How soon can I finalize my adoption?

In order to adopt, parental rights must first be terminated, any appeals must be resolved, ninety (90) days must have elapsed from the date of termination, and the child must have resided in your home for at least six months.  Additionally, you must be licensed through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) or a Child Placing Agency (CPA) that works in partnership with (DFPS).  The timing of your adoption also depends upon caseworker(s) providing the supporting documents required by the court, the court’s availability, and your own schedule. 

Can I finalize in my county of residence?

Yes.  Pursuant to Texas Family Code Section 103.001(b), adoptive parents have the option of finalizing in the county of continuing jurisdiction (where parental rights were terminated) or their county of residence. 


Can I change my child’s name?

Yes, we can include a legal name change within the adoption.  Please note that children age twelve (12) and older must consent in writing to their adoption and name change.

How much does it cost?

Many DFPS adoptions are “subsidy-eligible.”  Your DFPS worker can advise you if this applies to your child(ren).  If so, I am contracted with the State of Texas to bill for the costs associated with your adoption - meaning you will not have any out-of-pocket expenses.  The subsidy cap covers your filing fee, attorney fee, and amended birth certificate fee.  For non-subsidy-eligible adoptions, the cost varies by county.  Please know that I charge a very reasonable flat rate, so I can let you know your exact cost at the inception of the case.


How do I know if my child is subsidy eligible?

Your DFPS worker can advise you regarding your child’s subsidy eligibility. 

Per the DFPS website: The child must be younger than 18 years old and meet one of the following criteria when the adoptive placement agreement is signed:

  1. The child is at least six years old;

  2. The child is at least two years old and a member of a racial or ethnic group that exits foster care at a slower pace than other racial or ethnic groups;

  3. The child is being adopted with a sibling or to join a sibling; or

  4. The child has a verifiable physical, mental, or emotional disabling condition, as established by an appropriately qualified professional through a diagnosis that addresses: (a) what the condition is; and (b) that the condition is disabling.


What happens the day of the adoption hearing?

Once we have a setting for your final adoption, I will send you specific information about when and where to meet me.  When the judge calls your case, we will go up to the bench and conduct a very short hearing. Family and friends are welcome to attend the hearing with you and may go to the bench with you, if you desire. Permission for photography and video during the hearing varies by court, but all allow photography afterward. After the hearing, I will get all of your copies conformed and certified so that you will have those before leaving the courthouse.  It is very important to keep this document in a safe place. Adoption records are sealed after the hearing, and it is a multi-step process to secure another Decree of Adoption.


What should I wear to court?

While is not necessary to get “dressed-up” for your hearing, there are some items of clothing to avoid when appearing in court. Please do not wear shorts, sweats, tank tops, or flip-flops.  You will be required to remove any hats/caps in the courtroom. Business casual or other casual dress is perfectly fine.


Do I need to bring anything to court?

You do not need to bring anything to court other than your child(ren), camera/phone, and as many family and friends who want to be a part of this very special day!


What about my child’s birth certificate and social security card?

I will complete a Certificate of Adoption that you will sign the day of your adoption hearing.  This document is certified by the court.  I then send it to the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics (or equivalent office if your child was born in another state).  The BVS pulls the original birth certificate, seals it, and issues an amended birth certificate with your child’s new legal name (if applicable) and you as the parent(s).  This process typically takes 6-8 weeks for children born in the State of Texas, though it may take longer for November & December adoptions due to holidays and the high volume of adoptions done in those months.  Birth certificates for children born in other states may take up to six months.


Once you receive your child’s new birth certificate, take the certified Decree of Adoption and the new birth certificate to your local Social Security Office. You may choose to simply amend the Social Security records for your child with his/her new name--keeping the original number. Alternatively, if the original social security number has been compromised, you may want to have a new social security number issued to correspond to the new legal name.  This is not something that the Social Security Administration will do automatically; you will need to have a conversation with the staff person assisting you about why it is necessary. I include language in the Decree of Adoption to provide for the issuance of a new number.  If you already have documentation of abuse/misuse of the existing social security number, I recommend bringing that with you to the Social Security Office.

The DFPS website has an excellent resource page.