3. PROFESSIONAL LICENSING AND CONSUMER RATING – Check if they are licensed in your state. You can also look at www.adoptionattorneys.org which lists attorneys who have been vetted by the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and have a minimum amount of related adoption experience. Find a local adoptive parent group and talk to adoptive parents about whom they used and if they were satisfied with the legal services they received.
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.
Because of the complexities of the adoption process and the potential for negative consequences, it is not recommended that you attempt to do an adoption pro se. Even a consent adoption within the family, for example, an aunt and uncle adopting a nephew with full consent of the birth parents, should still be prepared and shepherded through the court by an attorney.
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.
You still have to find both parents (or make every attempt to locate them) in order to do TPR. Once TPR is completed by the court, then you can begin adoption process. If you can't locate the birthparent, you have to show valid attempts at really trying to locate them. A judge won't TPR because you said you can't find them. You have to SHOW PROOF that you really tried - for example, by contacting motor vehicles to get address, putting notices in newspapers, sending certified mail to all known addresses..etc. If a judge isn't 100% convinced that you did everything possible short of going door to door in the state, he will not TPR. He'll tell you to hire a private investigator to find the parents. There is no way to adopt a child without the birthparents finding out about it. You have to locate that birthmother & get her consent or prove that you went through great lengths to locate her. Once she is found, they will try to find out who the birthdad is-and then probably have you post a notice in the newspaper and check the putative father's registry to make sure he has been notified of the adoption. Once you have birthparents consent OR a judge agrees that you made a 100% effort to locate the birthparents & signs TPR, THEN you can file your paperwork to adopt. You can't do it without birthparents consent.

Throughout this process, remember that your adoption attorney is there to help, assist, and guide you. He or she should know of all your state’s adoption laws, rules, and regulations. Working with an adoption attorney is a great way to progress through the placement process because of the step-by-step and hands-on help that your adoption attorney should offer. Make use of the resources around you as you explore your options.
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.

Some expectant mothers need help covering expenses. Each state has different laws about what expenses can be covered, who can distribute the funds, and whether the funds must be paid directly to the provider. Failing to follow the laws regarding expectant mother expenses can potentially result in criminal liability. An experienced adoption attorney will know what expenses are permitted, how they can be disbursed, and who can disburse them.
Each state makes its own laws in the area of adoption, according to state statute. While some federal laws do apply, practices and policies can vary widely from one state to another or even from one county to the next. To learn about laws specific to your state or jurisdiction, visit the website of the Child Welfare Information Gateway, at http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/ or contact your county's Department of Children and Youth.

I think in PA it is 18 but I will check into it. I'm very open with her and she could see her birth mother now if she wanted to and we could actually locate her. She met her three siblings last year and now keeps in touch with them. My adopted son (now 20 years old) has no interest in meeting with his bio mom or siblings but I've always been open with him and left him know it was an option.
The laws of the state in which the child was adopted determine who has access to the original birth certificate or other adoption records, and whether those records are sealed (unavailable). For information about the law in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, see the: http://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/. This links to the Child Welfare Information League’s numerous publications on the legal aspects of adoption.
The law limits the amount of time a child may stay in foster care by establishing shorter timelines for determining when she or he must have a plan for permanency. The law states that permanency court hearings must be held for children no later than 12 months after they enter foster care and the law also states that termination of parental rights proceedings must begin for any child who has been in the care of a state agency for 15 out of the most recent 22 months. Exceptions may be made to this requirement if the child is in the care of a relative or for other compelling reasons.

There are many methods available for finding an adoption attorney that is best for your specific situation. If you know of anyone who has been in a similar situation, ask him or her for referrals and contact information for the adoption attorney he or she used. You can also contact local adoption agencies. They should have a list of adoption attorneys they’ve worked with before. Consider joining and actively participating in a support group. This is another great way to receive contact information or adoption attorney referrals. And one of the easiest ways to receive contact information is through our professional directory. Your search can be state-specific and professional type-specific.
Many adoption attorneys have flat fee services for simple issues like document drafting, review, and filing. For more complex issues like talking to an adoptions agency or going to court, most lawyers charge an hourly rate. Rates will vary depending on the complexity of your issue and where in the country you live, so negotiate a rate up front with your attorney to avoid costly surprises.
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