This is a legal process involving a court hearing during which a judge issues a decree that permanently ends all legal parental rights of a birth parent to a child. This must occur before a child is considered to be legally free for adoption. Termination of parental rights can be voluntary or involuntary, that is, with or without the birthparents' agreement. In some states, there is a period during which the birthparent may appeal, if rights have been terminated without his or her consent. The length of that period varies from state to state.
Megan Cohen is an adoption and assisted reproductive technology attorney. She is the owner of Family Formation Law Offices in Lafayette, California representing birth parents, adopting parents, intended parents, surrogates, and gamete donors. She serves on the board of the birthmother-focused On Your Feet Foundation of Northern California. She is also a birth mother. Vist her website www.helpwithadoption.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When my wife and I adopted our son, we were told that we needed to hire multiple attorneys. One to represent the birth mother. One to represent the child. One to represent the birth father. And one to represent us. When we adopted our daughter we needed even more. One for the child. One for the birth mother. One for us. And one for each of the three possible birth fathers! We were outnumbered! Since no agency was involved, the attorney fees, the home study and the court costs were our only expenses. And when it came time to file our income taxes we claimed the adoption tax credit and were reimbursed the entire amount. Both times.  We were fortunate. Adoptions can be, and in most cases are much more expensive.
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