An adoption attorney is a lawyer who either solely focuses on adoption-related cases or who takes on adoption clients alongside his or her other non-adoption-related clients. If you feel more comfortable with an adoption attorney who only works with adoption, that is perfectly fine. It is important that you feel comfortable with whomever you choose to represent you and your child. Keep in mind that there are no additional certifications to be an adoption attorney. It is simply whether or not the attorney deals with adoption-related cases. However, there are courses or classes available to help attorneys understand adoption laws, regulations, and policies.
3. PROFESSIONAL LICENSING AND CONSUMER RATING – Check if they are licensed in your state. You can also look at www.adoptionattorneys.org which lists attorneys who have been vetted by the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and have a minimum amount of related adoption experience. Find a local adoptive parent group and talk to adoptive parents about whom they used and if they were satisfied with the legal services they received.
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.
The law limits the amount of time a child may stay in foster care by establishing shorter timelines for determining when she or he must have a plan for permanency. The law states that permanency court hearings must be held for children no later than 12 months after they enter foster care and the law also states that termination of parental rights proceedings must begin for any child who has been in the care of a state agency for 15 out of the most recent 22 months. Exceptions may be made to this requirement if the child is in the care of a relative or for other compelling reasons.