Adopting is a great option for people who want to provide a loving home to children who need it. But any adoption, in or out of state, comes with its challenges. If you are interested in adopting, you need to know what to expect. The journey may be bumpy, but preparing will help make the process smoother. With that in mind, here are the essential steps for would-be parents seeking to adopt a child in Texas. Consider working with a financial advisor as you weigh the costs of adopting.
How to Start the Adoption Process in Texas
The first thing you need to start the adoption process is certainty. Adoption is a commitment, and if you aren’t ready for that, you may need to re-evaluate. But if you are positive this is the route for you – congratulations.
Once you know you want to adopt, you need to take stock of your situation. First, you should research the requirements for adoptive parents in the Lone Star State. Regulations that determine licensing eligibility in Texas include:
- Being at least 21 years old and financially stable
- If married, divorced or widowed, proof of your status
- Able to provide relative and non-relative references
- Agreement to a home study
- A clear criminal history background check
- A clear abuse and neglect check on any adults in the household
- Attendance of free training that teaches about disadvantaged and abused children
You might be able to tell, but starting the adoption process takes more than eligibility. There are procedures to follow. While there are some differences between private adoptions versus adopting through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), state law requires the same general steps for both. These are the guidelines DFPS uses:
- Information Meeting – Prospective parents must attend a meeting in their area where they go through the requirements to adopt. Your local DFPS office can also provide this information if there are no meetings in your area.
- Preparation and Selection – You meet with DFPS staff if you meet basic requirements. The staff assesses you, decides if the process is right for you and provides you with more information.
- Training – You must attend PRIDE (Parent Resource Information Development Education) training, a 35-hour course provided by the state. In addition, Texas requires prospective adoptive parents to complete three trainings or certifications outside PRIDE: universal precautions training, psychotropic medication training, certification in CPR and first aid.
- Home Visit – A caseworker visits your family’s home. He or she reviews your personal information with you, like lifestyle, family history and childcare experiences. Caseworkers interview each household member during this.
How Much Does It Cost to Adopt in Texas?
It would be nice if adopting entailed one predictable fee. Planning out the finances for the new addition in your life would be so simple. However, when it comes to adoption costs, you can only make estimates. Some may pay very little in the end, while others may pay upwards of $50,000.
Adoption costs fluctuate depending on multiple factors. This rule applies no matter where you adopt, not just in Texas. For example, the age of the child you want matters. An infant will lead to higher costs than an older child.
Most of the hard-hitting costs associated with adoption stem from licensing procedures (i.e., fingerprinting and updates to the home). In addition, varying agency and legal fees can sting. However, adopting a child through the state can significantly reduce these costs through reimbursement and assistance.
According to CPS Policy 1714.7, adoptive families can pursue up to $1,200 in reimbursement for “nonrecurring” expenses, like agency fees, court costs and other payments through the legal process. Additionally, CPS Policy 1700 provides assistance for families who adopt children with special needs. If your child is eligible, you can receive benefits in combination with the reimbursement. Aid comes in the form of monthly payments of medical assistance provided through Medicaid.
To qualify, families must also be approved according to the Minimum Standard for Child-Placing Agencies in Texas. These assistance programs are available to all prospective adoptive parents, including LGBTQ couples and non-U.S. citizens, or “qualified aliens” as described by the 8 U.S. Code § 1641.
Other forms of assistance can help. Certain children who do not qualify for Title IV-E (CPS Policy 1700) can still receive state-paid assistance if they:
- Meet an age minimum; or
- Were in DFPS care at least 60 consecutive months (the Time in Care Requirement); or
- Are placed with or are joining a sibling who meets the requirements as an applicable child.
This assistance can last up until the child hits age 21. This is only for children who resided in state foster homes, not licensed child-placing agencies (LCPA). However, these children can still qualify for 1711.1 eligibility and the reimbursement.
If these do not apply to your adopted child, there is still the adoption tax credit, which applies to all types of adoptions (outside stepparent adoptions). The maximum amount per child for 2020 (claimed in 2021) was $14,300. There are also opportunities for certain families, such as military families. So, research your financing options ahead of time.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Adopt in Texas?
While there is no law requiring a lawyer to adopt, the law plays a significant role in adoptions. That means a lot of paperwork, rules to follow and more. Tackling that alone can be stressful – but you don’t have to. Lawyers can step in when things get technical. Adoption lawyers specialize in family law on a state and federal level. So, they can explain each part of the process to you as you move through the adoption.
Some agencies provide attorney services, which get included in your fees. Occasionally couples will choose to hire their own attorney, though. Firms with adoption experience can be found across the state:
Type of Adoptions
Prospective parents have a few options when they want to adopt. There are different types and, depending on your circumstances, one may work better than another.
