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How to Adopt in Pennsylvania

Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Adopting a Child in Pennsylvania

Each state has different laws regarding who can adopt and how they can adopt. The following guidelines provide important information about the adoption process, laws and qualifications for prospective adoptive parents in Pennsylvania.

What are the laws and qualifications for adopting a child in Pennsylvania?

Any individual may be eligible to adopt in Pennsylvania. See “Home Study and Post-Placement Requirements in Pennsylvania” for more information about the home study, criminal background checks and training required for adoptive parents.

What adoption expenses can be paid by adoptive families in Pennsylvania?

Every state regulates the expenses that can be paid by adoptive parents during the adoption process. In Pennsylvania, adoptive parents are permitted to pay the following:

  • Birth parent expenses paid to an intermediary or third party for reimbursement of:
    • Medical and hospital expenses related to prenatal care and birth
    • Medical, hospital and foster care expenses incurred on behalf of the child prior to the adoption decree
  • Reasonable expenses incurred by the agency or a third party for counseling, training and support services provided to the adoptive parents and for home studies
  • Reasonable administrative expenses incurred by the agency, including overhead costs and attorney fees

It is unlawful in Pennsylvania to trade, barter, buy, sell or deal in infant children. The intermediary must file a written report with the court that includes an itemized accounting of all monies paid, agreed to be paid, or received in connection with the adoption. The court may provide appropriate relief when it finds the expenses reported to be excessive.

What are the laws to become a foster parent in Pennsylvania?

Foster parents in Pennsylvania must be at least 21 years of age and complete a licensing process, which includes:

  • Agency-required parent preparation training
  • State criminal background check and child abuse clearances
  • Federal criminal history record check (fingerprints)
  • Current physical, including a tuberculosis test
  • References
  • Home safety check and home study

What are the requirements to finalize an international adoption in Pennsylvania?

Adoptive parents in Pennsylvania must file a properly authenticated copy of the foreign adoption decree, a copy of the child’s visa, and the child’s birth certificate or other form of birth identification with the clerk of the court in the parent’s county of residence. If the adoption decree is not in English, they must also file a certified English translation. If no birth identification can be obtained, the adoptive parents must file an affidavit stating the reason why.

The adoption will be considered full and final only if both adopting parents (or the sole parent if only one person is adopting) were present for the adoption hearing in the foreign country, the foreign court entered a final adoption decree and the child’s visa affords him or her full U.S. citizenship. A foreign registration form should be submitted with the other necessary documents to the clerk of the court. Once the court has reviewed the documents and determined that the foreign adoption is full and final, the state will issue an adoption decree. The clerk will issue a certificate of adoption to the parent. Parents won’t be required to attend a hearing or obtain counsel. In cases where the child must be readopted to finalize the adoption, the court will provide the adopting parents with a standard petition, court order and instructions for their use.

Upon receipt of a certified copy of the adoption decree and proof of the child’s birth date and place, the state will complete and register a birth certificate.

Is it legal to use advertising or facilitators to adopt in Pennsylvania?

The use of advertisements is not addressed in state statutes. Pennsylvania allows the use of adoption intermediaries or facilitators as long as they meet certain requirements:

  • Provide the adoptive parents with any available background information about the child and his or her birth parents
  • Make sure the adoptive parents have completed approved home studies
  • Report to the court all fees and expenses paid

Pennsylvania also limits the payments that can be made to an intermediary. Permissible payments include:

  • Reimbursement for medical and hospital expenses related to prenatal care and birth
  • Medical, hospital and foster care expenses of the child prior to adoption
  • Reasonable expenses for counseling, training and support services provided to the adoptive parents or for home studies
  • Reasonable administrative expenses incurred by the intermediary, including overhead costs and attorney fees

Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Placing a Baby for Adoption in Pennsylvania

If you are considering adoption for your child, you likely have several questions about the rules and regulations of placing a baby for adoption in Pennsylvania. The following will help answer some of your questions about Pennsylvania adoption law.

When and how can birth parents consent to the adoption?

The waiting period before consent can be executed in Pennsylvania is 72 hours after birth. Birth fathers are allowed to execute consent at any time before or after the child’s birth.

The parent may petition the court for permission to relinquish parental rights. The court will hold a hearing within 10 days of receiving the petition. The petitioner must appear at the hearing, and the court will enter a decree of termination of parental rights. If a putative father fails to file a petition, appear at the hearing or file a written objection to the termination and has not filed a claim of paternity, the court may enter a decree terminating his parental rights.

If the child’s parents have executed consent, the court will hold a hearing to confirm consent to the adoption. The consent, which shall include the date and place of its execution and names, addresses and signatures of at least two witnesses, will be attached to the petition.

Who must consent to the adoption?

In Pennsylvania, consent to an adoption is required of the following:

  • The spouse of the adopting parent, unless he or she joins in the adoption petition
  • Any surviving parent of the child
  • The guardian of an incapacitated person to be adopted
  • The guardian or custodian of a child if the child’s parents’ consent is not required
  • In an older child adoption, the child must consent to the adoption if he or she is 12 or older

The mother’s husband is not required to consent to the adoption if he is not the natural father of the child.

The parent’s consent is not needed when the person to be adopted is age 18 or older, the child has no living parent whose consent is required, parental rights have been terminated or the court finds that grounds exist for involuntary termination of rights. 

When does the birth parents’ consent become irrevocable? If a birth parent revokes consent, is the child automatically returned to the birth parent?

The birth parent is allowed to withdraw consent within 30 days. After 30 days of executing consent, it becomes irrevocable unless there is evidence that consent was obtained through fraud or duress. A petition alleging fraud or duress must be filed within 60 days after the birth of the child or the execution of consent or after 30 days of the entry of the adoption decree.

What rights does the father of the baby have in Pennsylvania adoptions?

