All interested parties, including natural parent(s), shall receive proper notice of pending termination and/or adoption proceedings. A copy of the relevant petition and subsequent hearing notice 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.
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. Termination of parental rights can generally only occur in conjunction with an adoption matter or involvement by a local social services agency. Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511, there are nine (9) grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights. Several of the grounds available relate to crimes committed by the parents. For example, rights may be terminated if the parent(s) have committed child abuse or neglect. This can result in a criminal charge of endangering the welfare of a child.
An agency adoption is utilized my prospective parents who do not have direct contact or a pre-existing relationship with the natural parents. When working with an adoption agency, the agency serves as an intermediary between parties looking to adopt and parties looking to relinquish their rights as a parent and place a child for adoption. There are numerous requirements and background checks for parties looking to adopt to complete to be eligible as a prospective family. Parties looking to relinquish their rights can often view the profiles of parties looking to adopt to find a good match and vice versa.
There are always a number of children looking for quality foster parents to provide a stable, loving environment while waiting to be reunited with family or transition into a forever home. To get started as a foster parent, you will need to apply and pass several background clearances. Your home will also be inspected as part of the process. Training is available as well as support throughout the process including, but not limited to, financial support, medical assistance, respite care, and other caseworker services. You can indicate your preferences for which children you would take into your home in terms of age, sex, etc.
After your adoption hearing, you will still need to take a few steps to obtain a new birth certificate. A Certificate of Adoption is forwarded by the court to Vital Records to alert them the adoption was finalized. You would then contact Vital Records with a request for a new birth certificate and submit the applicable fee. Pennsylvania presently charges $20 for a new birth certificate, unless you are a military member, in which case the fee can be waived. The adoptive parents' names and child's name after adoption should be included in the application for birth certificate. The completed application, ID and payment would then go to Vital Records.
Prior to filing an adoption petition you should make sure you have all the requisite documents to submit to the court simultaneously. This will permit the court to schedule your petition sooner rather than later. Exactly which documents you will need to include depend on what type of adoption you are seeking. All petitions will require signed verifications by the petitioners. You must also submit proof that all parties received information regarding Act 101 and the opportunity for post-adoption contact by mutual agreement. You will need the original birth certificate for the adoptee. Additionally, prospective parents and any other adult household members will need to have the requisite clearances completed and the results of those clearances should be attached to the petition.
One of the final steps in the adoption process is the adoption hearing. The hearing is often ceremonial in nature. It is common for family and friends to attend along with the prospective adoptee parents. The adoptee(s) must be present as well. At the hearing, the Petitioners should be prepared to show all legal requirements for an adoption have been met. Any documents that were attached to your original petition or subsequently filed with the court should already be in the court file (i.e. original birth certificate, background checks, home study report.) Additional requirements may include service on the opposing party in which case you should be sure to have valid proof of service with you for your hearing.
Each county is responsible for keeping a list of qualified counselors who are available to assist natural parents contemplating voluntary relinquishment or facing involuntary termination of their parental rights. Prior to an adoption taking place, the rights of the natural parent(s) must be terminated. This is a permanent act and accordingly, the courts ensure that the natural parents understand and have a chance to discuss with a qualified professional. A portion of the filing fees paid to the court for adoption/termination proceedings go towards supporting that county's counseling fund which subsidizes the costs for counseling where the natural parent(s) desire to participate but are unable to afford it.
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 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. § 2511, there are nine (9) grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights.