As an expectant mother or birth parent, you may be wondering, “How does adoption in PA work?” It can seem like an overwhelming time deciding whether to place your baby for adoption, but it does not have to be. With the right information, you can make the best well-informed decision for you and your baby. A great place to start when researching adoption in Pennsylvania is at Adoption.com’s resource guide on Adoption in Pennsylvania. It is a comprehensive resource guide on PA state adoption laws and regulations for birth parents, as well as information for hopeful adoptive parents.
Adoption Agencies in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
A great place to start when beginning your research on adoption in PA is to find adoption agencies in PA. This list includes a directory of all adoption agencies in the state of PA. A list of adoption agencies located in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is helpful, but it may be confusing or overwhelming to determine which is a great adoption agency for you and your baby. Adoption agencies are a wonderful place to begin your process. Whether you feel pretty certain of your decision to place your baby for adoption, or are still gathering information on all of your options, adoption agencies are a good starting point. There is no pressure or commitment to work with an agency at the onset of the process. Deciding which agencies are best to interview can be a daunting step in the process. Narrowing the list based on location in PA and services provided for birth parents and hopeful adoptive parents is key. Many people (both birth mothers and adoptive families) enter the adoption process for the first time with the preconceived notion that all adoption agencies are the same. As the former Executive Director of the Joint Council on International Services, I was often asked, “What are the best agencies? Are all agencies the same?” Agencies differ, so doing research on sites like Adoption.com and Adoption.org is critical to ensuring you are working with an ethical agency that will support your choices as a birth mother and be focused on both your and your baby’s best interests.
As an expectant parent, it is very helpful that most adoption agencies in PA will have a number of hopeful adoptive parents with whom the agencies are working who are looking to build a family through adoption. These professionals may have profiles for you to view hopeful adoptive parents. Agencies can organize in-person interviews and meetings so that you can personally choose the family with whom you place your baby. Those prospective adoptive parents will often provide a profile or even a photo album of photos of the couple, family history, their marriage, pets, and any other children the family may have.
Adoption Attorneys in Pennsylvania
Many expectant parents may have also heard of the option to have an adoption attorney help with an adoption plan. Many birth mothers like to use an adoption attorney instead of an adoption agency as the adoption service provided when she has already identified a potential adoptive family or couple. This is especially the case if both members of the triad do not have an adoption agency with whom the family is already using. This often happens when the birth mother connects with the potential adoptive couple due to a mutual connection or online through adoption photolistings like the ones on Adoption.com.
An expectant parent who has already identified a hopeful adoptive family for her baby will need an adoption attorney to help with her adoption, especially early on in the process after connecting with a prospective adoptive couple. Many expectant parents are wondering if he or she can simply use any attorney the couple knows to help finalize the adoption in PA. However, this seems like the one place you can use someone you know and trust, but very few attorneys practice adoption law exclusively, and you are not alone in thinking you can ask a general practitioner to help with your adoption. Many birth mothers do just that. The problem arises when your non-specialized attorney neglects to appropriately address all of the applicable laws regarding adoption in PA. Adoption attorneys in PA specialized in understanding applicable Commonwealth of Pennsylvania laws, which usually govern the adoption for the most part, as well as all federal laws pertaining to adoption.
Choosing an Adoption Agency or Adoption Attorney in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Most adoption agencies specializing in private domestic adoptions—and especially those who help support and facilitate the adoption for the birth mother—will offer many different services for the families. These adoption services will be specific for each member of the adoption triad—the birth mother, the child, and the hopeful adoptive parents or family.
These adoption services provided by each adoption attorney or agency will differ, but most are the same to meet the requirements and regulations within PA. Adoption.org has an article on choosing great adoption agencies near you in PA. Whether you utilize an adoption agency or adoption attorney to help you through the adoption process for you and your baby, professionals will help you navigate those requirements in PA and help you with the steps in you and your baby’s adoption journey. Fortunately, you will have help navigating the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s laws during your adoption journey.
However you plan to complete your baby’s adoption placement, it is important to ensure that you work with an ethical agency or adoption attorney who meets not only the standards imposed by PA’s regulations but also your own values and needs. It’s important to trust your instincts and the recommendations of your friends, families, or others you may know, and more importantly trust, who have gone through the adoption process. By doing your research you will know which questions to ask your adoption service provider, whether that is an attorney or adoption agency.
Prospective Adoptive Parents in Pennsylvania
According to PA adoption laws, single adults or married couples may jointly adopt the child you place for adoption. These individuals must be 21 years of age, but there is no requirement for financial capability, years married, or educational level. All hopeful adoptive parents must be approved by a Pennsylvania adoption home study. The home study will include background and FBI checks for every adult in the home, including obviously the prospective adoptive parents, interviews with friends, children’s teachers, neighbors, and employers. The home will be inspected in person by a licensed social worker from the home study agency, and all of this information will be compiled in a report with financials, driving records, employment history, and medical exams and history. This will be helpful as an expectant parent as you make your final decision on your baby’s adoptive family.
