State vs. Private Adoption in Florida

by Ashley Beckwith, Adoption Specialist

Over the past eight years of working in the field of social work, specifically in adoptions through the state, I have learned a lot about the world's varying views about adoption.  When I tell people that I’m an Adoption Specialist, they automatically think that I’m finding "forever homes" for infants whose parents made the decision to give them up for adoption.  I have yet to meet a person who initially thought that I might have played a hand in many successful adoptions of teenagers, sibling groups, children with lifelong medical needs, etc.  So I take every encounter with someone who is curious about my profession as an opportunity to educate about the type of adoptions I help to facilitate and continue to spread the word about the need for quality forever adoptive homes for our teens, sibling groups, etc., as well as the need for temporary foster parents for these very same children. 

In Heartland for Children's Adoption 101 training courses that I help teach to all families interested in adopting, we help families to assess whether adoption through the state is for their family.  Adopting through the state is very different from international adoption and private adoption for several reasons. 

The Children

Private and/or International Adoption is typically of infants.  These children are voluntarily placed for adoption by their biological parents.  With state/public adoptions, children vary in age from a few months to 17 years old.  While there are varying ages of children available for adoption, the greatest need is for families to adopt children ages 10 and older.  In addition, State Adoption also has a need for families to adopt sibling groups as well as children who may have emotional, behavioral, and/or medical needs.  These children are involuntarily removed from their parents for reasons of abuse and/or neglect which was deemed significant enough where they could not remain in their home safely.  These children become available for adoption after a period of time lapsing (usually at least a year) and biological parents are not able to safely be reunified with their children and it is in their best interests to be adopted. 

...the greatest need is for families to adopt children ages 10 and older. 

The Cost

Private and/or International Adoptions typically cost thousands of dollars.  Whereas, adoption through the state has little to no costs associated with it.  In fact, there are actually many great benefits of adoption through the state including health care, college tuition waivers, and the possibility of a stipend to assist in covering the cost of the child’s special needs. 

Special Needs

With private adoption, many families who adopt are involved in a child’s life from the very beginning, immediately after birth.  With international adoptions, there may be a little more uncertainty as to the conditions in which their child may have lived before adoption.  With adoptions through the state adoption system, we consider all of our children to be “special needs” because of the trauma that they were exposed to.  Children who are removed from their parents for reasons of abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment have been through significant trauma.  Even children who may have been removed right at birth and placed in foster care typically experience trauma in utero through substance exposure and/or lack of nourishment and prenatal care.  The Adoption 101 classes understand this and educate potential future adoptive parents about precisely how trauma effects our children and how to best parent children who have experienced trauma in order to help them heal.   In addition, some children may have lifelong medical and/or developmental needs. 

If you were to win the lottery tomorrow, would you still be interested in adoption through the state?

In Adoption 101, we also educate heavily about adoption to ensure that families are looking to adopt for the right reasons.   I strongly believe that another major difference between private vs. state adoption is the WHY of your desire to adopt.  The reasoning of why a family is adopting cannot be to fill a void or emptiness, to get a playmate for your own child, an attempt to strengthen a marriage, or simply because you feel “bad” for the kids in care.  Successful adoptive families are those who are satisfied and happy with their lives, have a solid understanding of the impacts of loss and trauma, are accepting of a child no matter what (unconditional commitment!), are flexible, and have a strong support system.  A great saying from our Post Adoption Specialist, Kelly Willis, is, “If you were to win the lottery tomorrow, would you still be interested in adoption through the state?”.  This really gets a family thinking about all of the reasons behind their "why" of adopting.

Next Steps

The Goff Family

You may visit Heartland for Children's Heart Gallery any time to see the children and teens in Polk, Hardee, and Highlands who are currently looking for their Forever Families.  If you think you might be interested in finding out more about adoption through the state and/or to sign up for our next Adoption 101 training course, call at (863) 519-8900 x 219 or email