Considering Adoption? Here is What You Need to Know
Is your family considering adoption? Adoption can be a complicated and overwhelming legal process. However, every child deserves to feel safe, loved, and wanted by a family. Adoption is an incredible way to provide that loving home for a child. Throughout the process, it is important to protect the rights of everyone involved – from the child to the birth parents to the adoptive parents. The rules and regulations for adoption come from state law. For instance, state law allows any person to adopt or be adopted. However, state law also provides that any child over the age of 12 years old has to consent to the adoption process.
NBMS Law, located in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, is here to help you navigate these laws and the courts, as well as any other family law issues. We serve clients in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Crawford, Lawrence, Mercer, Washington, and Westmoreland County. Our experienced and compassionate lawyers are waiting for your call at 724-571-2915.
Who Can Be Adopted in Pennsylvania?
Anyone under the age of 18 can technically be adopted in Pennsylvania. However, to go through the legal process of adoption, the minor must have their biological parent’s rights terminated.
In certain situations, consent is required by the following parties:
- The adoptee, if the child is over the age of 12;
- The spouse of the adoption parent, unless they are included in the adoption petition;
- The parents or surviving parent of an adoptee who is under the age of 18 years old;
- The guardian of an incapacitated adoptee; and
- The guardian of the adoptee or the person with custody of the adoptee when no parent can be contacted.
Consent is not necessarily required where the adoptee’s parental rights have already been terminated.
Am I Eligible to Adopt a Child?
According to Pennsylvania law, any adult can adopt any child. This is one of the least restrictive laws in the country surrounding adoption eligibility requirements. However, the adopting adult may have to go through a home study process which is an assessment of the prospective parent(s) to determine if they are a good match for the adoptee.
In Pennsylvania, a home study is only required when ordered by a court. During a home study, a state agent from the Department of Family Services interviews all prospective parents and anyone else who lives in the home. The state agent can be a licensed social worker, whereas, in other states, it could be a therapist or even a law enforcement officer. Typically, a home study covers the following topics and more:
- Whether the prospective parents are able to provide a safe and nurturing home;
- Whether the prospective parents are able to meet the unique needs of the adoptee;
- Whether the other family members are open to adoption and what their perspective is on the matter;
- Health examinations;
- Ensuring the home is safe and conforms with local building codes; and
- Criminal records checks.
What are the Different Types of Adoption?
There are many different variations of adoption beyond what most people think of – a set of parents adopting a child. Here are some examples of different ways to adopt a child.
Foster Care Adoption
You can foster to adopt, meaning you become a foster parent and then have the potential to adopt that child. You would be given priority when considering adoption if the child becomes eligible for adoption at any point. On the other hand, you can also request to be matched with children who are eligible for foster care adoption and are waiting to be adopted.
After a foster child is placed with your family for the purposes of adoption, a caseworker will visit at least once every 30 days until the adoption is finalized. The caseworker provides updates to the court of jurisdiction.
In this type of adoption, a stepparent adopts their spouse’s child to be considered their legal parent. According to state law, this type of adoption requires the biological parent’s consent. However, if the parent has abandoned the child, consent may not be needed. Abandonment is defined as a lack of substantial contact for at least the last six months.
What is the Legal Process for Adoption?
First, it is important to understand where and in which court you file for adoption. State law determines that any adoption matter should be brought in the court of the county where:
- The parent(s) of the adoptee resides;
- The office of an agency that has custody of the adoptee resides; or
- With permission from the court, the county where the adoptee formerly lived.
The court appoints counsel to represent the child or guardian ad litem to stand in the shoes of the child if they are under the age of 18 years old or if it is in the best interest of the child. The law does not allow for children and adoptive parents to have the same attorney or law firm.
Another crucial step in the adoption process is the petition for adoption to be filed with the proper court. A petition for adoption must include the following information:
- The full name, address, marital status, age, occupation, religion, and racial background of the prospective parents;
- The adopting parents’ relationship, if any, to the adoptee;
- Any home study report or pre-placement report; and
- The full name of the adoptee.
If the adoption is granted, the clerk of the court will issue a certificate of adoption. This certificate states that the court has granted the adoption and is legal evidence that the adoption is final.
NBMS Can Help
Adoption can be a legally and emotionally complex process, and having the guidance of an experienced family law attorney is crucial. Our law firm has extensive experience handling all different types of adoptions in Pennsylvania, and we are prepared to offer the guidance and support you need to navigate the process successfully. We understand that each adoption and each family is unique and requires an approach that will meet your individual needs. Our lawyers are committed to providing the support that you and your loved ones require to make the adoption process as smooth as possible. Call us at 724-571-2915 for a consultation today.