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“My Children are in State Custody”: A Birth Parent’s Right to Choose the Right Family for their Child through Private Adoption

Having your parental rights taken away can make a parent feel like they no longer have any control over their child’s future. You can think of nothing else but your child and the kind of family he or she is with. You may be thinking: Is my child safe? Is the family too strict or too permissive? Would they be open to my child visiting with me? Will they want to adopt my child, or will my child move from home to home?

But as a birth parent, until the court has actually terminated your parental rights, you have decision-making power and the right to choose private adoption. Statute F.S. 63.082(6)(a) states:

If a parent executes a consent for the placement of a minor with an adoption entity or qualified prospective adoptive parents and the minor child is in the custody of the department, but parental rights have not yet been terminated by the court, the adoption consent is valid, binding, and enforceable by the court.

When a birth parent consents to a private adoption while the child is in state custody, an “intervention” must take place in order for the child to be adopted privately. With adoption intervention, birth parents are able to design an adoption plan for their child, including choosing a family for their child. Birth parents can choose if the family has children already, if they are a traditional family, a single-parent home, or a same-sex couple. Birth parents may even be able to negotiate a communication agreement with the adoptive parents to include a schedule to receive pictures, updates, and perhaps even visitation with the child.

Adoption intervention, however, is not always appropriate. Considerations, including whether it is best for the child to be removed from the current foster home, should be made. If the child’s foster family has maintained custody for some time and expressed a desire to adopt, consenting to the foster family adopting, with an agreement for continued communication, maybe in the best interests of the child.

If the child’s current foster placement is not suitable in the eyes of the birth parents, a private adoption plan may be a great alternative. With private adoption, even when you are not a direct part of your child’s life, you can still plan for the kind of life and family you envision for your child. Whether your child is placed with a two-parent family, in a home with (or without) other children, in a Florida home, and whether your child has a stay-at-home parent can all be decided by you. An agreement for pictures, letters, and/or visits from the adoptive parents may also be created so as to stay up-to-date with all of your child’s milestones.

No family is ever going to be you, but until your parental rights have been terminated, you can certainly choose the kind of life you desire for your child.

The attorneys at Hausmann & Hickman, P.A. have experience handling adoption interventions in Florida for families in many different situations. If you or someone you know would like to learn more about Florida adoption intervention, please feel free to contact our office.

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Alexa, A Birth Mother’s Perspective

My name is Alexa and I am a mother of five.  I have placed three of my children for adoption and I am a stay at home mom for two.

My journey to becoming a birth mother began in 2005.  While going through a divorce we found out I was pregnant with a second child.  I could not, in good conscience, use abortion as a method of birth control so I looked at my other options.  Parenting was not an option because I could barely care for myself and my then 18-month-old daughter as a newly single mom.  I decided the only option for my second daughter was to find an awesome family for her to grow up in.  Through the adoption process, I found a family that fit my criteria and who I knew would care for her as I would if parenting was an option for me.  We decided that yearly updates and pictures were the only method of contact we were all comfortable with.  I receive many pictures each year and it is wonderful to watch her grow up in a stable, loving household.  Sometimes it is difficult but I know I made the right choice for her.

In 2010 my significant other and I  found out we were pregnant unexpectedly.  We went to the doctor and found out we were having spontaneous triplets.  Needless to say, we were in shock.  After looking at the finances and our current children from separate relationships we knew we could not raise triplets and care for our other 4 collective children.  We did not want that for any of our children.  We knew we could care for one, but three? We chose to parent one and do an open adoption with visitation with the other two.  Visitation was necessary for this adoption because the boys needed to grow up knowing they were adopted and knowing each other and their other siblings.  We found a great couple who agreed with us on this thought process.  A lot of people have asked how you choose one.  We decided to choose before they came out and we decided to parent the last one born.  This was incredibly difficult but I knew that I could not leave the hospital like last time and be able to pick the pieces up and continue being a present parent for my daughter.

Some may ask why I would share so much of my personal story with the public, I know some of my family does.  My answer is that if I can help just one person understand that adoption isn’t abandoning your child, or help one birthmother know she not alone in how she feels, or help an adoptive couple know how to connect with the birth mother of their future child then what I went through can do other people good.  This blog is an open book into my life as a birthmother.

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Open Adoption? What Does That Mean?

