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.
5. WHAT ARE THE COSTS OF THE ADOPTION? – You will want to know who helps guide you in appropriate adoption fees, what is legal and what is paid to whom and when. For the attorney specifically: How do they bill? Do they have a consultation fee, a retainer, a set rate or do they bill by the hour? You should have an estimated adoption budget before you begin the process, and know what part is for legal fees.

Adoption may be a new process for you. Since it is a legal process, you will need an attorney to guide you and ensure that the adoption meets all state laws and regulations. In some states, an attorney is needed from the start of the process (i.e., in New York State adoptive parents must be Pre-Certified through their local court prior to taking custody of a child). All adoptions need an attorney to finalize the parent-child relationship through the court.
2. PRIOR EXPERIENCE – Ask if they have done the type of adoption you are choosing (i.e.domestic interstate adoption, specific intercountry adoption, working with singles, etc.). How many have they done and how recently (i.e., intercountry adoption changes in 2014 may not be known by immigration attorneys without current adoption experience)? You want an attorney knowledgeable and up-to-date with the type of adoption process you are starting.
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.

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.

To claim your adopted child or teenager as a dependent for tax purposes, he or she must have a social security number. If your child already has a number when he or she is adopted, you may either keep the same number or have a new number assigned. If your child is receiving Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income payments, or if the child has worked, the Social Security Administration will not assign a new number, but will update the child's record. In any case, you will need to contact the Social Security Administration to be sure the number is registered correctly, reflecting you as the child's parent. To find the nearest local office, visit the Social Security Administration website at www.ssa.gov.
The cost of an adoption lawyer is a big concern for many people. In most cases, the attorney charges a flat rate for simple cases. However, for more complex situations, then they will likely charge an hourly rate. Keep in mind, this is something that is typically based on the situation, so it is best to discuss the charges for the case with an attorney before hiring them. This is how a person can be sure they have found the right lawyer for their case and situation.
2. PRIOR EXPERIENCE – Ask if they have done the type of adoption you are choosing (i.e.domestic interstate adoption, specific intercountry adoption, working with singles, etc.). How many have they done and how recently (i.e., intercountry adoption changes in 2014 may not be known by immigration attorneys without current adoption experience)? You want an attorney knowledgeable and up-to-date with the type of adoption process you are starting.
The laws of the state in which the child was adopted determine who has access to the original birth certificate or other adoption records, and whether those records are sealed (unavailable). For information about the law in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, see the: http://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/. This links to the Child Welfare Information League’s numerous publications on the legal aspects of adoption.
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.
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.
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.
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