by JBA Adoption Law Section Chair Hope Iseley
Embarking on a voyage elicits both feelings of excitement and anxiousness. More than likely, the excitement exceeds the anxiousness when equipped with navigation systems which evoke confidence. Likewise, people are more likely to voyage into the process of adopting or placing a child for adoption when they are confident and less anxious.
People in Northeast Florida venture into the adoption of children both domestically and internationally. Locally, children are adopted by relatives, through stepparent adoptions, privately and through foster care. According to an adoption specialist with Family Support Services of North Florida, seventy children are currently awaiting and available for adoption in Northeast Florida. In the State of Florida, approximately one thousand children are looking for adoptive homes and nationally as many as one hundred thousand children are without permanent homes. Without adoption or another permanent life arrangement, these children will likely lack stability in their lives resulting in potential severe emotional and behavioral issues.
In recent years, increasing national and state attention has been focused on the need to find adoptive homes for children in foster care. In 2003, Congress approved the Adoption Promotion Act which focuses on tools for promoting adoption and the need to find adoptive homes and achieve permanency outcomes for children in foster care. In Florida, the Office of Adoption and Child Protection was recently created to help promote adoption and to prevent abuse of children.
Locally, in an effort to promote awareness of adoption and the legal process involved in adoptions, the Jacksonville Bar Association is forming an Adoption Section. Although the section will not formally meet until after sign-ups in Spring, the initial responses from interested persons have been strong. Those persons already requesting to take a role in the Adoption Section include experienced adoption attorneys, judges and magistrates.
Many people wish to adopt, but are hesitant because of misinformation regarding the process, fear of unethical attorneys or agencies and misunderstanding of the law regarding the restriction of the expenses and fees. The Adoption Section’s goals will include serving and educating the public in many different ways. These services will include informing the public regarding both international and domestic adoption processes, including relative, stepparent, foster care and private adoptions.
The Adoption Section will also serve to educate the legal community in sponsoring continuing legal education courses. These courses will contain information as to each phase of the adoption process including initial contact, preparation for adoption, placement, court proceedings and post-adoption services. The courses will also contain a strong emphasis on the ethics involved in the adoption process.
Although practicing in an area of law in which an attorney is not knowledgeable is never a good idea, the practice of adoption law without knowledge and experience can cause errors which result in sanctions against the attorney and monetary losses for prospective adoptive parents. Devastatingly, the failure to properly follow the law relating to adoptions could result traumatic experiences for the birth families, adoptive families and definitely the children involved. Most of us have seen the gut wrenching television footage of a child removed from a place called home because of the failure of a proper adoption.
Although many people express an interest in adoption, their uncertainty over the process and their lack of confidence in the people that will be guiding them, may be inhibiting the adoption of children. With the creation of the Adoption Section, the Jacksonville Bar Association?s intention is to provide valuable knowledge of the adoption process to both the public and legal community. Provided with this knowledge, confidence over the adoption process should increase and more families may embark on the voyage of adopting a child.
For more information regarding participation in the Adoption Section, please contact Hope Iseley at [email protected].