Montgomery County Adoption Lawyer
Information About Adopting a Child in Pennsylvania
Adoption, by definition, is "the act of establishing a person as parent to one who is not in fact or in law their child." The United States has the highest adoption rate in the world, with approximately 127,000 adoptions occurring every year, which has been a constant rate since the late 1980s.
What are Different Kinds of Adoption?
There are essentially two kinds of adoption: open adoption and closed adoption. In open adoption, information can be exchanged between biological and the adopting parents. There is also potential for contact between the adoptee and their biological kin. However, without proper paperwork, unofficial arrangements of open adoption are able to be terminated at any time by the adoptive parents as they have sole authority regarding the adoptee. Adoptive and biological parents are permitted to enter into a legally-enforceable arrangement regarding visitation and other interaction pertaining to the child in many jurisdictions. Twenty-four states in the U.S. allow legally enforceable open adoption contract agreements; however, Pennsylvania is not one of them.
In closed adoption, the identity of the biological parents is barred from disclosure to the adoptive parents and the adoptee, and vice versa. However, in some closed adoptions, non-identifying information such as ethnic background and medical history may be allowed to be transmitted.
Who Can Adopt in Pennsylvania?
Adoptions can occur between unrelated individuals or related family members. Historically, most adoptions have occurred within a family, and recent data suggests that around half of all adoptions are between individuals that are related.
One common example of adoption between relations is "stepparent adoption," which occurs when a new partner of a parent legally adopts a child from the parent's previous marriage or relationship. Intra-family adoptions can also occur when a child is unable to care for themselves following the death of a parent and a family member agrees to adopt them.
Unrelated adoptions can occur in a variety of ways. In private domestic adoptions, charities and other for-profit agencies act as intermediary parties and bring people who wish to adopt together with a child who needs to be adopted. All parties are residents of the same country. Private domestic adoptions account for about 45% of adoptions in the United States. Another type of domestic adoption is foster care adoption, when a child is placed in care of the public. About 40% of adoptions in the U.S. are through the foster care system.
Lastly, there is international adoption, which involves a child being adopted outside of their country of birth, and can occur through both private and public agencies. Since the laws vary greatly between countries in their willingness to permit international adoptions, adoptions from abroad account for less than 15% of U.S. adoptions.
The Facts on International Adoption
It's a common misconception that you can adopt a child from another country simply by locating the child, going to the U.S. Embassy, and getting a visa. That's not enough to meet the criteria of U.S. immigration procedures. You must get a visa for the child by filing form I-600 and seeking approval from the USCIS.
First, the child must be legally recognized as an orphan. If their parent is living, certain actions must be taken to make sure the child has been legally and irrevocably released for adoption in their home country. Then, the child can be adopted in foreign court. Once foreign adoption is completed, the adoptive parents can seek an immigrant visa at a U.S. consular office abroad. The consular officer will review the approved I-600 petition and conduct a visa interview to approve the issuance of the visa.
The decision of the foreign court should transfer to the United States. But, Pennsylvania state court DOES NOT automatically have to recognize your foreign adoption decree. It may be subject to challenge in state court unless you enter an adoption decree locally.
Our law firm can help you locate foreign counsel and other service providers in that country. We understand that you are going through more than just a bureaucratic process, but also an emotional situation. We can help safeguard your family's interests by protecting you from fraud and preventing delays.
What Adoption Services are Available in Pennsylvania?
Parents who wish to adopt a special needs or an older child will work with a county agency or the affiliate agency Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN). Parents who seek to adopt an infant will need the services of a private adoption agency. First, prospective parents will need to go through a screening process and fill out an application. Financial and medical records will need to be submitted and both prospective parents will need to go through a criminal background check as well as child abuse clearance.
Personal references are also required. An adult will not be considered if it is discovered that he or she is a perpetrator of a child abuse report; has been convicted of an alcohol or drug related felony within the past five years; or if he or she has committed any sexual or violent crimes.
What is Home Study?
The next step is what’s called a home study, or the family profile, which consists of a series of meetings between an agency worker and the prospective parents to conclude whether the home would be a safe environment for an adoptive child to be raised in. These meetings also allow prospective parents an opportunity to ask any questions they may have. At least one home study meeting will need to occur at the home of the prospective parents.
Once the home study meetings are completed, the agency will notify prospective parents of a waiting child who may be a good match for the family. There is an opportunity for the prospective parents to meet the child before reaching any decision. If both the child and the prospective parents are comfortable, the county agency that has custody of the child can then make arrangements to place the child in the home of the prospective parents. Then, a family law lawyer will need to file a "Report of Intent to Adopt" for the new adoptive parents. Before the adoption is finalized, there is a supervision period that generally lasts between three to six months. An adoption worker will regularly visit the new family to ensure ideal placement. When the placement is determined to be positive, a request to the court is submitted for a hearing, where the judge reviews all information about the family and child to approve the adoption.
A Montgomery County Adoption Attorney You Can Count On
If you are considering adoption in Pennsylvania, family law attorney Sheryl R. Rentz can help you navigate the difficulties of the adoption process. For more information about adoption, please call us at (866) 290-9292 today.
- Domestic and International Adoptions: What’s the Difference?
- Can Adoption Be Only a Swipe Away?
- How to Tell Your Children They are Adopted
- Important Decisions to Make When Choosing Adoption