We always hear about how difficult the process of adopting can be for potential parents, but what about the children? Perhaps the emotional toll of waiting for a family outweighs the legal hardships – being adopted is a major challenge for aging children in foster care. It’s difficult to wrap your mind around: separated from your siblings, removed from an abusive home, seeing your 16th birthday under the legal custody of a foster home – yet this is reality for thousands of teens across America.  At a time when average teens are wishing for a new car or the latest smartphone, many are simply wishing for a family. The longer a child remains under protective foster care, the chance of finding a new family significantly shrinks. Consider the current situation in Mississippi, where the average adoption age in 2010 was 6.3-years-old. According to this figure, children 13-years-old and older had a 10 percent chance of being adopted. What happens to a child who loses their chance for adoption? They’re forced to leave the adoption program at 21-years-old, in many cases not knowing any relatives. Others elect to drop from the program at 18, but it’s mostly a matter of how these young adults will support themselves going forward. Adoption specialists believe the problem is our mentality about teens – we simply write them off as being set in their ways. Parents still have a major opportunity to make an impression in the life of a foster care teen, teens who want the love of a family above anything else. Isn’t it time to address the bigger issue in adoption? Every child deserves the love of a family, regardless of age. Here is a chance for would-be parents to make an even bigger difference in adopting a child. Original story from The Clarion-Ledger.
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Florida’s international adoption rates are on the upswing. While it’s welcome news for adoptive parents in Canada, the uptick is more worrisome in America. According to adoption officials, Floridian mothers – citing very real concerns over racism – are placing children up for adoption elsewhere to escape domestic persecution. Reports show a growing number of Florida mothers wish to place their African-American or mixed race children up for adoption in countries like Canada. These fearful mothers are hoping for a better life for their children, a life free from the intolerance they’ve personally experienced. One needn’t look far along national headlines to sense racial tension in America. The shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO has inspired protests and summoned the National Guard. The high-profile shooting death of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin occurred only a year before. The incident sparked similar protests and seems to have had a ripple effect throughout the region. There are legitimate concerns on behalf of the African-American community whether their children are safe and secure. Placing a child up for adoption is a difficult decision, one often made to potentially provide a better parental foundation. Some mothers, especially among early age brackets, simply don’t have the means or resources to provide for their children. These challenges in America occasionally open the door for international solutions. Apart from curtailing racism, Canada’s parental-leave benefits have proved a powerful incentive for Florida mothers. The mothers believe their children will have a better opportunity to bond with their adopted parents in these cases. For now it seems one of the least visible victims of domestic racism – adoptive parents looking to foster a loving environment for adopted children – will suffer immediate consequences. This trend is likely to continue in Florida until fears of racism are extinguished in some form or another.
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November was National Adoption Awareness Month, a time to celebrate the joys of adoption. It was also a time to focus on the more than 100,000 children in the United States foster care system waiting to join a loving, permanent family.

To commemorate National Adoption Month in Florida, on November 1, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) launched “30 Days of Amazing Children: Exploring Adoption,” an online campaign to highlight those children in Florida available for adoption.

In the state of Florida, there are approximately 750 children in the foster care program currently awaiting adoption. Every day last month, DCF featured a different video of either a teenager or a sibling group on the Adopt Florida website at www.adoptflorida.org. Every week the Adopt Florida website also featured a blog written by adoptive parents to tell the story of the adoption of a child into their family

Kurt Kelly of the Florida Coalition for Children said that National Adoption Month highlights the state’s community-based care lead and provider agencies, systems that have made Florida a leader nationally for the “number of adoptions taking place each month across the state.” Last year in Florida, 3,353 children were adopted, an increase of 100 adoptions over that of the previous year.

All around the state of Florida, various ceremonies were held to celebrate National Adoption Month. On November 23, DCF along with other agencies held a ceremony at the Broward County Courthouse celebrating the adoption of twenty children into their forever families.

Another celebration honoring National Adoption Month took place at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach on November 22, with twelve children being adopted into their forever families, too. This celebration was hosted by the DCF, ChildNet, Children’s Home Society of Florida, Circuit Court Judges and various other agencies.

All together according to DCF, more than thirty adoption events were held throughout Florida last month as a part of National Adoption Month.

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In 2009, a South Carolina couple, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, adopted a baby girl whom they named Veronica.  Veronica was a multiracial child, a mixture of Hispanic, Caucasian and a small percentage of Cherokee Indian blood, too.  The couple arranged the adoption with the child’s birth mother well before the baby was born and the decision was made to have an open adoption, one in which the child would maintain a relationship with her biological mother.

The biological father of Veronica had signed a waiver stating he would not contest her adoption; however, four months after the child was born, he made the decision to petition for custody, stating he had changed his mind, that he wanted to keep his daughter and that he also wanted his child to be raised with the Cherokee people.

