The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) protects the break-up of Native American families through adoption. Every state has its own rules about how to comply with ICWA, and the laws that regulate this are specific and serious. The main thrust of ICWA is that you must ask the biological family about their potential Native American heritage and document their answers. The courts will want proof that this inquiry was made and completed correctly according to the law. This usually involves completing specific, preprinted forms that vary from state to state. If a birth parent has heritage, notice of the adoption must be provided to every band and tribe of eligibility. Identifying and researching the proper person for notice can be laborious and time consuming, especially if you’ve never done it before. An experienced adoption attorney will know which forms must be completed and by whom. She or he will also know where and with whom to file the forms so as to be in compliance with ICWA. The attorney will also know the proper consent documents a birth parent must sign if the child is deemed Native American. The adoption is at risk if ICWA isn’t properly complied with. (See in re Baby Veronica).
A child is not an asset like a house that gets willed to whoever you choose. In these situations, a court and/or child services will protect the child's rights and well being, if there are no legal guardians. If the child's mother has died, you are still one of the two legal guardians. If your mother becomes the second, that doesn't mean you stop being a legal guardian. If your mother then dies, you are still a legal guardian. The two slots do not have to be filled, one is enough. If you are stripped from your parental rights, your mother adopts, then dies, then the court will decide. If she wills that you again become a legal guardian, that does not undo the stripping of your rights.
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
I think in PA it is 18 but I will check into it. I'm very open with her and she could see her birth mother now if she wanted to and we could actually locate her. She met her three siblings last year and now keeps in touch with them. My adopted son (now 20 years old) has no interest in meeting with his bio mom or siblings but I've always been open with him and left him know it was an option.
The process is detailed and tedious. While an attorney is not required, it’s recommended. It could take longer and complications may occur if there is not attorney involved. Many people are not aware of the complications of the process until it’s too late. You should always err on the side of caution with the adoption process. It’s an emotional decision and not everyone can handle the logical aspects of the process effectively when emotions are involved. Prospective parents may find some useful information to help with the process online.
Court Familiarity – Adoption lawyers have the experience needed to navigate family court proceedings. For individuals looking to adopt a step-child, grandchild, or relative, for example, a formal petition will need to be filed and the parental rights of biological parents terminated. In addition to helping complete petitions and advocate for your rights, adoption lawyers can also address other legal matters involved – including eligibility, discrepancies between jurisdictions or adoption agencies, parental disputes, and more.
So when exploring ways of controlling the cost of an adoption, one has to ask if all of these lawyers are really necessary. I am told that there is no legal requirement to seek legal representation. A quick search of the internet will try to convince you that there is but the majority of these websites are owned by attorneys. Of course, the laws differ in each state and so it is incumbent upon those involved to ensure that they are aware of their particular state laws and are in compliance with them.