What to Expect When You Want to Foster or Adopt a Child in Florida

by Caitlin Ultimo

Fostering, adopting, or fostering to adopt a child are all completely commendable, life-changing things to do. Participating in a child’s life in these ways is rewarding for both caretaker and child, and desperately needed by so many kids in the state of Florida.

Florida has five times as many children referred for foster care as it does foster care homes. In Central Florida, it is common to have so few foster homes available that children are placed in locations that are hours and hours away from the world they know.

This is a scary reality for many children and families within the foster care system. And while there is such a need for prospective foster or adoptive parents, that does not mean the process is expedited or easy in any way. Fostering or adopting a child in Florida can still be quite a process in every sense of the word.

How 26Health Can Help You Become a Foster Parent in Florida

The process can take months, even years. It can take a toll on your own emotional state and drudge up past traumas. It can be costly, disheartening, and lonely. And we’re just talking about the steps you must take in order to match with a child. The real work will start once you welcome that child home and into your life.

Taking in a child is not easy. But providing a safe space and home to those in need is one of the best gifts you can give. And here at 26Health, we want to be the support system that helps you make that gift happen. If you decide to become a foster parent in the state of Florida, we have a specialized and devoted team of adoption experts that will be by your side every step of the way.

The Process and What to Expect

Once you have decided that you are interested in becoming a foster or adoptive parent, you’ll meet with our adoption coordinators who have decades of professional experience in social welfare. From there, you will fill out a welcome packet that includes adoption fee schedules, individualized cost projections, 26Health’s services brochure, and an adoption application. This type of application will ask questions about your own upbringing and personal history, so it’s not unlikely for it to take upwards of ten hours to fully complete.

After the packet is submitted, a home study will take place. These home study meetings are very important and will cover a series of personal questions. Be prepared to talk about everything from how you were raised to your mental status and how you plan to raise children. There will also be a safety check for proper locks and your home will be inspected to see how alcohol or firearms are secured–if any are kept in the house.

It will take about a week after the home study to receive an approval. “The home study approval is like a passport,” says Manny Carames, behavioral health expert and Director of Adoptions at 26Health. “You can’t express interest in matching with a child until you have [a home study] done. They [DCS lawyers] won’t take you seriously until you have one. It’s done that way to protect the children.”

And even once a child has been placed in your care, it’s important to note that they could be sent back to their parents. There can be a window of nine months to two years where there is an opportunity for this to happen.

The Truth About Financial Aid and Personal Responsibility

It is true that foster parents receive a subsidy per child from the government. But some people might not realize that this money alone will never be enough to cover all of that child’s expenses. To put it plainly, “If you’re going in it for money you’re in it for the wrong reasons,” puts Carames, who speaks from not only professional experience, but also personal experience as Carames is currently in the process of adopting a 16-year-old.

Typically, a foster parent receives about $300 per month in the state of Florida. That said, there are different types of subsidies. For example, if a child has special needs or requires specific medical care the monetary support amount could go up from the baseline allotment.  26Health will help negotiate this payment so the foster parent is set up with as appropriate financial support as possible.

If you adopt within the Florida system, your child will be covered under Medicaid until they turn 18. The state will also pay $1000 to cover out-of-pocket costs like attorney fees. And if the child later decides to attend an in-state college, their tuition will be covered by Florida as well.

The Impact We Can Make Together

There are over 20,000 foster children in the state of Florida. And the unfortunate truth is that many willing potential foster parents may not get to the final step because they are intimidated by the process or, worse, the chance of bias against them. “At 26Health, our specialty is wrapped around the LGBTQ+ community. Our clients may be scared to go to traditional agencies where they might not get a fair shake,” says Carames. It’s part of 26Health’s mission to ensure that every individual feels supported through this journey.

So if you’re thinking about becoming a foster parent or adopting a child, here’s our advice: Don’t put it off. Start today.

Are you ready?