For example, you have the choice to adopt internationally or domestically. With the former, you adopt a child from another country through an agency. This often comes with added formalities because you have to work with the other country’s regulations. On the other hand, there is domestic, or private, adoption. If you are adopting in Texas, private adoption is best for parents who want a newborn baby.
Alternatively, you can also choose to adopt through the Texas foster care system. Many children are waiting for stable and loving homes in foster care. However, you are more likely to find older children through the state than newborns. Still, this is the least expensive route since costs are typically low and reimbursable. Some foster care adoptions are also eligible for an adoption tax credit.
You can also break down adoptions based on who is involved. A closed adoption means there is no contact between the birth and adoptive families. In contrast, open and semi-open adoptions allow for varying degrees of contact. Adoptions can also occur between family members, such as a grandparent adopting a grandchild or a stepparent adopting their spouse’s children.
Keep in mind: Texas allows a range of applicants to adopt. LGBTQ couples, single parents, working parents and others can adopt. However, the state does not typically allow Texas children to be placed outside the U.S.
How to Select Adoption Professionals and Services
There are hundreds of sources to turn to if you want to adopt in Texas. Resources are available from the Texas Child Care database. It includes each facility’s inspection history and any available reports. Researching your options is vital, so weigh the pros and cons of each service before choosing.
Some things you may want in mind during your search include:
- Availability: Something may pop up unexpectedly. Can you reach the agency outside normal working hours?
- Expenses: What is the average cost, and what does the fee structure look like? Are there any hidden fees?
- Experience: What is the reputation of the agency, and how long has it been in operation? Is it well-staffed?
- Guidance: Are there support services and educational opportunities available?
- Licensing: Is your Texas-based adoption agency fully licensed? Without it, you cannot ensure that the adoption process is legal or safe.
The DFPS has a list of foster and adoption agencies based in Texas and categorized by region, which you can explore here.
Finalizing the Texas Adoption Home Study
A home study is required in the adoption process, whether you go through the state, a private agency or internationally. A caseworker will visit you at your home to review your situation. While there, they will inspect the home’s safety and conduct an interview. In particular, they will ask about your lifestyle, your ability to meet a child’s needs, family history, finances, medical information and other personal details.
They conduct these interviews and any clearances according to the Texas Family Code, which they will supply the forms for. A home study varies widely in cost, but expect to pay at least $1,000 and upwards of $3,000.
You will also need to submit a wide range of documents during your application process. It can include everything from financial statements to Social Security card copies to a history of residences. Pulling everything together from the start will help you stay organized.
Matching with a Child
As long as your clearances and interview go well, you should find yourself on a list of waiting families. It may take a long time, but, eventually, you will receive a call. If you choose a private agency, they will contact you about the child.
In some cases, the birth mother will select you. In others, you will inquire about a child through your caseworker or from a photolisting service like the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange (TARE) or AdoptUsKids. Essentially, in either situation, if you match the needs of the child, then you have a chance to become an adoptive placement for them.
Finishing the Adoption
There are a few finishing touches before the court signs an order of adoption:
- ICPC Paperwork: You may be from outside of Texas. If you adopted across state lines, you have to stay in the state until all ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) forms are complete. It takes around seven to 10 business days.
- Post-Placement Visits: Like the home study, a caseworker will visit your home to follow up on the placement. Texas usually requires five visits. However, your experience depends on the agency you use and where the child is from.
- Finalization Hearing: A judge does a final review, which confirms the proper procedure was followed. According to The Texas Family Code, adoptions only finalize after the child stays a minimum of six months in the adoptive parents’ custody.
Families who adopted through the DFPS can also get post-adoption services, which their agency must provide. This support helps everyone in the family adjust and ensure the adoption is permanent. It includes help like counseling, crisis intervention and casework services plus support from parent groups.
Adoption requires all hands on deck. You need to get a lot in order before you can welcome a child into the family. But the great news is that once the adoption journey is over, you have another one waiting around the corner: your life together. Although some adoption routes are less expensive than others, your finances play a big part. Therefore, you may want help organizing your financial situation before you start. In that case, consider hiring a financial advisor. They can help you prepare for the oncoming expenses and address current debts.
Tips for Adopting in Texas
- Adoption is a personal decision but heavily involves your finances. Planning out costs and saving early can help you prepare. Consider an investment portfolio as part of your plan. Our investment calculator can help you monitor it and see how much it grows.
- Adoption agencies want to see families in control of their finances. That way, they know you will provide for the child. A financial advisor can help you manage any debts and improve your situation before you apply. Finding one is simple with SmartAsset’s free matching tool. It shows you up to three financial advisors in your local area. If you’re ready, get started now.
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