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What Is The First Step In The Texas Adoption Process?

| Chris Schmiedeke |

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.

Who Can Legally Adopt in Texas?

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.

When Can a Child Be Adopted in Texas?

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.

How Can Parental Rights Be Terminated in Texas?

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.

  1. Voluntary termination: The biological parent whose rights are being terminated signs a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights.
  2. Involuntary termination: Someone files a lawsuit for termination, potentially as part of an adoption suit. The court terminates the biological parent’s parental rights after a hearing or trial.

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.

Stepparent Adoption

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.

With Parental Consent

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.

How Long Does The Adoption Process Take in Texas?

The adoption process in Texas can take anywhere from 9 to 18 months. According to a 2015 study by Adoptive Families, 62 percent of adoptive families in the United States were matched with their child in under one year, and 84 percent were matched within two years. The actual time frame can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the type of adoption you are pursuing, the age and gender of the child you are hoping to adopt, and your own personal circumstances.

For example, if you are adopting a newborn baby, you may have a longer wait time than if you are adopting an older child or a child with special needs. Additionally, if you are flexible with your adoption preferences, such as being open to adopting a child of any race or ethnicity, you may also have a shorter wait time.

The Average Timeline of a Texas Adoption, Step by Step

  • Application and home study: This step can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months.
  • Waiting family profile: Once your home study is complete, you will create a waiting family profile, which will be shared with prospective birth parents. This step can take anywhere from one to six months.
  • Match and placement: Once you have been matched with a prospective birth parent, you will have the opportunity to meet them and learn more about their story. If you decide to move forward with the placement, the birth parent will sign a placement agreement, and your child will be placed in your care. This step can take anywhere from one to three months.
  • Finalization: Once your child has been placed in your care, you will need to file a petition with the Texas family courts to finalize the adoption. This step can take anywhere from one to three months.

It is important to note that the adoption process can be complex, and there are many factors that can affect the overall timeline. An experienced Texas adoption lawyer can advise you on your particular circumstances and help simplify the process.

Additional Factors That Can Influence the Adoption Timeline

In addition to the required steps for Texas adoption, there are a variety of factors that can influence the time it takes to adopt. These factors include:

  • Adoption type: Whether you choose private domestic adoption, foster care adoption, or international adoption will influence the time needed to adopt.
  • Termination of biological parents’ rights: To adopt a child, the biological parents must first legally terminate their rights, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. If this has not happened yet, it can increase the wait time for adoption. This is more common with foster care adoptions.
  • Age, gender, and ethnicity of the child: If you are flexible with your adoption preferences, such as being willing to adopt an older child or teen, you may have a shorter waiting period than if you are committed to adopting an infant.
  • Case complexity: If there are additional considerations to your adoption, such as child medical issues or additional legal concerns, this may lengthen the time it takes to adopt.
  • Your circumstances: If you are a single parent, unmarried, or in an LGBTQ relationship, it may make the adoption process more complicated. In Texas, child welfare providers are legally allowed to refuse adoption to LGBTQ adoptive parents based on religious beliefs. To avoid this, work with LGBTQ-friendly adoption services.

Legal Proceedings and Their Impact on Adoption Timelines

Legal proceedings contribute significantly to the length of the adoption process. The termination of parental rights, court hearings, and the finalization of the adoption are legal steps that can be time-consuming. Your adoption lawyer understands these legal proceedings and can guide you through each step.

How an Experienced Texas Adoption Attorney Can Help Speed Up the Process

An experienced Texas adoption lawyer understands the steps required for legal adoption and can help speed up the process while you focus on building your family. They can help at various points throughout the process, including finding a reputable adoption agency, preparing you for your home study, and completing and filing all paperwork correctly and promptly. They can also help navigate any legal hurdles that may arise during the process and negotiate with the birth parents on the terms of the adoption, including how open it is and the amount of contact they will have with the child.

Requirements to Begin the Texas Adoption Process

adoptive parents smiling at their daughter

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.

First Steps of the Texas Adoption Process

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.

  • Choose the type of adoption you desire.
  • Consider foster care adoption.
  • Complete adoptive parent training.
  • Complete a home study.
  • Choose an adoption service.

Choose the Type of Adoption You Want to Pursue

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.

Can You Adopt Children Out of Foster Care in Texas?

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.

Complete Adoptive Parent Training

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:

  1. Protecting and nurturing the child
  2. Meeting developmental needs and dealing with developmental delays
  3. Supporting the child’s relationship with their birth family
  4. Creating lifelong, safe, and nurturing relationships
  5. Working as a professional team member

The program encompasses 35 hours of training delivered by an agency staff member and an adoptive or foster parent.

Complete a Home Study

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.

Choose an Adoption Service

  • You can choose from several adoption services in Texas. Many specialize in certain types of adoption, ranging from foster adoption to infant adoption, private adoption, and more. Before you choose an adoption service, consider several important factors.
  • Licensing: Never, ever use a child placing agency that is not licensed to adopt in the state of Texas. Illegal adoptions are a major problem and pose severe dangers to children, and they can also leave you on the wrong end of serious legal troubles. Licensing and accreditation ensure that the agency you work with meets state standards for child placement set by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).
  • Reputation: Research the adoption agency to ensure they are well-reviewed and have a good reputation. Do your homework and look for recommendations and testimonials. Read both the positive and negative testimonials.
  • Cost: Adoption can be expensive. Consider agencies’ various costs, but do not immediately run to the least costly. Likewise, do not assume the most expensive means the best. Balance cost against other factors to find the right agency.
  • Trustworthiness and transparency: How transparent and open is the agency regarding the states they serve, their timetable estimates, fees, and testimonials from prior parents? The more they are willing to tell you upfront, the more likely they are trustworthy. When in doubt, turn to your Texas adoption attorney for legal advice.
  • Support services and training: Will the adoption agency be available to help you after the finalization of the adoption, or will they close the door and move on? What resources do they provide post-placement to help you and the child adjust to your new circumstances?

Do I Need an Adoption Lawyer in Texas?

adoptive fathers hugging their son

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.

How a Texas Adoption Lawyer Can Help

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.

We’ll Help You Find Your New Family

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.

Chris Schmiedeke


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. 

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