Couples eager to start a family but unable to have biological children should definitely consider adoption, which can be an emotionally fulfilling and rewarding experience for both adoptive parents and child. Whether you’re looking to adopt an infant or older child, one with or without special needs, or open to adopting children of other cultural or racial backgrounds than your own, Pennsylvania lawyers experienced in practicing adoption law can help get you started. Soon, your dream of having a family of your own will become reality!
There are basically two different roads to adopting a child: adopting domestically here in the United States, or pursuing international adoption. Potential parents would be best served to seek out legal counsel with a proven track record in adoption law in order to decide which route is best for their particular needs, and to have an expert in their corner. A Pennsylvania lawyer practicing adoption law can give specific advice based on your particular needs, but here is some basic information for potential parents to consider as they begin investigating the possibility of adopting.
- One helpful resource for individuals hoping to adopt in Pennsylvania is the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN). This is a partnership among the Department of Public Welfare (DPW), the Pennsylvania Adoption Exchange, public and private adoption agencies, organizations, advocates, judges, Pennsylvania lawyers, and foster and adoptive parents whose mission is to build a better collaborative adoption process in Pennsylvania and to support the work of county agencies in expediting permanency services.
- Anyone with an approved family profile with SWAN may adopt. Those families wishing to adopt go through a rigorous information process with the adopting agency. Typically this process includes home visits and discussions with family members. Additionally, there will be background checks to verify employment, criminal and child abuse history, and character references. Once the profile is completed and approved, families will then be matched up with children waiting for their forever homes. By consulting one of the Pennsylvania lawyers practicing adoption law, you can find out more information on this process.
- Agencies, which often include Pennsylvania lawyers knowledgeable in adoption law, work hard to determine which family will best meet the needs of a child. They consider factors such as age, income, marital status and employment, although none of these items alone will necessarily disqualify families from qualifying to adopt. Pennsylvania’s goal is to be inclusive with potential families and foster as much diversity as possible.
- Adoption does not have to cost families an arm and a leg. Fees for private adoptions vary depending upon the agency, attorney fees for Pennsylvania lawyers, and the type of child the family wants to adopt. However, potential parents can adopt through the Pennsylvania foster care system via SWAN at little or no cost to adopting families. More information about adoption expenses is available from the child’s agency or by contacting the SWAN Helpline at 1-800-585-7926 (SWAN).
For those caregivers raising children of family members or friends who are interested in adopting the children under their care, Pennsylvania lawyers practicing adoption law can assist in the process of terminating parental rights. The following are factors that can give grounds to terminate parental rights:
- Abandonment for at least the six months immediately prior to the filing of a Petition to Terminate;
- Incompetency and neglect;
- Proof that the parent is not the biological parent of the child. Sometimes circumstances and legal doctrine can overturn this;
- Found Child–Child is in the custody of an agency because the parent(s) have disappeared or their identity remains unknown for three months after the child is found;
- Failure to remedy conditions six months after the removal of a child by an agency;
- Newborns under age six months if parent fails to maintain contact or financially support the child for four months and is not married or living with other parent;
- Rape and incest–parent is the father of a child conceived through rape or incest; or
- 12 month abandonment–12 months have passed since the child was placed with an agency and conditions have not been remedied.
The following circumstances, however, usually cannot be used alone as grounds for termination of parental rights:
- Mental illness, although courts must still consider the needs and welfare of children;
- Incarceration of a parent; or
- The child needs welfare or social services but the parent is taking steps to remedy the conditions which led to the removal of the child.