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.
To help you on your way there are a few people you will be in contact with. Here we will describe the roles some of these people play. To adopt a waiting child or teenager, you will work primarily with an adoption agency. It is only at the end of the process that you will need an adoption attorney / lawyer, who will prepare the paperwork to be filed and represent you in court.
Each state in the United States and each province in Canada has a special department which deals with the affairs of children, youth and families, including child adoption. Some counties have a similar department. These departments go by many different names, and may be a part of the state's department of social services or human services. They provide services, case management, and permanency planning for children who wait in foster care. Some also approve families for adoption.
Thank you for all your help. I do have one adopted child and that was private and we used a lawyer. I do know about trying to find the mother and I am in touch with the birth mothers father ( the child's grandfather) He told me she moves around alot and goes from state to state and friends to friends and that she never leaves an address or phone number. Since the father is unknown and the birth mother originally told me he died ( not sure if that's true) what will happen with that? My husband still wants to try and do this without a lawyer. We have all the papers from our local courthouse but just need to know the order in which to do them. I'm not sure we will be required to have a home study, my husband is reading up on the laws in PA a little each evening but this takes time and patience.
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.
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.
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.
From your post, it sounds like you want to do a private adoption without the birthparents involvement. Unfortunately, it's not possible to go around the birthparents' rights. They have to be notified of your intention to adopt & you have to have their consent. And like I said, if you want to go the "I can't find them" route, it has to be an honest "I hired a private investigator and here is everything we've done" kind of situation. You have to convince a judge (who doesn't terminate parental rights on a whim) that you did everything humanly possible to contact that birthmom