“What do you mean, you have an open adoption?” “How does that work?” ” I would just take that baby and never look back.” “Aren’t you worried she’ll want to take her back?” “Is she confused about who her ‘real’ mom is?” These are just some of the things that I hear when I tell people that we have an open adoption.

There are lots of people on the outside looking in that are confused by open adoption, but they just don’t understand.

In the beginning, these comments made me feel defensive and sometimes question my decision. In spite of all of these feelings, I knew in my heart the decision I was making was right and was best for my children. Plus, the quote “If a mother can love more than one child, why can’t a child love more than one mother?” never left my mind.

You see, I didn’t start out with an open adoption plan. Our first adoption went pretty quickly. We were matched and our daughter was born all in the same week. We were supposed to meet her birth mom, Rebecca, the Monday after she was born. Instead, we all met at the hospital.

I was so nervous and excited on the four-hour drive to the hospital. My feelings went from “oh my goodness we’re going to be parents” to “what if Rebecca doesn’t like us,” etc. I remember knocking on Rebecca’s hospital door and her saying “Come on in.” We entered her room, and that’s where the story really begins.

Our daughter was not in her room. This gave us all time to spend together to talk and share. I cherished that time and thought, “I want to remember everything about this amazing, strong, funny, brave woman so I can share it with my daughter one day.” After about an hour went by we called down to the nursery to have them bring the baby (Riley). As soon as the door opened and we saw her little purple crocheted hat the tears began to flow. We were all crying like babies, except Riley. My husband and I would not pick her up and just kept telling Rebecca how beautiful she was. Finally, Rebecca picked her up and gave her a little kiss on her head, handed her to us, and said, “This is your mommy and daddy.”

One thing I was not prepared for was the love I’d have for Rebecca. I already knew I loved Riley. I knew the moment I found out she existed. Rebecca was a different story. Her love for Riley was undeniable. Her strength and commitment to do what she thought was best for this amazing, tiny, 5 lb. 12 oz. angel was awe-inspiring. I loved her from the moment I walked into that room. Every book I ever read on adoption could never have prepared me for these feelings; there was no mention of this. Was this normal?

We moved through the next two days in a blur. Taking care of the legalities and making sure each other were okay. I woke up the second day in tears. The tears were not because I was worried she’d change her mind or anything along those lines. The tears were for her. For what she was going to have to do that day, for the love I knew she felt for this sweet baby. I wanted to just help her, to hug her and reassure her. She left the hospital that day arm and arm with her mother. As she left the nursery I couldn’t let go of the feeling that I would see her again.

In the first months after we were home, I grieved for Rebecca. Songs would come on the radio and I would just cry for her. I sent letters and pictures, but it just didn’t seem like enough. Finally, I got the nerve to contact Hausmann & Hickman and have them reach out and see if a meeting would be possible. She was open to it. First, my husband and I met with her on our own. During that meeting, we set up the next one when we’d all meet together.

A few weeks later we all met up to spend the weekend together. I remember Riley getting out of her car seat, walking up to Rebecca, and saying, “I came out of your belly.” Rebecca picked her up, breathed her in, and said, “I know you did.” All was right in the world at that time and then Riley ran off to play.

Things have been open now for 5 years. We spend every Thanksgiving together. Rebecca is an excellent cook. We respect each other and our roles in this little girl’s life.

Open adoption isn’t always easy. However, we have made a pact to always share our feelings and be honest. I say it’s not always easy, but keep in mind, it’s worth it. We’ve all grown as a family not only in love but in size. The relationship is not only with Rebecca but with Riley’s biological siblings, grandmother, and extended family. She loves to be with them too. We all stay in touch and visit when possible. Most of our time together is spent laughing and telling stories. Just recently Rebecca came for a four-day visit and we kept referring to one another as “My baby’s momma.” As I write these very words Riley is on the phone with her biological brother Aaron discussing Minecraft and different strategies. It’s a wonderful place to be, it’s our normal. Family is defined however you choose. We define it as love and caring for one another. That’s our choice and we are all better because of it.

Open adoption is not about having the same political views, or religious views (we don’t). It’s about the child and their happiness. It’s about the child knowing that they were always wanted by everyone and surrounded by love. After all, you can never have enough love. It’s about having your questions answered and not wondering when you look in the mirror where your blue eyes come from, or where you got your cute curly hair and freckles. Open adoption is about making it work for everyone. It’s not about co-parenting, or proving who loves the child more. In fact, it’s not about “you” at all. We know our roles. We love and respect each other. We share a common goal and are joined together as a family. But most of all, we love this little girl and want what is best for HER.

