adoption law in PA

Understanding Adoption Requirements in Pennsylvania

An unexpected pregnancy can make you feel out of control. You may not feel ready to parent, but you still want what’s best for your baby.

Knowing about the adoption process can help you reclaim control over the situation. When you are fully educated about the adoption process in Pennsylvania, you can make your adoption plan with confidence that you’ve made the best decisions for yourself and your baby.

 

Eligibility for Adoption in Pennsylvania

For the protection of children, birth mothers, and adoptive parents, adoption is a very highly regulated process. At times, it can seem overwhelming. But in the end, most people recognize that all the safeguards are in place for a reason.

Pennsylvania adoption law allows any individual to adopt without discrimination based on age, gender, sexuality, marital status, or religion. Some private agencies apply a more narrow scope to eligibility. Others, like Haven Adoptions, choose to work with adoptive parents from any background, but we will apply a birth mom’s preferences to matching family profiles.

Prospective parents must complete a Home Study if they are pursuing a private domestic infant adoption in Pennsylvania. The home study ensures that the family is financially, physically, and emotionally prepared to adopt a child. Birth moms feel more secure when they know that every family they evaluate has already been fully vetted and qualified.

The home study also covers the criminal background check component of eligibility. Rest assured that the parents who hope to adopt your child have been thoroughly examined to ensure that they are ready to welcome a baby into their home.

 

Legal Aspects of Adoption in Pennsylvania

If you have decided to place your child for adoption, the process is fairly straightforward. That being said, you need to be aware of your rights and the legal limitations according to Pennsylvania adoption laws.

 

Consent

For a private adoption in Pennsylvania, birth parents must give their consent to the adoption and the termination of their parental rights. For biological mothers, this consent cannot be made until 72 hours after the baby’s birth. You have the right to revoke consent for up to 30 days.

The terms of a biological father’s consent to proceed with adoption are a bit more complex. For an adoption in Pennsylvania, it depends on whether the birth father has been identified, has provided financial or emotional support, or has established a desire to parent the child. Always talk to your adoption agency caseworker about any concerns you have regarding the birth father.

 

Expenses

Adoptive parents typically pay at least a portion of the birth mother’s medical and counseling expenses. It is illegal for adoptive parents to pay for a birth mom’s living expenses or other bills.

Any money that is exchanged between adoptive parents and the birth parents should be done under the advice of an attorney and preferably managed through a licensed adoption agency.

If you have financial difficulties during your pregnancy, speak with your adoption caseworker first. Agencies have many resources and connections to ensure a safe place to live, enough food to eat, and proper medical care. Never reach out directly to the adoptive parents about financial needs because it might be against the law.

 

Other Legal Considerations

The Interstate Compact Office manages interstate adoption to ensure that an adoption complies with the laws of both states. Most adoption agencies, including Haven Adoptions, work with this office to coordinate adoptions for children coming into Pennsylvania or being adopted from Pennsylvania.

Adoption laws in PA enforce post-adoption contact agreements. This means that whether you have an open or closed adoption plan, you have legal options if the agreement needs to be followed by the other parties involved. Post-adoption contact agreements help to protect your ability to have contact with your child long after the adoption is finalized.

 

The Adoption Process

When you’re considering adoption, it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. What an adoption agency can do for birth moms is provide a listening ear, steadfast support, practical information, and meaningful counseling.

You should be empowered to make the decision that is ultimately best for yourself and your baby. The entire process should be clear and easy for you to understand.

Your first call to an adoption agency is hard, but remember that you don’t have to be committed to a decision when you call. One of the purposes of adoption agencies is to provide education, counseling, and advocacy so that you remain in control of your plan.

As the birth mom, you will receive counseling about adoption and education about your rights. You’ll also get access to resources for medical care, legal services, peer support, and creating an adoption plan. You will get to choose the family who adopts your child with different options for interviews and meetings depending on whether you want an open or closed adoption.

When it comes time to sign your consent to terminate parental rights, your advocate will confirm that you understand the paperwork. The goal is always to feel at peace with your decision and know you are supported. As you move forward, you will have continued access to counseling and peer support. If you have an open adoption plan, you’ll have visits or receive updates depending on your agreement with the adoptive parents.

 

Types of Adoption

The flexibility of adoption plans has grown significantly in the past few decades. Adoption today can be as unique as the families involved. The level of openness is up to you, and you will only be matched with families who agree with your choices.

An open adoption plan means that there is some level of ongoing contact between the birth mom and the adoptive family. A closed adoption means that there is no direct communication between the birth parents and the adoptive parents.

In a closed adoption, the birth mother might agree to receive annual pictures or updates through the adoption agency. They might also place information about their medical history on file for the adoptive family to access. If the birth mom later decides that she would like to communicate with the child (or if the child wants to share with her), the request needs to be initiated through the adoption agency.

Open adoption plans are very flexible. In some cases, there is regular, ongoing contact between the birth mother and the adoptive family. In others, the contact is limited to pictures and letters but is exchanged directly rather than through the agency.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

The following FAQs address questions about adoption requirements in Pennsylvania. Visit our Birth Mother FAQ page for answers to other common questions.

 

Am I required to identify the baby’s father?

We understand that things with the biological father might be complicated, and so does the PA court system. We will guide you through the legal requirements of biological father consent while we help you develop your adoption plan.

 

Can I change my mind about having an open or closed adoption?

Adoption contact agreements are legally enforceable in Pennsylvania, so it depends on when you change your mind and what changes you want to make. Always contact us if you are feeling unsure about any decisions you have made. Your caseworker is a knowledgeable sounding board who can help you figure out what to do next.

 

Do I have to go to court for the finalization?

In Pennsylvania, you do not have to attend court. Once you sign your termination paperwork, your legal obligations are complete. Other states may have different requirements for birth moms.

 

What if I need help with housing?

Pennsylvania has laws that restrict financial assistance for birth moms who intend to place their baby for adoption. Contact your caseworker if you are facing housing insecurity or if you are struggling to pay your bills. We have many resources to make sure that you have a safe place to stay.

 

Closing

At Haven Adoptions, we are committed to providing hope and support to everyone we work with. We come alongside birth moms with compassion, kindness, support, education, and personalized care. We put their needs first so they are empowered to make the best plan for their child. Contact us to learn more about our adoption services for birth moms and explore whether adoption is right for you. You can call or text us anytime, day or night.

About the Author

Kelly Weidner is a co-founder of Haven Adoptions, Inc., and is a a well respected advocate in the adoption community. In that time, she has lead Haven Adoptions in connecting countless children with loving homes. Kelly is a member of the National Association for Professional Women, on the Executive Committee of the Our Lady of Mercy Board of Jurisdiction and lives in Ambler, PA with her three children.
Back to Blog