Adoption is one of the most selfless ways to grow a family and provide a child with a loving home. Because it is also a legal endeavor subject to numerous regulations, paperwork, requirements, and proceedings, however, adoption can be a challenging process to navigate. With the assistance of proven family law attorneys like those at Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, families can gain the support of caring and compassionate advocates who have the experience, resources, and determination needed to make their adoptions dreams a reality.
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 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.
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.
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 law limits the amount of time a child may stay in foster care by establishing shorter timelines for determining when she or he must have a plan for permanency. The law states that permanency court hearings must be held for children no later than 12 months after they enter foster care and the law also states that termination of parental rights proceedings must begin for any child who has been in the care of a state agency for 15 out of the most recent 22 months. Exceptions may be made to this requirement if the child is in the care of a relative or for other compelling reasons.
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.
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.
You should expect to end the process with a child who is a legal member of your family. The entire adoption can take up to 5 years including waiting periods, but it’ll take less time depending on your case. If there are any legal complications or you don’t pass some of the qualifying examinations, the process could take longer. An adoption attorney can guide you through this and potentially expedite the process by knowing who to talk to and what paperwork to file.