Matt and Melanie Capobianco, fought to keep their daughter, but after raising Veronica for two years, a South Carolina court ruled that under federal law – the Indian Child Welfare Act – Veronica must be returned to her biological father.

Although the Copobiancos appealed the family court judge’s ruling, Veronica was removed from their care in 2011, when she was two years-old. 

The Capobiancos have been fighting to retain custody of Veronica for the past two years.  Their legal custody to retain custody of their daughter finally came to an end last month when South Carolina’s highest court ordered Veronica to be returned to her adoptive parents, saying it had erred in its 2011 judgment giving custody to the Dusten Brown, the little girl’s biological father. 

Although Veronica’s adoption has been finalized by the courts,  the Capobiancos do not yet have custody of their daughter.  Their legal battle for Veronica may be far from over because Cherokee tribal lawyers say they will continue the battle to let Brown keep custody of his daughter.   

Adoption can, at times, be a tumultuous process, as it can change family relationships permanently.  The adoption process in Florida is quite extensive and a home study will be required to ensure  the adoptive parents are financially stable and can not only provide for the basic needs of a child, but provide a safe and nurturing home, as well.

When you have made the decision to adopt a child, contact an experienced Florida family law attorney to  provide competent legal representation throughout the adoption process.

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Unlike many celebrities seeking international adoptions, one celebrity adopted two children from the United States.  Steven Spielberg, the noted film director, screenwriter and producer, adopted two African-American children from the Los Angeles foster care system and then went on to establish the Children’s Action Network (CAN), a non-profit organization that is dedicated to finding permanent homes to the thousands of children in foster care and improving the outcomes for the more than 500,000 children in system, as well. 

In recent years, international adoption has become vastly popular by celebrities, with the much hyped adoptions of Angelina Jolie’s and Madonna’s children.  The number of healthy newborns and infants available in this country has been decreasing in recent years.  Because of this, more and more U.S. citizens have pursued international adoptions.

Nevertheless, in the United States alone, there are 500,000-600,000 children that live in our foster care system, with over 200,000 awaiting  permanent homes.  Beginning in the 1990’s, legislative measures were passed by Congress aimed at assisting those children in the system.  The Adoption Promotion and Stability Act of 1996 provided a tax credit available for those individuals who adopted foster care children, with the credit rising as high as $13,360 per child in some years.  In a controversial 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable healthcare legislation, better known as Obamacare.  One part of this legislation is the extension, expansion and enhancement of the adoption tax credit provided by the federal government, with legislation introduced this year that would not only expand the credit, but make it permanently refundable as well. 

When an international adoption takes place, although the tax credit wasn’t meant for foreign children, those adopting receive the same tax benefits as those who adopt domestically.  Though international adoptions may add to the diversity of our nation, the intended beneficiaries of the tax credit legislation are those “lost in the system” children in this country’s foster care system.  There are those who feel the tax credit should be used to reclaim children from the foster care system, not subsidize international adoptions.  Accordingly, they feel  the international portion of the tax credit should not be renewed, but allowed to expire, in order to turn taxpayer resources, once again,  back to those whom the credit was aimed for – the children in the foster care system.

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When an unmarried parent adopts his or her partner’s biological or adoptive child without eliminating the parental rights of the biological parent, this is considered second parent adoption.  In Florida, second parent adoptions are treated the same as regular adoptions, which means there will be a home study, parental fitness tests, court appearances and plenty of paperwork.  This adoption, in most cases, gives the second parent full parental rights.  Some state legislatures have voluntarily established domestic partnership relations by statute as a way to recognize same-sex unions.  However, domestic partnerships may involve either different sex  or same sex couples. There are those individuals who are in a domestic partnership who think that because they take care of their partner’s child, they will have legal rights to that child.  However, this is not true, as the only way to be legally secure is through a second parent adoption.  Without this type of adoption, the non-biological parent in the relationship will have no legal rights to the child.  He or she will not be allowed to make important decisions and share in custody of the child should something happen to the relationship or to the biological parent of the child. In the Orlando area, the most common couples obtaining second parent adoptions are lesbian couples with one partner being the biological parent.  Others who use this type of adoption are gay male couples, couples where one partner has previously adopted a child of his or her own and couples where one partner has a biological child with a previous relationship and the other biological parent has given up his or her parental rights. To obtain a second parent adoption, you will need consent from the third party biological parent, or will need an already legal parent to terminate his or her parental rights. There are those states which do not allow gay couples to obtain second parent adoptions.  Gay adoption was illegal in Florida until just a few years ago, and although it isn’t easy to receive approval for a second parent adoption, it is possible in Florida today.
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