Family Adoption

Adoption matters are strictly governed by statute and overseen by the Orphan's Court. Any individual may be adopted and any individual may adopt. A streamlined adoption process is available depending on the relationship of the prospective adoptive parents and the adoptee. Specifically, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, step-parents and grandparents qualify as a kinship adoption. The process is simpler in that a home study is not required in a kinship adoption, however background checks must still be completed as it relates to the adopting parent(s). There are three background checks required: (1) Child Abuse History Clearance; (2) PA State Police Criminal Record Check; and (3) FBI Criminal Background Check through the Department of Welfare.

Kinship adoptions can also be more efficient in terms of being able to file to terminate parental right(s) simultaneously with filing the petition for adoption. If the natural parents are consenting to the adoption, their consents can be attached to the Petition for Adoption. Pursuant to 23 Pa. C.S. Section 2711, a consent must be signed by the following individuals where applicable: (1) the child(ren) being adopted if over 12 years of age; (2) the spouse of the adopting parent if that spouse is not also a petitioner; (3) the natural parent(s) of any minor child(ren) being adopted; (4) the guardian of an incapacitated child up for adoption; and (5) the guardian of a minor child or persons having custody when the adoptee has no parent whose consent is required. The consent cannot be signed by a natural mother within 72 hours, or three days, after the birth of a child. A consent can be signed by a natural father at any time after he has been notified the child is expected to be born or has been born. Executed consents become irrevocable after 30 days. The can be revoked on the basis of fraud or duress within 60 days. Without either proper consent or termination of parental rights, a kinship adoption cannot proceed.

If unable to obtain consent for parental termination, you can request the rights be involuntarily terminated within the adoption petition by pleading the relevant grounds for involuntary termination. Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511, there are nine (9) grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights. The first ground for termination is where the parent by conduct continuing for a period of at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition either has evidenced a settled purpose of relinquishing parental claim to a child or has refused or failed to perform parental duties. It will be necessary to establish that the grounds for termination exist at the adoption hearing.

It is also necessary to have given all interested parties proper notice of the adoption proceedings. A copy of the adoption petition should be served on all interested parties. Additionally, at least ten days notice of any hearing must be served by personal service or registered mail to the parties' last known address. The adopting parent(s) and the adoptee must appear for the adoption hearing. Often, the adoption hearing is primarily ceremonial and a happy occasion for the adopting family. Following adoption, a new birth certificate will be issued upon receipt of the Certificate of Adoption certified by the local Orphan's Court and then submitted to the Department of Vital Records. A certified Decree of Adoption will also be forwarded to the adoptive parents from the court.

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