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Is Surrogacy Right For You?

When it comes to starting a family, there are many different parenting options to consider. Surrogacy is becoming a popular alternative for those who aren’t able to have children of their own but desire a biological child. At Hausmann and Hickman, we are adoption lawyers that specialize in surrogacy in Florida. Florida is one of the very few states that provides full parental status to intended parents once the child is born, without having to go through the entire adoption process.

There are two types of surrogacy options which are legal in Florida: traditional and gestational. Many people are opting to use surrogacy, which is a viable consideration for single people, members of the LGBT community and couples experiencing infertility problems who want to have children of their own.

Couples Struggling With Infertility

Many couples who are experiencing infertility problems and have exhausted their fertility treatment options may feel hopeless. Surrogacy is a chance for them to finally create a family and realize their dreams of parenthood. Gestational surrogacy allows both parents to be biologically related to the child. This type of surrogacy utilizes In-Vitro Fertilization, or IVF, to fertilize the eggs of the intended mother with the sperm from the intended father and transfer them into the surrogate’s uterus. The surrogate would not be biologically linked to the child, and would only be considered the carrier for the child.

Same-Sex Couples/ LGBT Community

Surrogacy can give the option of one of the parents being biologically related to the child for same-sex couples and members of the LGBT community. Gestational surrogacy uses the intended father’s sperm and a donor egg (unrelated to the surrogate mother). This type of surrogacy can be a great option, especially for male same-sex couples.

Single People

For single people, surrogacy may be an option that has fewer restrictions than adoption. Many adoption agencies have requirements when it comes to one’s age and marital status. Single women who have healthy eggs but cannot carry a pregnancy to full term can benefit from gestational surrogacy, using a sperm donor. Meanwhile, single men or single women who do not have healthy eggs can use gestational surrogacy with a sperm and egg donor, as well.

At Hausmann and Hickman, we believe that being able to start a family is an option that should be available to everyone. Our dedicated staff can help you to achieve that dream through various parenting options. We have many years of experience helping prospective parents create families through surrogacy in Florida. We also know how sensitive and complicated the surrogacy process can be and that is why we will be with your every step of the way. If you are interested in starting a family through surrogacy, give us a call today at 1-877-703-0774 to find out more information.

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What Options Do I Have For Adoption In Florida?

Adoption in Florida is a complex process. It is important for prospective parents to thoroughly research and educate themselves on all legal requirements including representation. 

Michelle Hausmann and Amy Hickman are Florida Bar certified adoption lawyers that specialize in adoption and reproductive law. 

Who Can Adopt In Florida

Florida law authorizes both instate and nonresidents to adopt, and does not discriminate against age, sex, marital status, or sexual orientation.

Types Of Adoption Options In Florida

  • Entity adoption through an adoption agency or adoption lawyers
  • Step-parent adoption
  • Close relative adoption
  • Adult adoption
  • Second parent adoption

Adoption Process In Florida

Before an adoption can take place in the state of Florida, the court must receive consent from the biological parents of the child that they understand and accept that they are forever relinquishing their parental rights. In Florida, there are certain requirements for valid consent.

For children 6 months old or younger:

  • The biological mother cannot sign consent until 48 hours after birth or on her discharge day from the hospital. Once consent is signed, it cannot be revoked unless the birth parents can show proof of fraud or duress at the time of consent.
  • The biological father can sign consent any time after the birth or an irrevocable affidavit of non-paternity at any time before or after the birth.

For children older than 6 months:

  • The biological mother and father can sign consent at any time.
  • There is a revocation period of three days where either party is allowed to change his or her mind.

After consent has been received and signed in front of a notary, the judge can then terminate the parental rights of the birth parents. Once a judgment has been made, the adoptive parents can file a petition for adoption. Parents cannot file until 30 days after the judgment to terminate parental rights or 90 days after placement of the child within their home. After this time, there will be a final hearing to finalize the adoption.

If you are a birth family facing an unplanned pregnancy or prospective adoptive parents wanting to start a family then the adoption lawyers at Hausmann and Hickman can help. We specialize in adoption in Florida, as well as surrogacy options. For more information and resources about adoption law in Florida, give us a call at (561) 732-7030.

