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adoption Archives

National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month. This is the 22nd year for recognition of National Adoption Month. It started as National Adoption Week in 1984 on the motion of then President Ronald Reagan. In 1995, President Clinton extended the recognition from a week to the entire month of November. This year's initiative is finding homes for teenagers. Teenagers are often less likely to find a forever home due to their age however it is still vital for teens to establish stable connections as it reflects on their overall wellbeing and increases their likelihood for success as adults.

Confirmation of Consent in Adoption

One of the ways an adoption can proceed is if the natural parent(s) consent to the adoption. A Petition for Confirmation of Consent can be filed by the party executing the consent or the party intending to adopt the child. 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. There are several timing rules that must be adhered to. First, 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.

Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

Termination of parental rights means the natural parent of a child forever loses or forfeits any rights as a parent. This would include the loss of any standing for future custody actions. On the flip side, it also means they are not financially responsible for their prior child in terms of support. Termination of parental rights can generally only occur in conjunction with an adoption matter. Termination of parental rights can be voluntary or involuntary. A biological parent can consent to an adoption and voluntarily relinquish their rights. Alternatively, parental rights may be subject to involuntary termination. Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511, there are nine (9) grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights.

Where Can You Adopt?

The Pennsylvania Adoption Act is fairly liberal in terms of where an adoption can take place. An adoption can take place in any county where the natural parents of the child occur. It may also take place in any county where the child to be adopted resides. Additionally, an action for adoption can be initiated in the county where the parties looking to adopt reside. Outside of any county where a party of an adoption matter may reside, an agency adoption can be brought in any county where that agency has an office. The final option as to where you may file is where the child to be adopted previously resided with leave of court. This means a court must make a determination as to whether filing in a county where the child used to live or was born is appropriate.

Adoption of Family Members

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, and step-parents qualify as a kinship adoption. 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.

Interstate Adoptions

The Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children addresses adoptions where a child is to be transferred across state lines. It creates uniform legal and administrative procedures for interstate adoption matters. All U.S. states are members of the Compact. The Compact has existed for approx. forty years. The state where the child presently resides must approve of the transfer across the state lines for placement. A copy of the approval is then submitted to the court for filing. In order to get approval, a packet must be created containing key information on the child, the prospective parent(s) and the intended place of residence. For example, the child's social, medical, and educational history should be discussed.

National Adoption Day

National Adoption Day is observed nationwide each year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. 4,500 children were adopted on National Adoption Day last year and 400 different cities participated in some form of celebration. There have been approx. 54,500 children adopted since 2000. The month of November is National Adoption Month. This is the 20th year for recognition of National Adoption Month after President Clinton extended the recognition from a week to the entire month of November in 1995. The week-long celebration began in 1984 under President Ronald Reagan. Pennsylvania participates in presentation of a proclamation every year regarding National Adoption Month pledging its commitment to make sure every child has a place to call home.

Background Checks for Adoption

Background checks are required for all prospective parents. The requisite checks include Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance through the Department of Human Services, Pennsylvania Criminal Record Checks through the State Police, a Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Criminal Background Check. These background checks must also be completed for all other adult household members where the adoptee will reside. At this time, requests for all three background checks can be done online. Fingerprinting is required for the FBI Criminal Background Check. If a prospective parent has lived outside of Pennsylvania in the five (5) years preceding the adoption petition, similar background checks must be acquired from each state where he or she resided.

Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

Parental rights can generally only be dissolved in conjunction with an adoption matter. A biological parent can consent to an adoption, voluntarily relinquish their rights or be subject to involuntary termination. Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511, there are nine (9) grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights:

Married Same-Sex Adoption

Today marked the completion of my first same-sex step-parent adoption. Prior to May 2014, a same sex couple had to follow the steps for second-parent adoption which required a home study as opposed to a step-parent adoption which did not. However, in a decision rendered May 20, 2014, the Honorable John E. Jones, III, sitting for the US District Court in the Middle District on the case of Whitewood v. Michael Wolf, ruled that two of Pennsylvania's laws regarding marriage were unconstitutional on the basis that they violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Now that Pennsylvania recognizes same-sex marriages, same-sex partners can also benefit from the simpler process of a kinship or step-parent adoption. 

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