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.
They may not provide matching services. You may need to work with another adoption professional, such as an adoption agency, to be matched with a waiting adoptive family. Alternatively, you may need to independently identify an adoptive family that you would like to pursue an adoption plan with. This can potentially limit the number of families you have to choose from. In addition, there are other services your attorney may not be able to provide throughout the adoption process, such as counseling and support. If adoption counseling is offered, it is normally through an unlicensed paralegal with little adoption counseling experience. The attorney also will not usually be able to keep up with post-adoption agreements, such as receiving pictures and letters, whereas adoption agencies often have programs in place to coordinate these services.
Choose an attorney with experience in private adoptions. When you interview attorneys, ask if they are a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys or an equivalent state accreditation. If your attorney is not accredited, question her about her specific experience handling private adoptions. The AAAA maintains a directory of accredited adoption attorneys in the United States.
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.
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.
4. WHO IS FOLLOWING YOUR CASE? – Ask if you will be working with the attorney directly, or if a partner/associate or office staff member will be assigned to your case. What hours are they available? Do they prefer phone calls, emails, texts, etc.? It is important to know who is overseeing your adoption and, if other staff will be involved, who does what and when.
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.
Future Focused – Adopting a child is a major life event, and one that will impact the lives of families and children for the foreseeable future. Even when a case is not contested or considered complicated, the process itself can be challenging. Ensuring all issues are promptly and correctly addressed is essential to establishing the legal parent-child relationship you have for the rest of your life, and to avoiding the possibility of complications arising in the future.
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.
Personalized Service – For many parents, especially those who work with adoption agencies, legal challenges are only half the battle. This is why it becomes critical to work with professionals who take the time to personally understand your situation, needs, and goals and who are committed to advocating on your behalf at all stages of the process. Our attorneys place an emphasis on personalized service and support, and draw from not only our legal experience with adoptions, but also our understanding of this major life event. Clients who work with us receive the personalized service they deserve.
The services offered by adoption lawyers vary from one attorney to the next. If you choose to work with an adoption attorney, you may need to take a more active role throughout the adoption process, and you may have to consult additional adoption professionals for some services not provided by your attorney. However, the right adoption attorney should be able to refer you to professionals that can assist you with these services.