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What To Know About LGBT Adoption

Many couples desire to be parents and want to experience the joy of raising a child. Hausmann and Hickman’s child adoption services in Florida provide a full range of services to families of diverse backgrounds and situations, including single parents and same-sex couples. Hausmann and Hickman P.A. provides services which include private adoption, surrogacy, and reproductive law. Michelle Hausmann and Amy Hickman are Florida Board Certified Adoption Attorneys who specialize in reproductive law. They are experienced in handling various types of adoption cases and have an in-depth understanding of these laws.

What To Know About LGBT Adoption:

Process

The adoption process can be exciting, emotional, and lengthy. For many years, LGBT couples were not allowed to adopt due to discrimination and marriage requirements. Same-sex adoption laws have been modified in recent years which allows for more freedom for LGBT couples who desire to adopt. The law states that LGBT couples have the same rights to adopt as heterosexual couples. As long as the couple is able to meet particular state requirements, such as completing home study and background screening requirements, they can move forward in the adoption process.

Eligibility

The eligibility process to adopt for LGBT couples varies by state and may be different if the couple is not married. Eligibility requirements to adopt in Florida include having a stable income, passing all background check and home study requirements, and being able to provide a stable environment for the child.

Hausmann & Hickman, P.A. is a private adoption attorney in Florida which provides legal services for families hoping to adopt. LGBT couples who wish to start a family may consider pursuing adoption. Call Hausmann and Hickman P.A. at (561) 732-7030 to speak with our team about adoption, and visit us online at AdoptionandSurrogacy.com for more information regarding the adoption process.

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Financial Assistance Options For Birth Mothers

Florida adoption law allows birth mothers to receive financial support during pregnancy and for a period following delivery. Many birth mothers receive assistance with various expenses such as rent, groceries, and utilities that may be hard to afford due to difficulty working during pregnancy. Private adoption attorneys such as Hausmann & Hickman work with birth mothers to establish a budget that will help ease the burden of expenses during pregnancy. While working with an adoption agency or attorney, birth mothers may also receive counseling and legal services that are covered through the adoption process.

Financial Assistance Options For Birth Mothers:

Medical Expenses Assistance

Medical expenses can become a burden during and after pregnancy. Birth mothers need to visit a physician regularly in order to receive prenatal care before adoption. Many birth mothers are eligible for Medicaid which will cover expenses of a pregnancy. Hausmann & Hickman assists birth mothers in obtaining coverage for their medical expenses during pregnancy and delivery, which may help reduce the stress of co-pays and medical expenses of prenatal care, resulting in a healthier and happier pregnancy.

Living Expenses Assistance

Birth mothers also may receive housing financial assistance as well as assistance with costs of living. This may include assistance paying rent for an apartment or transportation. Other covered living expenses may include groceries, utilities, and phone services, depending on the birthmother’s needs. State, federal, and local laws determine the amount of financial assistance that a birth mother can receive.

Counseling Services

Placing a child for adoption can be a very emotionally difficult process. Speaking to a professional counselor may be a great resource for a birth mother to work through her thoughts and emotions during and after placing her child for adoption. Hausmann & Hickman works with several experienced counselors who can help provide support at no cost to the birthmother during the adoption process.

Legal Assistance

During the adoption process, it is crucial for a birth mother to understand her legal rights and the full agreement made during the adoption process. Hausmann & Hickman, P.A. can provide referrals for legal services for the birth mother during the adoption process with little to no cost to the birth mother.

Hausmann and Hickman P.A. can help birth mothers with financial needs, counseling needs, and legal assistance. If you are considering placing your child for adoption, call Hausmann & Hickman P.A. today at (561) 732-7030 to speak with one of our qualified representatives.

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What You Need To Know About Surrogacy

When entering into a surrogacy arrangement, there are specific legal issues to consider. Each state varies in the legal requirements for creating a surrogacy agreement, and it is important to be informed of the specific requirements of your state. Hausmann & Hickman, P.A. has extensive experience drafting contracts, representing carriers and egg donors, and finalizing third-party reproductive arrangements under all aspects of Florida’s reproductive law.

What Is Surrogacy?

