While you may work with social workers, Internet consultants, and other professionals throughout your adoption, your attorney will by your legal guide throughout your adoption process. Because you will be placing a great amount of trust in their legal expertise and guidance, you need to make sure you choose the right attorney for your type of adoption. No one can tell you whom to choose. If you have done your research, understand what an attorney can and cannot do in your state, checked their licensing, experience and consumer rating with adoptive parents, and consulted with local adoption professionals (such as social workers, homestudy providers and counselors) you will just get the “feeling” this is the right person to help you build your family.
The role of an adoption attorney includes filing the appropriate paperwork to begin, continue, and finish the placement process. Another duty or responsibility of an adoption attorney is to appear with you during adoption proceedings. Your adoption attorney should also help you with completely understanding your state’s specific adoption laws. This is something you’ll want to look for when you begin your adoption attorney search– someone who knows the applicable regulations and laws and how they will apply and affect you.
A judge's role in the adoption process is to make any needed changes in the child's legal status. While a waiting child is in foster care, the child's case is usually reviewed periodically in court, to determine whether the goal should be reunification with the birth family or adoption. If the goal is changed, it must be done by a judge. A family court judge will make the decision to terminate parental rights of the birthparents and will preside over the finalization hearing and issue the adoption decree.
Adoption may be a new process for you. Since it is a legal process, you will need an attorney to guide you and ensure that the adoption meets all state laws and regulations. In some states, an attorney is needed from the start of the process (i.e., in New York State adoptive parents must be Pre-Certified through their local court prior to taking custody of a child). All adoptions need an attorney to finalize the parent-child relationship through the court.
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.
From your post, it sounds like you want to do a private adoption without the birthparents involvement. Unfortunately, it's not possible to go around the birthparents' rights. They have to be notified of your intention to adopt & you have to have their consent. And like I said, if you want to go the "I can't find them" route, it has to be an honest "I hired a private investigator and here is everything we've done" kind of situation. You have to convince a judge (who doesn't terminate parental rights on a whim) that you did everything humanly possible to contact that birthmom
An adoption lawyer will be knowledgeable on state- and country-specific adoption laws and provide guidance based on your situation, whether it be a private adoption, a step parent adoption, or if you’re a same sex couple wanting to adopt. A lawyer can prepare you for any hearings that may be required in the adoption process. In addition, your adoption attorney can represent you in court if there are legal complications, such as the birth parents changing their minds or trying to extort you.