. Learn the requirements for adopting in the state of Texas, how you can start the adoption process, and how we can help simplify the process and help you grow your adoptive family.
To legally adopt a child in the state of Texas, you must be at least 21 years of age, and you must be mature, responsible, and financially stable. These are the basic qualifications to show that you can handle the financial and emotional challenges of raising a child and provide the care, stability, and guidance an adopted child needs to grow up physically and emotionally healthy.
In Texas, a child can only have two legal parents. This means that before a new parent can step in, the courts must terminate the biological parents’ rights that they are replacing. This termination can be voluntary or involuntary.
Both forms of termination require a court order in Texas to be finalized.
The first step in a stepparent or grandparent adoption is terminating the parental rights of the biological father, mother, or both.
A stepparent adoption requires the termination of the biological parent who is not married to the stepparent.
A grandparent adoption requires the termination of both biological parents.
There are two ways someone can attempt to terminate parental rights.
You will notice I said “attempt” regarding the termination. In all termination cases, the court must find that the termination (and subsequent adoption if there is one) is in the best interest of the child. Just because a parent signs a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights does not automatically mean the court will grant the termination. The court must still find that the termination is in the best interest of the child.
A stepparent married to one of the birth parents who retains their parental rights may adopt their stepchild if the other biological parent has had their rights terminated. For example, if a man marries a woman with a child from a prior marriage, he can adopt her child (his stepchild) only if the child’s biological father has had his parental rights terminated.
Alternatively, if both the birth family parents and the stepparents are willing to share responsibility for the child, they may file a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR). A SAPCR is a special legal proceeding to establish a child’s best interests. This can permit the stepparents and biological parents to agree on legal responsibilities and custodianship of the child as an alternative to formal adoption. This can include rights to child support, visitation, custody, and other parental rights.
If the child is at least two years old and the courts have removed the parental rights of at least one parent, the remaining custodial parent can consent to adoption by the child’s former stepparent, the child’s managing conservator, or someone else who has maintained care, possession, and control of the child for a minimum of six months before they file for adoption.
The adoption process begins with filling out the adoption application, which includes background information about you, your family members, your lifestyle, and proof of marriage or relationship status. Are you married, single, widowed, or divorced? Finally, you will need to provide references from family members and nonrelatives.
Texas adoption law outlines a detailed legal process for adopting a child. The adoption process can take some time to complete. Prospective parents will need patience to get through it, but the reward of providing a forever family to an adoptive child is well worth the process.
You will need to take the following steps when beginning the Texas adoption process.
This is where your adoption plan begins. Don’t underestimate the importance of choosing the right type of adoption for you.
Are you looking to adopt a child you know, such as a grandchild or stepchild? Do you want a newborn, a toddler, an older child, or even a teenager? Do you want a domestic adoption with a baby from the U.S. or an international adoption? Would you be willing to take in a child with special needs or adopt multiple siblings?
Perhaps the most important consideration is whether you want an open adoption or a closed adoption.
In an open adoption, you will meet and likely remain in touch with the child’s birth family. They may be able to visit their birth child and play a role in their life, even if their formal parental rights have been terminated. Open adoption can be an enriching experience for the child, but it can also open the door to complications later. Still, many adoption agencies encourage some level of open adoption because of the benefits to the child.
In a closed adoption, the adoptive parents and birth parents never meet and often are unaware of each other’s identity. The adoptive parents may not know who or where the birth parents are. The child receives a new birth certificate and may never even know they were adopted. Even if the adoptive parents and the biological family do know of each other, they do not stay in touch following the adoption, and the adoption papers are sealed after finalization.
Your answers to these questions will affect your choice of an adoption agency to suit your needs. You may even opt for a private adoption in which you reach an agreement directly with the birth parent.
Yes, under Texas law, you can foster to adopt, meaning you can adopt through the foster care system. Only certain children in foster care are eligible for adoption, so you must be certain that the child you wish to adopt can be adopted. The foster agency can help you determine the child’s status and adoptability.
Adopting through foster care can open the door to special subsidies and adoption assistance programs that can help to ease the financial burden while giving the child the sense of stability that comes from a forever home.
Prospective adoptive parents in Texas must complete a fairly rigorous adoptive parent training program to confirm they are ready to adopt and raise a child. You will need to attend several parenting training courses, including training on basic child care and how to parent children who have suffered from abuse, neglect, or other forms of trauma.
In Texas, the standard form of training is called PRIDE, or Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education. The PRIDE model is competency-based and supports five categories of child rearing:
The program encompasses 35 hours of training delivered by an agency staff member and an adoptive or foster parent.
The home study process is designed to ensure the child will be delivered to a nurturing, caring, and stable home. The process is always subject to change, but it serves to educate and prepare you for the adoption, to help the adoption agency evaluate your suitability as a parent, and to gather information to ensure that you and the child are a good match. The process can be stressful but remember it is all designed to protect the child’s best interests.
Different agencies use different formats for the study. In general, you will complete interviews with the home study adoption professional, who will also conduct home visits to ensure your home is safe and stable. You will likely have to provide statements regarding your health, income, and insurance coverage and undergo child abuse and criminal background checks.
Finally, you will likely be asked to write an autobiographical statement telling your life story. You will also be asked to provide family and nonfamily references. After this, you will receive a report with your family profile, evaluations, and other findings. On average, this process can take anywhere from three to six months.
Yes, except in very rare circumstances, such as finalizing the adoption of a stepchild, you should always have the services of a Texas adoption attorney. In any circumstances where the child you adopt is not related to you, the services of a Texas adoption attorney are essential to help you navigate the process successfully.
Adoption is complicated. We can help simplify the process.
Adoptions are paper-intensive and have several steps, including the aforementioned parental rights termination. It’s too much for the average person to be able to navigate. Adoption lawyers can complete and review paperwork to avoid critical mistakes.
Your Texas adoption attorney can help explain and navigate local, state, federal, and international adoption laws. They can help you identify a reputable adoption agency and can communicate with the agency on your behalf. Your lawyer can also help prepare you for the home study and navigate the various steps of the process. They can help you through your background check and arrange reimbursements and benefits under Texas state law.
It is unfortunate, but sometimes adoptions involve legal disputes with the birth parents who wish to reclaim their rights or other parties. An attorney can help you navigate any legal disputes that arise.
In short, your attorney is vital in helping you bring a new adoptee into your home.
If you are in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area and would like to schedule a meeting to discuss your potential termination/adoption case, contact us by calling 214-989-7375 or using our online contact form to schedule a consultation. We charge $150 for a consult and will provide all the necessary information to understand the process.
I was born in Dallas and spent the majority of my life here. I moved to Denver in the middle of the first grade and moved back to Plano in the middle of the eleventh grade. I graduated from Plano Senior High in 1984 and then attended Richland College and the University of North Texas where a received a Bachelor of Business Administration. From there I attended the Texas Tech University School of Law and was licensed to practice law in May of 1993.