A private adoption where the adoptive parents and the birth mother have not agreed beforehand can cost over $20,000. Before you make the financial and emotional investment in the adoption, you want an attorney who is familiar with all federal, state, and local laws and procedures. Depending on your location, expect to pay $100 to $200 per hour for skilled legal assistance.
An acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocate. CASA volunteers are trained community volunteers who speak for the best interests of a child in court. They are assigned by a judge to research an abuse or neglect case, and provide the judge with information to help in making a decision for the child's permanency. To learn more about CASA, visit its website at http://nationalcasa.org.
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.
I was wondering if anyone has ever attempted to adopt a child without using a lawyer. I have a child, she is almost 16 years old and I've had custody of her since she was 5 1/2 months old. She is not a foster child, she was given to me by her birth mother because she couldn't care for her and she was young. She hasn't seen her birth mother or had any contact since she was 1 year. My husband and I want to adopt her and she wants that to. I need to know what steps to take to do this. The birth father is unknown. I'm not sure where to begin but think it might be with involuntary relinquishment of rights. Does anyone have any help? Thanks in advance.

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) applies in any adoption when a baby is going to cross state lines. How long an adoptive family stays in the state of birth after the birth is entirely dependent on how quickly ICPC clears them to leave the state. Travel and lodging can be a very expensive aspect of an interstate adoption. An experienced adoption attorney should be able to get clearance within 3 to 5 business days after the birth mother has signed her consent paperwork.
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.
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.
From exploring your available options and addressing disputes or challenges that arise to ensuring your rights and interests are protected through finalization hearings, Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers can provide the step-by-step guidance to make your adoption experience a success. This includes facilitating a formal termination of parental rights (voluntary or otherwise), compiling the necessary documentation and legal work, meeting requirements and preparing for various studies and reports, and ensuring the best interests of a child are met. Although circumstances may vary, the adoption process can take months to complete, which is why having the support of caring and compassionate attorneys experienced in these matters can make all the difference.
If you choose an adoption attorney as your primary adoption professional, this is considered an independent adoption. In many independent adoptions, the birth parents and adoptive family find each other independently of an adoption professional’s screening and matching services. In some states, adoption lawyers are not legally allowed to perform these screening and matching services.

The adoptive parents can’t leave the state where the baby was born until they comply with ICPC and the ICPC offices in the sending and the receiving state has cleared the adoptive parents to come home. Clearing ICPC requires submitting several documents (in California this packet can be nearly 50 pages), including affidavits made by attorneys from each state that the state laws have been complied with. Submitting an incomplete packet will delay clearance, leaving the adoptive parents in limbo. Work with an experienced attorney to avoid the stress, delay, and cost of complying with ICPC.
The adoptive parents can’t leave the state where the baby was born until they comply with ICPC and the ICPC offices in the sending and the receiving state has cleared the adoptive parents to come home. Clearing ICPC requires submitting several documents (in California this packet can be nearly 50 pages), including affidavits made by attorneys from each state that the state laws have been complied with. Submitting an incomplete packet will delay clearance, leaving the adoptive parents in limbo. Work with an experienced attorney to avoid the stress, delay, and cost of complying with ICPC.

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.
Thomas J. Baker of Baker & Tisdale PLLC principally practices in the Central Texas area, including Bell, Coryell, McLennan, Milam and Williamson counties. The advice given here is not and ahould not be taken as a substitute for in-personal consultation with counsel, particularly where legal documents, such as court orders need to be reviewed. I am Board-Certified in Family Law but not in any other areas of practice.

Step-by-Step Guidance – Working with an adoption attorney provides you with the guidance of professionals who understand the process, eligibility requirements, and legal proceedings involved. With assistance through every step of the process, you can ensure you take the right steps to meet qualifications, prepare for various interviews or evaluations, and handle the necessary work to finalize an adoption successfully.

An open adoption agreement spells out the terms of the contact between the parties in an open adoption. An open adoption agreement can specify frequency and manner of contact between adoptive and birth families, and/or between siblings placed separately. However, while it may be drawn up in the form of a contract and signed by both parties, it is not legally binding.
Handling Challenges – Although adoption is in every way a heart-warming decision and tremendous benefit for children, it is not always the easiest legal process. That’s due to numerous requirements established by the court, as well as complex laws, extensive paperwork, and the potential for disputes or challenges, including those involving biological parents who contest an adoption. Having an attorney by your side can help ensure you take the proper steps, have the support to resolve challenges as they arise, and prepare for all that’s required of you from any agency or court.
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.

They may not be available when you need them most, as attorneys are typically busy with other cases. Many large adoption agencies provide 24/7 counseling and support and have large staffs available to work closely with expectant mothers throughout the adoption process. You may not receive these services if you choose to work with a local attorney to pursue an independent adoption.
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