There are two types of surrogacy: traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy. Traditional surrogacy uses the surrogate mother’s ovum and donated sperm from one of the intended parents or from a donor. Under current Florida law, a surrogate mother who uses her own egg must sign a consent to terminate her parental rights to the child, which may be rescinded up to 48 hours after the child’s birth. Because of this, Hausmann & Hickman, P.A. recommends the use of a donor ovum instead of the surrogate’s ovum.

A gestational surrogacy prohibits the surrogate from donating her own ovum, and the embryo is created utilizing either the intended father’s sperm (with donor egg), the intended mother’s ovum (with donor sperm), or the egg and sperm of both intended parents. The gestational carrier has no biological relationship to the embryo she is carrying, and neither the commissioning couple nor the surrogate may change their mind and “back out” of the surrogacy agreement, regardless of the health of the child, once a pregnancy is conceived. Since the surrogate is not biologically related to the embryo, the commissioning couple assumes immediate physical and legal custody of the child upon birth.

Hausmann & Hickman, P.A. has represented intended parents who reside in the United States and internationally, as well as single parents and non-traditional couples. Whether interested in becoming a surrogate mother, creating your family through surrogacy, or simply interested in learning more about Florida reproductive law, please contact us at 561-732-7030 or visit adoptionandsurrogacy.com to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.

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Does A Pending Adoption Affect Your Taxes?

It’s tax season, and many adoptive parents or prospective adoptive parents may have questions about how their adoption affects their taxes, and what they are able to claim for the year. We have good news: in some instances, adoptive parents are eligible to claim their adoptive child as a dependent even if the adoption has not been finalized yet. In situations where adopting taxpayers are not able to obtain the child’s Social Security Number because the adoption is pending finalization, they may be able to apply for a temporary taxpayer identification number for the child, or an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN), to use on their tax return.

In order to apply for an ATIN, the adoption situation must meet certain requirements. Adoptive parents must be currently in the process of adopting a child, and the child must be legally placed in their home for legal adoption by an authorized adoption entity. The adoption must also be domestic, or foreign only if the child possesses a Permanent Resident Alien Card or Certificate of Citizenship, and adoptive parents must have made a reasonable effort to obtain the child’s social security number but they are unable to obtain it because the adoption has not been finalized. For more information on the adoption, temporary taxpayer identification number, and requirements to apply, visit the IRS’s Q&A page regarding the ATIN program (click here).

Please note: we are not accountants and cannot give tax advice. Please consult with an accountant for specific financial and tax advising.

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What do you say to the woman who has agreed to make you a mother?

After months of waiting, you are notified that you have been “picked” as the adoptive family for a baby due next month. Caveat – she would like to talk with you on the phone…. Wow!

Nothing could prepare you for the overwhelming sense of eagerness, excitement, and outright fear you are faced with at the prospect of a telephone call with this earth angel. After all, she has exactly what you have wanted, for as long as you can remember. So, what do you say?

First, keep perspective. Birth mothers, while special, are still “normal.” They have likes and dislikes (which may include some interesting foods at this moment). Don’t be afraid to ask her how she’s feeling, sleeping, eating, etc. Does she have food cravings or aversions? How does this pregnancy compare to her prior pregnancies? How has her prenatal care been thus far?

Second, remember she is a woman and not only a birth mother. Odds are, she will appreciate your genuine interest in who she is, what she has experienced, and the plans she is making for her future. Does she have hobbies or talents which might be shared with the child she is carrying? What about the child’s extended family? Does she have photos, letters, or any items she would like you to give to the child when they are ready?

Finally, keep in mind that as nervous as you may be about this initial contact, your birth mother is probably equally apprehensive. She may be concerned she will not meet your expectations, or not able to answer all of your questions. Like you, this is probably uncharted water for her too. Although your birth mother may already know of your fertility struggles, she may be unfamiliar with the terms which were included in your vocabulary for the past few years. IVF, IUI, etc., are not part of today’s everyday language. If she wants more information about what lead you to adoption, share your story sensitively. Does she have questions for you?

Most importantly, remind your birth mother that you realize every adoption is different, and you want her to feel comfortable with you… Discuss your willingness to be available to speak with (or meet) her during her pregnancy, and your commitment to providing pictures, letters, etc. post-birth. A birth parent’s biggest fear is her child feeling they have been abandoned by their family. Your promise to share your adoption story with the child will resonate.

Above all, be yourself. This phone call is the first step toward motherhood and building a mutually (beneficial) relationship for two special women.