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.
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.
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.
Attorney adoption fees vary by state, experience, and time frame. It all really depends on which adoption attorney you choose. It can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. There isn’t one set rate, so it is important to consider multiple adoption attorneys before you settle on one. Remember that you don’t have to work with the first adoption attorney you come across. Explore your options so that you can be confident and comfortable in your final decision.
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.
Whether your pregnancy is planned or unplanned, exploring your options can be confusing, overwhelming, stressful, and hectic. It can be especially confusing if this is your first time progressing through the placement and adoption process. When starting along this journey, it is important to learn and completely and clearly understand the basics. You may find that working with an adoption attorney is a fantastic way to better understand the adoption process, retain your parental rights, and help you navigate through the long process. An adoption attorney is just one of many adoption professionals you’ll work with. And before you begin, below is a list of common questions about an adoption attorney.
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.
Some expectant mothers need help covering expenses. Each state has different laws about what expenses can be covered, who can distribute the funds, and whether the funds must be paid directly to the provider. Failing to follow the laws regarding expectant mother expenses can potentially result in criminal liability. An experienced adoption attorney will know what expenses are permitted, how they can be disbursed, and who can disburse them.
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.

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.
At GoransonBain Ausley, we can help your family by developing a legal strategy that meets your personal goals. Our team is well-versed in local and international law, as well as regulations in other states that may affect your adoption. Every aspect of family law is emotional, but bringing new families together is a joy that each member of our staff relishes.
There are certain people who may be ineligible to adopt a child based on a variety of factors. If a potential parent has a criminal record of a certain type then they may be precluded from adopting a child. In addition, if the potential parent or parents have a record of abuse of violence in their past, they may also be precluded from adopting a child. The process of adopting a child is incredibly complex and intricate and it cannot be stressed enough that before going through these proceedings you should contact an experienced attorney to be by your side.
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.[9] 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.[10]
Stepparent Adoption – Stepparents who adopt a spouse’s child often solidify pre-existing bonds, and engage in a legal process that provides them and the child with legal rights, including the same parental rights as if they were the child’s biological parent and the child’s right to inherit from the stepparent, among others. Our legal team can assist stepparents looking to adopt a child with only one living biological parent, or when the other biological parent consents or objects to the adoption.
Once all of these steps and reports are complete the court will evaluate all of the information provided in an effort to determine what is best for the child. The judge will make this decision after hearing the testimony of involved parties, examining the required reports and studies and then applying the law that applies to your particular situation.
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.
Decide who you want to handle the legal side of your adoption. In a private adoption, the birth parents transfer their rights directly to the adoptive parents rather than the state or an adoption agency. However, the adoption is still governed by state law and there are many legal procedures and requirements you must meet for the adoption to be granted. Most adoptive parents work with an attorney to guide them through the process.

Stepparent Adoption – Stepparents who adopt a spouse’s child often solidify pre-existing bonds, and engage in a legal process that provides them and the child with legal rights, including the same parental rights as if they were the child’s biological parent and the child’s right to inherit from the stepparent, among others. Our legal team can assist stepparents looking to adopt a child with only one living biological parent, or when the other biological parent consents or objects to the adoption.
Each state makes its own laws in the area of adoption, according to state statute. While some federal laws do apply, practices and policies can vary widely from one state to another or even from one county to the next. To learn about laws specific to your state or jurisdiction, visit the website of the Child Welfare Information Gateway, at http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/ or contact your county's Department of Children and Youth.
Because of the complexities of the adoption process and the potential for negative consequences, it is not recommended that you attempt to do an adoption pro se. Even a consent adoption within the family, for example, an aunt and uncle adopting a nephew with full consent of the birth parents, should still be prepared and shepherded through the court by an attorney.
Each step you complete prior beginning the adoption process prepares you and your family to bring a new child into your home — and helps ensure a seamless integration with your family. These steps are basically the same for families who wish to open their homes to children in need of foster care. Your Dallas family law attorney at GoransonBain Ausley can help guide you through the adoption process.
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