Early Action in Relative Adoptions in Florida: The Crucial Role and Consequences of DCF Involvement

Pursuing Relative Adoption When DCF Becomes Involved

As part of our mission at Florida Family Adoptions, we provide nonlawyer document preparation services for relative adoptions in Florida.

Through years of navigating this intricate field, we have gained vital insights into the challenges many families face, especially when they cross paths with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF).

This guide is designed to bring to light the complexities of the process, the implications of DCF involvement, and the absolute necessity of taking action early to prevent potential distress and heartbreak.

Understanding the Role of DCF and Foster Families

DCF is a pivotal entity in the child welfare landscape of Florida. Their duties often lead to children being placed in temporary foster care with DCF-approved families. 

Relative Adoption When Children are Fostered

While foster care provides necessary care and stability for the children, the introduction of foster families in the equation brings an additional layer of complexity to the adoption process.

When Foster Families' Interests Collide with Relative Adoptions

Foster families frequently develop deep emotional ties with the children in their care. Coupled with the considerable financial savings compared to a private adoption in Florida (which can cost over $35,000), these elements can sometimes lead to an adversarial relationship. In some cases, foster families’ resort to tactics such as hiring private attorneys and appearing in court hearings to obstruct the adoption process by the child’s relatives.  Do DCF caseworkers unethically advocate for their foster family’s adoption interests over the adoption interests of the child’s relatives?  Some of our customers have insisted that this is the case.

The Dangers of DCF Becoming Involved with Your Grandchildren or Relatives

Many relatives, especially grandparents, often find themselves in a state of suspended hope, waiting for the biological parents to surmount issues like drug addiction. When improvement doesn’t materialize, DCF may step in and escalate the case using their own resources, often cutting out relatives that wish to adopt. This action marks a significant shift in the adoption proceedings.  While many parents may “desire” to complete a DCF case plan, very few often do.

What is a DCF Intervention?

When DCF takes custody and fosters the child, the previously straightforward process of relative adoption is replaced by a more arduous path. At this point, a relative wishing to adopt must engage an attorney to file a “DCF Intervention.” This intervention is essentially a legal plea to the court to pause the DCF process and allow the relative to file a private adoption.

Navigating DCF Intervention is a complex and expensive affair. Only a handful of attorneys in Florida specialize in such cases, making the process more daunting. Furthermore, even with the right attorney and resources, there’s no guarantee that the intervention will be successful, resulting in situations where it’s simply too late. 

To complicate things further, there are attorneys in Florida who specialize in representing foster parents in their efforts to thwart adoption attempts by family members.

An Option to Consider: Temporary Custody by Extended Family

To help prevent Florida DCF taking custody of your loved ones, relatives can consider filing for “Temporary Custody by Extended Family.” This step provides a form of legal guardianship to the relative and may keep DCF from getting involved, thus avoiding the ensuing complications.

This option is sometimes used when family members want to help, but do not want to commit to a relative adoption.

Guiding Steps for Relative Adoption

If you find yourself in a situation where the child is already in foster care, here are some crucial steps to follow:

  1. Early Involvement: Initiate the process as soon as possible. Make your intentions clear to all involved parties.
  2. Consultation: Engage an experienced adoption attorney to guide you through your rights, responsibilities, and the intricacies of the process.
  3. Collaboration: Maintain open lines of communication with DCF and the foster family, fostering an environment of cooperation for the child’s wellbeing.
  4. Emotional and Financial Preparation: Brace yourself for an emotionally challenging and potentially costly journey but remember that the end result – a permanent loving home for the child – is worth it.


The path to adopting a loved one in Florida can be complex, emotionally fraught, and challenging when DCF fosters a child. We, therefore, emphasize the utmost importance of early action to avert heartrending outcomes.

If you preemptively act, Florida Family Adoptions may be able to assist with providing document preparation, clerical, and procedural support throughout your journey.  

Keep in mind, we are not a law firm, and this blog is not intended to be legal advice.  You should always consult with a licensed attorney regarding any legal matter that you may be pursuing if you require legal advice or representation.

We hope this guide provides a beacon of knowledge and comfort as you navigate these intricate paths towards providing a loving home for a child.

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