An adoption petition can be filed by anyone. Pursuant to 23 P.A. CS 2312, any individual may become an adopting parent. There is no requirement that a prospective parent be married or in a relationship. An adoption can take place in any county where the natural parents of the child reside. It may also take place in any county where the child to be adopted resides or in the county where the prospective parent resides. Background clearances must be obtained for the prospective parent as well as any other adult household members. If not already resolved, the rights of the natural parents of the child need to be addressed in connection with the adoption proceeding. The natural parents can cooperate in consenting to the adoption and or voluntarily relinquishing their rights. There are also circumstances in which a prospective parent can petition for the involuntary termination of the natural parents' rights.
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. New Jersey requires state, federal and local criminal history checks. These background checks must also be completed for all other adult household members where the adoptee will reside.
Many parties inquire as to whether they can terminate the other parent's rights on the basis of abandonment. The answer is not a simple yes or no. Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511, there are nine (9) grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights. Two of the grounds are as follows: (1) 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 may be possible to remain in touch with your child subsequent to the termination of your parental rights and their adoption. Act 101, which became law in 2010, allows post-adoption contact by agreement of all the parties. Specifically, a birth relative by blood, marriage or adoption can contract with the new adoptive parents in terms of continued contact with the adoptee. In each adoption case, all parties are required to be notified of the possibility of entering a contract for continued contact. The parties should sign to acknowledge they received notice of the options available under Act 101 and their signed acknowledgment would then be filed with the court. If the parties do not sign an acknowledgement, then proof that they were served with the notice should be filed to the court. A sample of the Act 101 notice is included below.
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.