The Adoption Process in Pennsylvania as a Birth Mother
Many adoption attorneys and most adoption agencies in PA have a number of prospective adoptive parents with whom the professionals are working who are looking to build a family through adoption. Agencies or attornies may have profiles for you to view prospective adoptive parents. These social workers can organize in-person interviews and meetings so that you can personally choose the family with whom you place your baby. As shared above, those hopeful adoptive parents will likely provide a profile or even a photo album of them and their personal family history. Hopeful adoptive parents will also go through a home study to ensure the home is safe and the couple has the proper education and preparation going into an adoption. The home study needs to be done by social workers licensed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or licensed adoption professionals in the prospective adoptive parents’ state in which the family lives, which may be PA or another state. The home study is all-inclusive of the information you and the social worker will need to deem the couple as suitable future parents. The home study ensures the home and family are safe and prepared for adopting your baby. The prospective adoptive parents will need to complete parenting training, have interviews with the social worker, and complete home visits to ensure it is safe and prepared for a child. The home study also includes recommendations from employers, friends, family, and teachers of children in the home. Every individual living in the home is interviewed, goes through an FBI live scan background check, and is researched in each county where they have lived. Driving records, income levels, medical, education, and employment histories are also disclosed and included in the home study report. Once you have chosen one or a few sets of parents with whom you would like to connect, if you didn’t select and meet your preferred prospective adoptive parents before picking an agency, your adoption agency or adoption attorney will act as an intermediary and help facilitate that first conversation. These social workers will work with you as you navigate that process of connecting with and interviewing prospective parents for your baby. Agencies or attorneys make the process as stress-free as possible for you.
The adoption agency or adoption attorney can also work with you and the adoptive parents to determine what birth mother expenses will be paid for by the prospective adoptive parents. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania allows for a prospective adoptive family to pay for a birth mother’s medical and counseling expenses, ensuring that the adoption process costs the birth mother nothing. However, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania makes it illegal for a prospective adoptive couple or parent to pay for any of either birth parent’s living expenses. Your adoption agency or adoption attorney can help you understand what expenses can be covered legally in PA.
At the end of your pregnancy, when you are in labor, your adoption attorney or adoption agency will inform the prospective adoptive parents, if you have not already, that you are at the hospital or birthing center. Most times, the birth mother is in close communication with the prospective adoptive parents she chose for her baby and lets the couple know when the birth is imminent. Sometimes, the birth mother will even schedule an induction to ensure that those she chooses to be present, including the hopeful adoptive family, can be present. Your adoption agency or adoption attorney will make sure your plan is communicated with the prospective adoptive parents if you have not directly done so.
After birth, there are various steps in completing the relinquishment paperwork and finalizing the adoption. There will be time before you sign any paperwork relinquishing your maternal or parental rights. You can have as much time as you need with your baby alone after birth. Some mothers want a few minutes alone, others many hours. There is no right or wrong decision—this is entirely your decision.
The waiting period before adoption consent can be executed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is 72 hours after the birth of your baby. You will have those days to ensure this is the decision you want to make. Birth fathers are able to execute adoption consent at any time both before and after your baby’s birth.
Once you have executed consent for your child to be adopted, the juvenile, family or adoption court in your county will hold a hearing to confirm consent to the adoption which will include the place the adoption took place, the date of the adoption, and the identifying information of two witnesses (including names and addresses). Your agency or attorney will help with all of this—do not stress.
The decision of when or even if you sign the adoption consent paperwork is up to you. You can change your mind. You can ask all of the questions you need and speak to your support people or social workers. You have the right to make sure this is the decision you still want to make—to place your child for adoption.
During this time, you will begin the level of communication upon which all adoption triad members agreed to at the start of your adoption journey when interviewing and deciding on an adoptive family for your baby. The level of communication is up to you and agreed upon before the child is born. You may want to receive photos at certain milestones, letters, or even visit your child in person. Some birth mothers want photo albums once a year. Others enjoy regular phone calls scheduled weekly or monthly. Other mothers want a semi-open adoption where she only receives letters one-way from the adoptive parents and does not have open and regular communication from the adoptive parents. Most birth mothers and parents do not have a closed adoption plan. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a law was passed in 2017 that allows those who have been adopted to access their birth certificate and adoption records. If you are contemplating a closed adoption, to address privacy concerns, the law allows birth parents to redact names from birth certificates before the documents are given to those who have been adopted who are over 18. Birth parents can also fill out a contact form stating your preference for whether you wish to be contacted and how. You can also decide to have a third party be contacted by your baby instead of you. All birth parents in PA are asked to complete a medical history form, regardless of whether you wish to be contacted or not in a closed adoption.
After placing your baby for adoption, you may feel a range of emotions during this time including sadness, grief, relief, confusion, or peace. Reaching out to loved ones, friends, your social worker, therapist, and family is important. Continuing counseling, which can be paid for by birth parent expenses in PA, is important. Taking time for yourself as you go through the process is crucial. Self-care and time are needed. And above all else, as you begin this adoption journey conducting research and speaking with an adoption service provider in PA about the options available to you regarding adoption in PA is very important. Understanding all the steps involved in how adoption works will help you take the first step.
If you would like to speak confidentially with an adoption professional about your pregnancy options, click here.
Jennifer Mellon is the co-founder and president of Trustify, providing private investigators on demand to consumers and businesses. She has worked in the child welfare field for more than a decade, serving as the executive director and chief development officer at Joint Council on International Children’s Services. She also worked for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) and served on the board of the Campagna Center, which provides critical educational services to children and families in the DC Metro region. She currently serves on the development board for the National Council for Adoption and currently resides in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband and five children.