You need to have a lawyer. You can't involuntarily reliquish. Relinquish means your are voluntarily giving up the child. Both parents have to voluntarily relinquish or have involuntary TPR done by a judge in court. The birthparents rights have to be terminated by a judge before you can begin the process to adopt. Usually an adoption agency handles the TPR signing. With an independent adoption, you have to have an attorney. First they will locate the birthmom & have her sign consent. Then they will attempt to locate the birthfather. If they don't know the whereabouts of the birthparents, they will have to make some kind of attempt to locate them. Usually it means sending a certified letter to the last known address, they can contact motor vehicles for address on a driver's license, and/or put a notice in newspapers in the areas where the birthparents might be living. If no one comes forward, the judge will usually TPR the parents based on abandonment and then you can adopt. The judge will need a homestudy since you are adopting a child who is not a relative of yours.
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.
During the home study, the child welfare agency will review your case and provide the courts with evidence that you are capable of caring for the child. A lawyer is not required for this stage, but it’s nice to have one available. You’ll be asked to supply copies of your birth certificate, income tax returns, medical report, and marriage licenses. All adoptive parents will need to be fingerprinted.
Finalization is the legal process which transfers custody of the child from the adoption agency, county, or state to the adoptive parents. In a court hearing, an attorney represents the family and presents the case to the judge, resulting in the adoption decree. This is the moment when the adoptee becomes the permanent, legally adopted child of the adoptive parents. This process cannot occur until the adoptive parents have had the child in their home for the time determined by state statute, usually at least 6 months.
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.
Actually from what I gather it is quite easy [sometimes] to adopt and a birthparent never even know. This is particularly true with birth fathers. In our adoption case (with my now adopted son) the absent birth parent was willing to sign and so it was quite easy. I have heard of many cases though in my research down the adoption path where the adoptive parents did searches with the OAG, DMV (as mentioned), used paid internet investigator searches, and even hired PI's then presented the evidence to the court and had the TPR signed. The truth is that none of those routes yield astounding results necessarily. I don't agree that the birth parents (the fathers in particular because these are the ones that it usually happens to) are being treated fairly but it does happen. Hmm, I guess they aren't really being treated badly they are just not being found. Maybe they don't even know? And, of course the cases I'm aware of are dealing primarily with step-adoption because this is what I'm familiar with being that it was my situation. Judges are far more leniant in these cases I imagine because at least one biological parent is present. I don't know for sure but it would be my guess.
Processing an adoption can be a scary prospect. For those who’ve never done it before, you don’t know what you don’t know. A lot is at stake and a lot can go wrong. Issues can crop up as new information comes to light. An experienced adoption attorney can anticipate and preclude these issues. A good adoption attorney will help preclude problems, issue spot risks and potential legal roadblocks, and manage the relationship with the biological family. An attorney is also able to help all parties find appropriate resources depending on their circumstances.
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.