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adoption Archives

Adoption - Other adult household members

Background checks are required for all prospective parents in an adoption matter. In Pennsylvania, there are three background checks that are required: Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance through the Department of Human Services, Pennsylvania Criminal Record Checks through the State Police, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Criminal Background Check through the Department of Welfare. These same background checks must also be completed for all other adult household members where the adoptee will reside. At this time, requests for checks for the Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance and Pennsylvania Criminal Record can be done online. The FBI Criminal Background check does require fingerprinting to complete. An appointment is recommended and can be made online. You will need to bring certain forms of ID to your appointment and should specify the check is for prospective adoption.

Adoption Costs

There are numerous costs involved in an adoption action. The total amount of expenses will vary depending on the nature of the adoption. For example, a kinship or family adoption where the natural parent(s) are cooperating with the adoption will have different costs than a case where the adoption is contested by the natural parent(s) or if the adoption is not kinship. Prospective parents will need to have background checks done prior to the adoption. Pennsylvania presently requires three (3) different background checks. Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance through the Department of Human Services, Pennsylvania Criminal Record Checks through the State Police, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Criminal Background Check through the Department of Welfare. The costs are nominal for each of these inquiries. A home study is required for a non-kinship adoption. Due to the intensive inquiry that must be completed, this is usually a fairly substantial cost ($700+). A home study is not required for a family adoption.

Termination and Adoption

Termination of a biological parent's rights and adoption often go hand in hand. A prospective parent cannot adopt without termination of the biological parent's rights. A biological parent cannot voluntarily terminate their rights or sign a child away without another party stepping in to adopt. The parental rights of a biological parent can be involuntarily terminated in connection with an adoption matter as well. Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. ยง 2511, there are nine (9) grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights. 

Consent of Adoptee

Before an adoption can be finalized, certain parties must consent to the 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. Only the consent of the adoptee is needed for an adult adoption. The adoptee must voluntarily consent to the adoption by the prospective parents as well as name change, if applicable.

Finality of Adoption

Adoptions are permanent, so prospective adoptive parents should understand exactly what they are taking on before beginning the process. Adoption will establish all the legal rights, duties and responsibilities as exist for natural born children. Those rights and duties include, but are not limited to, the right of the child to inherit through you and your family, the legal obligation to financially support the child, the right of the child to seek support from you, the principle that these rights and duties would continue if you and your spouse separate or divorce as well as if the child develops any physical, psychological problems or becomes ill or disabled for any reason in the future.

Contested Adoptions

If the natural parent(s) do not agree with the adoption, there is a hearing to determine if their rights should be involuntarily terminated. In any contested adoption, an attorney must be appointed to represent the interests of the adoptee(s). This person is often referred to as a Guardian Ad Litem. An attorney may also be appointed for the parent contesting the adoption. In addition to determining whether grounds exist to involuntarily terminate a natural parent's rights, the court must also consider the needs and welfare of the proposed adoptee(s). This is often where the role of the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is most important.

Publication of Adoption

It is always necessary to give all interested parties proper notice of pending adoption proceedings. A copy of the adoption petition should be served on all interested parties, e.g. persons with parental rights to the minor child(ren) involved. Acceptable methods of service include personal service or certified mail, return receipt requested, restricted delivery. Proof of service should be filed with the court and/or submitted at the time of the hearing. If you do not have a good address for an interested party you can petition the court to permit service by an alternate method, such as publication in the newspaper where the party was last known to reside.

Clearances for Adoption

Background checks are required for all prospective parents in an adoption matter. In Pennsylvania, there are three background checks that are required: Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance through the Department of Human Services, Pennsylvania Criminal Record Checks through the State Police, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Criminal Background Check through the Department of Welfare. 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. The cost for each background check is nominal. Fingerprinting is required for the FBI Criminal Background Check.

Confirming Consent to Adoption

If the natural parent(s) agree to the adoption and are signing off on their rights, prospective parents may file a petition to confirm their consent to finalize the voluntary termination of their parental rights. In this scenario, the child is usually already in the care of the prospective parent(s). The prospective parent must consent to accept custody of the child until such time as the child is adopted. The prospective parent(s) would also need to file a report of intention to adopt with the court.

Private vs Agency Adoption

In a private adoption, you know someone and have direct communication regarding the adoption. This can include a kinship adoption or a non-kinship adoption. The prospective parents should work with an attorney to make sure all the requisite steps are taken and the correct paperwork is submitted to the court for a successful adoption. The natural parents may elect to have their own counsel if they so choose. Counseling is available for natural parents considering terminating their rights regardless of the nature of the adoption.

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