In our society adoption has become an accepted way to build a family or to legally confirm already existing family relationships. In Pennsylvania any individual may be adopted, regardless of age or residence, and any adult individual may become an adopting parent.
Before a minor child may be adopted, the rights of their biological parents must be terminated. This may be done voluntarily through the consent of the parent, or involuntarily by the Court. A biological parent’s written consent to the adoption of their child is irrevocable after 30 days from the date of signing.
The Court will involuntarily terminate a parent’s rights if that parent has abandoned the child for at least six (6) months thereby showing, “a settled purpose of relinquishing a parental claim to the child”. A hearing must be held, and the parent informed of the date and time of the hearing, prior to a Decree of Termination being entered by the Court.
Once the rights of the biological parents have been terminated, the adoption process may begin. The adopting parents must obtain federal (FBI) and state (PA State Police) clearances, and must also be cleared from the Child Abuse Registry. In addition, they must submit to a home study conducted by a licensed agency, which will recommend to the Court that the adopting parents will be able to provide a healthy and happy home for the child.
Any individual over the age of eighteen (18) years may consent to adoption by another adult without the consent of his biological parents and absent home study or the clearances described above.
After a hearing closed to the public, but which may be attended by the parties’ family and friends, a Decree of Adoption is entered by the Court and an amended birth certificate, if requested, is subsequently provided from PA Vital Records. From the date of the Adoption Decree forward, the adopted child is a member of his adopting family, and both parents and child are invested with all the rights, and burdened with all the obligations, imposed by a biological connection.
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