In Pennsylvania, a man may be presumed to be a child’s father, and therefore has parental rights, if:

  • He and the mother of the child born out of wedlock have married each other
  • He openly claims the child as his own, receives the child into his home or provides support for the child
  • There is clear and convincing evidence that he is the father of the child, including a prior court determination of paternity

The father of a child born out of wedlock may file a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity of the child, which must include the mother’s consent, with the Department of Public Welfare. If the mother of the child will not join in the acknowledgment of paternity, the Department of Public Welfare will file it as a claim of paternity. Filing a claim of paternity does not confer upon the putative father any rights to the child, but it does protect the father’s right to notice of any proceeding brought to terminate parental rights to the child.

An acknowledgment of paternity constitutes conclusive evidence of paternity without further action to establish paternity. The name of the father will be included on the child’s birth certificate if he and the mother have signed the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or if a court or administrative agency has issued an adjudication of paternity.

Home Study and Post-Placement Requirements in Pennsylvania

Before you will be eligible to adopt or foster in Pennsylvania, you must complete a pre-placement and post-placement home study. The home study is an assessment of prospective parents that evaluates your ability to provide a stable, nurturing home to a child.

What is included in the Pennsylvania home study process?

The home study report will address the home environment, family life, parenting skills, age, physical and mental health, social, cultural and religious background, facilities and resources of the adoptive parents and their ability to manage their resources.

For every adult resident in the home, the following information will be required:

  • Criminal history record information from the state police
  • Fingerprint-based federal criminal history information
  • Certification from the state as to whether the applicant is named in the central register as the perpetrator of a founded or indicated report of child abuse. If a resident of the home has resided outside of the state at any time within the previous five years, they must also submit a certification in each state where they resided

Who is included in the Pennsylvania home study process?

The home study investigation must include the prospective adoptive parents and any other adult residing in the home.

Who will conduct the home study?

In Pennsylvania, the home study must be conducted by a local public child care agency, an adoption agency or a licensed social worker designated by the court.

What are the qualifications to complete a home study?

Any individual may become an adopting parent.

On what grounds will the home study not be approved in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, the home study may not be approved if the prospective adoptive parent or an individual age 14 or older who resides for at least 30 days in a calendar year with the prospective adoptive parent meets any of the following:

  • Is named in the central register as the perpetrator of a founded report of child abuse committed within the previous five years
  • Has been found guilty at any time of criminal homicide, aggravated assault, kidnapping, rape, sexual assault, incest, endangering the welfare of children, prostitution or sexual abuse of children
  • Has been found guilty of a drug-related offense within the past five years

When should the home study be completed? When must the home study be renewed?

The home study must be completed every three years and supplemented within one year prior to placement. The pre-placement report must be filed with the court when the report of intention to adopt is filed.

What are the post-placement study requirements for Pennsylvania?

When a report of intention to adopt has been filed, the court will order that a local public child care agency, a voluntary child care agency or an appropriate person designated by the court prepare an investigation and file a report with the court. The report will cover all pertinent information regarding the child’s eligibility for adoption and the suitability of the placement, including the physical, mental and emotional needs and welfare of the child and the child’s and adopting parents’ age, sex, health and racial, ethnic and religious background.

What are the home study requirements to adopt a child from another state?

Any placement of a child outside of Pennsylvania is subject to the provisions of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), an agreement between all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands that regulates interstate adoption placements. The child will not be sent to the adoptive parents’ state until that state’s authorities have notified the Pennsylvania child-placing agency, in writing, that the placement does not appear to be contrary to the interests of the child.

What are the pre-placement requirements to adopt a child that is currently in my care?

When a child’s goal has been changed from foster care to adoption, the child has resided with his or her current foster family for six months or more and the child’s current foster parent is interested in becoming an adoptive parent for that child, the adoptive parents will be given an interview with the appropriate county or private agency.

The interviewing agency will provide information obtained during the interview, along with information obtained from interviews with other prospective adoptive families, to the county agency responsible for determining the child’s adoptive placement.

For more information about foster care and foster-to-adopt placements, visit http://www.adoptpakids.org/.

To begin the home study process, contact a trusted local home study provider:

  • Adoption Related Services, Inc.
    Adoption Related Services, Inc., is a licensed adoption agency serving families throughout Pennsylvania. The agency offers domestic and international home studies.
  • Families United Network, Inc.
    Families United Network, Inc., is a full-service, nonprofit adoption agency licensed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and accredited by the Council on Accreditation as having fully met the Hague Convention standards for international adoption. The agency offers home study services for families seeking to adopt domestically or internationally.
  • Caring Adoption Associates
    Caring Adoption Associates is a fully licensed adoption agency run by a licensed social worker and adoptive parent. The agency provides domestic and international home studies for Pennsylvania adoptive parents.
  • La Vida International
    La Vida International is a licensed, Hague Accredited, nonprofit adoption agency serving singles and couples throughout Pennsylvania that offers domestic and international home study services.
  • Haven Adoptions, Inc.
    Haven Adoptions, Inc., is a fully licensed Pennsylvania agency with a home study process that is designed to provide adoptive families with the utmost support, education and personal attention.

Visit 1800HomeStudy.com to learn more about Pennsylvania home study providers.

Pennsylvania Adoption Professionals

When you are ready to begin your adoption journey, your adoption professional can help guide you through the process. These licensed professionals are experienced in completing local adoptions and can help ensure that you meet all Pennsylvania legal and home study requirements:

Things to do in Pennsylvania

Between visits with prospective birth parents and waiting for ICPC clearances, you may find yourself in the Keystone State at some point in your adoption journey. Here are a few fun ways to spend your time in Pennsylvania:

For more information about traveling to Pennsylvania, visit www.visitpa.com.

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