You mentioned PA... so Im guessing thats where you are (Im in PA as well). We are adopting a child from foster care and recently went to the lawyer's office. The first step the lawyer told us about the process was to file an "intent to adopt" letter with the court. It was a formal letter that had detailed information about the child, us, bios, etc. Additionally, attached to the letter of intent had to be a copy of our child abuse clearances and a homestudy. Based on how the lawyer walked us through the paperwork, the clearances and homestudy was a must (not just b/c of foster care). He did explain all the law references to us that were in the letter, but I don't have a copy of the intent letter yet that he was filing. (It was a rough draft that we were going over). I really think you will need a lawyer. If you still want to try to do it without one, call the local court and find out what papers you need to submit to request an adoption.

If you are adopting an infant through private adoption, your attorney will play a larger role, and you will want to take care in selecting the right individual. You may want to read the documents found at: http://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/adoptive/considerations.cfm. This links to the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s numerous publications on the legal aspects of adoption.
Attorney adoption fees vary by state, experience, and time frame. It all really depends on which adoption attorney you choose. It can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. There isn’t one set rate, so it is important to consider multiple adoption attorneys before you settle on one. Remember that you don’t have to work with the first adoption attorney you come across. Explore your options so that you can be confident and comfortable in your final decision.
Handling Challenges – Although adoption is in every way a heart-warming decision and tremendous benefit for children, it is not always the easiest legal process. That’s due to numerous requirements established by the court, as well as complex laws, extensive paperwork, and the potential for disputes or challenges, including those involving biological parents who contest an adoption. Having an attorney by your side can help ensure you take the proper steps, have the support to resolve challenges as they arise, and prepare for all that’s required of you from any agency or court.
There are such a HUGE number of dads out there that aren't really the bio dad as it is (and fully believe that they are). I read as many as a million or so the other day in an article. It's craziness. The whole issue and all of these paternity issues suck bad for dads all the way around. I think there should be mandatory testing on birth day at the hospital to prove they are the bio dad in the first place. It would clear up so many paternity, adoption, child support, etc... issues.
Adoption attorneys or adoption law firms are best for prospective birth mothers who have already identified an adoptive family and who feel they don’t need much adoption counseling and support. It is important to carefully consider the resources and services you’d like to have available before choosing an adoption attorney as your adoption professional.
Training: Texas provides a 35-hour Parent Resource Information Development Education (PRIDE) course providing instruction regarding basic child care, along with specific considerations that for each prospective adoptive parent. Prospective adoptive parents will also participate in three additional training and certification programs outside of the PRIDE program, each designed to further educate the adoptive parents regarding meeting the needs of their adoptive child.
An open adoption agreement spells out the terms of the contact between the parties in an open adoption. An open adoption agreement can specify frequency and manner of contact between adoptive and birth families, and/or between siblings placed separately. However, while it may be drawn up in the form of a contract and signed by both parties, it is not legally binding.
The adoption process can be arduous, forcing you to clear many hurdles before you can finally bring a child home. We will be there with you at every step, providing counsel as you complete applications, advising you regarding home studies and helping you obtain all the necessary documentation to finalize the process. We will handle all matters related to the termination of parental rights, if required, to finalize the adoption. When necessary, we will act as your advocate with birth parents, negotiating agreements to cover medical or other expenses incurred by the birth or care of the child before the adoption.
I was wondering if anyone has ever attempted to adopt a child without using a lawyer. I have a child, she is almost 16 years old and I've had custody of her since she was 5 1/2 months old. She is not a foster child, she was given to me by her birth mother because she couldn't care for her and she was young. She hasn't seen her birth mother or had any contact since she was 1 year. My husband and I want to adopt her and she wants that to. I need to know what steps to take to do this. The birth father is unknown. I'm not sure where to begin but think it might be with involuntary relinquishment of rights. Does anyone have any help? Thanks in advance.

There are certain people who may be ineligible to adopt a child based on a variety of factors. If a potential parent has a criminal record of a certain type then they may be precluded from adopting a child. In addition, if the potential parent or parents have a record of abuse of violence in their past, they may also be precluded from adopting a child. The process of adopting a child is incredibly complex and intricate and it cannot be stressed enough that before going through these proceedings you should contact an experienced attorney to be by your side.
Private Adoption – We assist aspiring parents in adoptions involving relatives, surrogates, and other private channels, and can provide the counsel needed to navigate the process and protect their rights when it comes to filing adoption petitions, surrogacy agreements, termination of parental rights, and compliance matters involving the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) with out-of-state adoptions.
5. WHAT ARE THE COSTS OF THE ADOPTION? – You will want to know who helps guide you in appropriate adoption fees, what is legal and what is paid to whom and when. For the attorney specifically: How do they bill? Do they have a consultation fee, a retainer, a set rate or do they bill by the hour? You should have an estimated adoption budget before you begin the process, and know what part is for legal fees.
When my wife and I adopted our son, we were told that we needed to hire multiple attorneys. One to represent the birth mother. One to represent the child. One to represent the birth father. And one to represent us. When we adopted our daughter we needed even more. One for the child. One for the birth mother. One for us. And one for each of the three possible birth fathers! We were outnumbered! Since no agency was involved, the attorney fees, the home study and the court costs were our only expenses. And when it came time to file our income taxes we claimed the adoption tax credit and were reimbursed the entire amount. Both times.  We were fortunate. Adoptions can be, and in most cases are much more expensive.
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