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Home Is Where the Heart Is

November is National Adoption Month, signifying a celebration of families coming together through adoption,  as well as spreading awareness of the modern options available to help Floridians experience the joy of becoming a parent while changing a child’s life for the better.

The unification of a child and a parent is a beautiful occurrence, and it is something that adoption professionals experience on a daily basis. Prospective parents who are able to provide wholehearted care are matched with love to last a lifetime, equivalent to a feeling of destiny.

“I think the most memorable experiences are when the families match, the interactions of getting to know and trust each other in the process and the true love that comes from both sides. Adoption is an emotional experience for everyone,” says Carrie Thomas, managing director of Florida Adoption Center. “We believe adoption is a forever bond that is shared, and that we are honored to be a part of building bigger families and sharing unconditional love and kindness. We have met, matched and loved many families, and know that love makes a difference.”

Although there are many misconceptions about adoption that persist today, one of the most common is that finding a special bond with a child is unobtainable because of the cost. Nowadays, there are options that range from open and closed adoptions, to adopting foster children, to connecting with a mother over social media.

Adoption attorney Nicole Ward Moore, P.A., has seen a cultural shift beneficial to potential parents, birth parents and children—and she has even seen those relationships begin on TikTok. Moore adds that many individuals turn to in vitro fertilization (IVF), which is expensive and not guaranteed. While utilizing adoption agencies can mean additional expenses and wait lists, the opportunities to find a match are no longer limited.

“It was like an epiphany just how I’ve seen change over these last two decades of how the matching goes,” she says. “I can guarantee that if you have a positive home study and you want to adopt, you can adopt in Florida. … I hate to see people that are like, ‘We never had children, we could never afford adoption.’ And being a mother myself—after I started to practice in 2004, and then I had my son in 2011—I thought I loved my job before I had my son, but after I had my own child it just gave me so much more passion and drive to do what I do because I knew that everyone needed the opportunity to be a mother if they wanted. It is hands-down the best thing that can ever happen to you.”

Speaking from firsthand experience, Ashley Filimon, P.A., executive director of A Chosen Child, knows that the process can be frustrating despite its invaluable result. Inspired by this, she aims to help others experience the delight of parenthood while also realistically laying out some of the hurdles.

“We ended up adopting from Russia. It seemed like the system was really broken because domestically we had no help. When we reached out internationally, it was a struggle to even get agencies to give us all the information we needed. Even when we got into Russia, there was no support, nobody to call to answer questions. We actually had two failed adoptions in between our two girls and for one of them we literally got left behind in a remote Russian village—it was like, ‘Sorry it didn’t work out,’ but then they wouldn’t even give us a ride home. … We stayed for a couple of days and then when the next round of Americans arrived to go to the orphanage for their adoption, we just hitched a ride back with them to Moscow,” Filimon recalls.

She continues: “I just got so frustrated with the process, and I kept hearing that there’s all these children who need to be adopted and, of course, now the laws have changed quite a bit, but once we got our children adopted, I said, ‘I want to go to law school.’ I started out thinking I wanted to be a child advocate, and I think I am that, but more than that. It’s a family thing, it’s not just children that we [at A Chosen Child] serve, it’s families and it’s birth moms—the whole gamut. It’s all sides of that triangle, if you will, and you can’t really leave one out because then the rest of it doesn’t work.”

The power of today’s technology can also help birth parents receive updates and keep in touch in a predetermined open adoption. Especially with the help of a legal expert, adoption plans can be customized to meet the needs of each unique situation. As every child is different and formed by the complexities of their personalities as well as their circumstances, weighing communicative options is an early choice of many that factors into raising a child as a new parent. Furthermore, the different options are tailored to the birth parents’ preferences or lifestyle to ensure any plan is best for the child.

“In a private adoption plan, the birth parent can choose the type of future relationship they want. Birth parents can choose an open adoption plan, and have phone contact, social media interaction, email correspondence, as well as visits, pictures and updates. They can choose to get pictures and updates through a confidential online forum called Child Connect, if a semi-open adoption plan is desired. This allows both the birth parents and adoptive parents their confidentiality and still have a relationship,” Thomas explains.

While Thomas and Ward both primarily handle the adoption placements of infants, children who have been removed from their parent(s) by the Department of Children and Families still need—and, of course, deserve—a guardian’s care. If a family member is not available to take custody, a child is placed in the foster care system, where their ages make them especially susceptible to separation trauma. While foster parents may choose to adopt, that is not always the case.

“There is an option called intervention, and it’s under Chapter 63 [of the Florida statutes], and it allows a woman to elect a private adoption plan when she’s being faced with the state terminating her rights. … Instead of a state stripping her rights involuntarily from her—and then they get to choose where the child goes and she would never know—birth mothers have a right, and they’re informed of their right in their dependency plan to place privately,” Ward says. “Knowing what happens to kids that linger in foster care, that have to bounce from home to home, that sometimes age out of foster care and never have a permanent home, I would say that my most memorable cases of my career have been the children that I have been able to place that would have ended up lingering in the foster care system, but through our work achieved permanency with a family that the birth parent got to choose and keep in touch.”

While adopting through the state does not provide a full medical or mental health disclosure, Ward notes that both adoption-competent and trauma-certified therapists are available to help new parents and adopted children alike through any emotional or behavioral shifts—many of which are characteristic of young children and their development regardless of family history. Still, prospective parents undergo safety clearances and background checks to make sure their home is a suitable environment for raising a child.

Given the unique challenges and abundant rewards that go hand in hand with adoption, an empathetic and tight-knit community tends to grow among the families who have a firsthand understanding of how emotional that journey’s highs and lows can be.

“From going through the process, we knew other adoptive families because adoptive families always stick together,” Filimon says. “They know each other, they use each other as resources and they understand the struggle.”

Affection and nurturing are essential to a child’s growth, and those who are raised without either are statistically more likely to have difficulties later in life. Uniting children in need of a loving home with parents ready to embrace the joy of raising a child is the first step in a brighter future not only for all directly affected parties, but also for society as a whole in consideration of what a difference love and open arms can make.


Resource Box:

A Chosen Child
(407) 894-1599
Florida Adoption Center
(855) 899-5683
Nicole Ward Moore, P.A.
(407) 478-1001