Adopting a Child in Pennsylvania

March 3, 2020

Adoptive families are formed in various ways. In Pennsylvania, a child may be adopted through an agency or through a private adoption. Information sharing and personal contact between the adoptive parents and the birth parents can be defined in an open adoption agreement. Otherwise, parties may decide that a closed adoption is best. Stepparents and other close relatives may prefer a simple clear-cut adoption process, but circumstances surrounding consent may complicate matters.

Types of Adoptions

It can help to clarify the terms used when discussing adoptions. A few of the common types of adoptions available in Pennsylvania include:

Open adoption: An open adoption allows the parties to agree to a certain level of contact between the parties after the birth and possibly throughout childhood. The agreement may simply mean that identities will be disclosed. Medical history information could be part of the disclosures. It could provide contact information and terms of enforceable contact. The terms of an open adoption can be tailored to the desires of the adoptive and biological parents.

Closed adoption: A closed adoption maintains the anonymity of the parties involved. Adoptive families may be able to access information about the biological parent or adoption circumstances, but opening adoption-related documents involves a legal process and is not guaranteed.

Agency adoption: An agency adoption is when an organization matches a birth mother with an adoptive family and handles the adoption process, which often includes counseling, adoptive family screening, home study, birth planning, and legal services. The agency may also act as an intermediary for post-adoption contact between the birth parent and adoptive family.

Private adoption: A private or independent adoption involves no intermediary. The parties involved seek to enter the adoption arrangement on their own, likely with the assistance of a legal professional. This is usually the case when a family member or close friend adopts the child.

Stepparent adoption: Stepparent adoptions can be complicated if the other birth parent refuses consent. In some cases, the system allows a stepparent to adopt without this consent, but it can be difficult since it involves the non-custodial parent losing parental rights.

Adoption Contact Enforcement in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that allows for open adoption contact agreements to be enforced. This provides legal recourse if either the birth parents or adoptive family decides to restrict contact in breach of the contact agreement.

In order for a post-adoption contact agreement to be enforceable, it must be in writing and approved by the court at the time of the adoption. The agreement may be modified or terminated if the child reaches the age of 12 and requests the change. Once the child reaches 18, the contact agreement is no longer enforceable.

Delaware County Family Law Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help Create Families

Adoptive families and birth parents have rights protected in the state of Pennsylvania. If you need assistance drawing up a contract for a private adoption, or legal representation in a case regarding enforcement of an adoption contract, speak to one of our lawyers today. Our expert Delaware County family law lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. will help you with all your questions regarding adoption contracts. Contact us online or call us at 610-565-3701 to schedule a confidential consultation. With office locations in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we also serve clients throughout Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.