Adoption is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in a child's life. Attorney Strausbaugh has been representing clients in all types of adoptions throughout his career. It is important to know that in Pennsylvania, "any individual may be adopted regardless of age or residence." 23 Pa C.S. Section 2311. Further, "any individual may become an adopting parent." 23 Pa. C.S. Section 2312. The first procedural hurdle in securing an adoption decree is to terminate the parental rights of one or both natural parents.
Termination can occur either by a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights i.e. one or both of the natural parents desire to give up their parental rights in favor of the child being adopted by perhaps a stepparent, relatives or close friends.
Termination could also occur through involuntary termination proceedings wherein the court decides that the one or both of the natural parent's rights should be terminated. Although not an exhaustive list, some of the most common grounds for involuntary termination include:
"(1) The parent by conduct continuing for a period of at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition either has evidenced a settled purpose of relinquishing parental claim to a child or has refused or failed to perform parental duties.
(2) The repeated and continued incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal of the parent has caused the child to be without essential parental care, control or subsistence necessary for his physical or mental well-being and the conditions and causes of the incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal cannot or will not be remedied by the parent.
(3) The parent is the presumptive but not the natural father of the child.
(4) The child is in the custody of an agency, having been found under such circumstances that the identity or whereabouts of the parent is unknown and cannot be ascertained by diligent search and the parent does not claim the child within three months after the child is found.
(5) The child has been removed from the care of the parent by the court or under a voluntary agreement with an agency for a period of at least six months, the conditions which led to the removal or placement of the child continue to exist, the parent cannot or will not remedy those conditions within a reasonable period of time, the services or assistance reasonably available to the parent are not likely to remedy the conditions which led to the removal or placement of the child within a reasonable period of time and termination of the parental rights would best serve the needs and welfare of the child."
23 Pa.C.S. 23 Section 2511(a) et. seq.
There are very specific background checks and investigations that need to be completed as part of the adoption process. Further, the court is required to verify that the parent(s) whose rights are to be terminated are in fact the natural parents of the child. Also, the court must find that the prospective adoptive parents have "standing" to present the Petition for Termination and Adoption. Once the decree of termination is issued, the court must decide whether an adoption decree should be granted. Generally speaking, if the termination decree is entered the adoption decree is more of a formality but, again there is specific information that needs to be presented to the court to secure an adoption decree.
If you are interested in adopting a child(ren), please contact our office for an appointment today.