While you may work with social workers, Internet consultants, and other professionals throughout your adoption, your attorney will by your legal guide throughout your adoption process. Because you will be placing a great amount of trust in their legal expertise and guidance, you need to make sure you choose the right attorney for your type of adoption. No one can tell you whom to choose. If you have done your research, understand what an attorney can and cannot do in your state, checked their licensing, experience and consumer rating with adoptive parents, and consulted with local adoption professionals (such as social workers, homestudy providers and counselors) you will just get the “feeling” this is the right person to help you build your family.
The finalization hearing, sometimes held in the judge's chambers, usually lasts less than an hour, and is attended by the adoptive parents, the child, the family's attorney, and a social worker from the child's agency. The judge may review the family's homestudy, ask questions, and generally attempt to ensure that the child is being placed in a safe, loving home.
They may not be available when you need them most, as attorneys are typically busy with other cases. Many large adoption agencies provide 24/7 counseling and support and have large staffs available to work closely with expectant mothers throughout the adoption process. You may not receive these services if you choose to work with a local attorney to pursue an independent adoption.
If you are adopting an infant through private adoption, your attorney will play a larger role, and you will want to take care in selecting the right individual. You may want to read the documents found at: http://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/adoptive/considerations.cfm. This links to the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s numerous publications on the legal aspects of adoption.
You should expect to end the process with a child who is a legal member of your family. The entire adoption can take up to 5 years including waiting periods, but it’ll take less time depending on your case. If there are any legal complications or you don’t pass some of the qualifying examinations, the process could take longer. An adoption attorney can guide you through this and potentially expedite the process by knowing who to talk to and what paperwork to file.
You still have to find both parents (or make every attempt to locate them) in order to do TPR. Once TPR is completed by the court, then you can begin adoption process. If you can't locate the birthparent, you have to show valid attempts at really trying to locate them. A judge won't TPR because you said you can't find them. You have to SHOW PROOF that you really tried - for example, by contacting motor vehicles to get address, putting notices in newspapers, sending certified mail to all known addresses..etc. If a judge isn't 100% convinced that you did everything possible short of going door to door in the state, he will not TPR. He'll tell you to hire a private investigator to find the parents. There is no way to adopt a child without the birthparents finding out about it. You have to locate that birthmother & get her consent or prove that you went through great lengths to locate her. Once she is found, they will try to find out who the birthdad is-and then probably have you post a notice in the newspaper and check the putative father's registry to make sure he has been notified of the adoption. Once you have birthparents consent OR a judge agrees that you made a 100% effort to locate the birthparents & signs TPR, THEN you can file your paperwork to adopt. You can't do it without birthparents consent.
You mentioned PA... so Im guessing thats where you are (Im in PA as well). We are adopting a child from foster care and recently went to the lawyer's office. The first step the lawyer told us about the process was to file an "intent to adopt" letter with the court. It was a formal letter that had detailed information about the child, us, bios, etc. Additionally, attached to the letter of intent had to be a copy of our child abuse clearances and a homestudy. Based on how the lawyer walked us through the paperwork, the clearances and homestudy was a must (not just b/c of foster care). He did explain all the law references to us that were in the letter, but I don't have a copy of the intent letter yet that he was filing. (It was a rough draft that we were going over). I really think you will need a lawyer. If you still want to try to do it without one, call the local court and find out what papers you need to submit to request an adoption.
Adoption attorneys or adoption law firms are best for prospective birth mothers who have already identified an adoptive family and who feel they don’t need much adoption counseling and support. It is important to carefully consider the resources and services you’d like to have available before choosing an adoption attorney as your adoption professional.
An adoption lawyer will be knowledgeable on state- and country-specific adoption laws and provide guidance based on your situation, whether it be a private adoption, a step parent adoption, or if you’re a same sex couple wanting to adopt. A lawyer can prepare you for any hearings that may be required in the adoption process. In addition, your adoption attorney can represent you in court if there are legal complications, such as the birth parents changing their minds or trying to extort you.