This overview is provided for all who contemplate
the joy that comes from providing care for one,
tiny, precious and demanding human being.

dreamstime s 1863231Adoption is the assumption of the rights and duties of a parent by another adult, often a step-parent, but not necessarily, of a child or, in rarer circumstances, an adult.  

Adoption of a minor child requires the termination of the child’s birth parents’ parental rights by a court, after notice and a hearing, unless the parent has predeceased the child.   Adoption of an adult does not require the consent or termination of the natural parent’s parent-child relationship.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania require numerous pre-placement issues be addressed whenever a family or individual is contemplating an adoption.

These considerations are initially guided by whichever scenario is shaping events (see below):

  1. Is the prospective adoptive parent(s) going to use an intermediary (such as an adoption agency or placement through a foster care organization), or
  2. Is the prospective adoptive parents(s) pursuing a private adoption (as in the case of a second parent adoption, a step-parent adoption, or an independent adoption)?

Pennsylvania Adoption Law requires an objective pre-placement analysis to be conducted for adoptions using an intermediary agency or organization. A home study of the prospective family and residence must be documented and a series of pre-placement reports must be presented to the court.

Usually a licensed adoption agency is hired to conduct these studies and reports. Their procedures and fees can vary.

The court also requires criminal background checks and child abuse clearances to be obtained.

Another important part of the pre-placement process is obtaining the social and medical history of the birth parents and the birth mother’s pre-natal records.  Prior to presenting this information to the adoptive parents the information identifying the birth parent and the baby can be deleted to ensure confidentiality.

Consideration is based upon jurisdictional boundaries.
  1. Will the adoption be intrastate? This situation identifies that all parties -- the child, the birth parents and the adoptive parents -- each reside within The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  2. Will the adoption be interstate? Here the child, the birth parents and the adoptive parents reside in different states in the United States of America.
  3. Will the adoption be international? Usually this occurs when American parents wish to adopt a child in a foreign country.

Interstate Adoptions

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) governs all interstate adoptions. All 50 of our United States participate in the ICPC. This agreement ensures that no child will be transported to another state unless the sending agency has complied with the ICPC’s provisions and the laws of the receiving state.  

ICPC initially requires the birth parents to review and approve a form (ICPC Form 100A) that is then forwarded to the ICPC office in the receiving state for their approval.  Key documents are forwarded to both state offices in anticipation of their approval for the child to cross state lines.

International Adoptions

When families are called to adopt a child across international boundaries, the process is more extended and detailed.  Additional requirements must be met and additional procedures followed. 

Although international adoptions often come at a higher cost, many adoptive parents find advantages in knowing that the waiting period to complete the adoption process is often more predictable and therefore less “nerve wracking”.

Another positive, attribute to international adoptions is that foreign nations commonly have younger children available for adoption. Often there is no direct communication or interaction with the birth parents.  This reduces the risk of a parental change of heart when the natural parents are confronted with termination of their parental rights prior to the referral of the child to the adoptive parent.

On the other hand, there is less medical certainty regarding accurate and complete health information regarding the child to be adopted and his or her birth parents.

The International Adoption Process Looks Like This:
  • Complete the child placing agency application
  • Complete and submit the I-600A and supporting documents US Citizenship and Immigration Services Application for Advance Processing
  • Complete a home study from the Adoptive Parents’ state of residency
  • Complete the foreign nation’s application packet of information
  • Obtain the foreign nation’s approval of the adoption packet
  • Once approval has been obtained, the foreign nation then offers a child for consideration. To finalize the adoption, the adoptive family travels to the country. The child’s documents are next submitted to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and an immigrant Visa is obtained and the child is able to enter the United States with his or her new adoptive parents.
  • Once home in the USA, the adoptive parents will be required to complete whatever necessary paperwork and participate in whatever observational visitations have been identified by the placing agency and the foreign nation. The new parents will also need to finalize the legalization of the adoption in our country and finalize American citizenship for the child.  For those countries that participate in the Hague Convention, adoptive eligibility is determined by both the child’s county of origin and the adoptive parents’ county of origin.



Although the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not mandate birth parents to complete a counseling program, it is well advised they do so.  

Should the birth parent(s) attend the termination hearing, the court must inquire if the birth parent has had counseling. If the birth parent(s) then choose(s) to have counseling, the termination hearing can be delayed up to 15 days.  

The court will make available a referral list of qualified counselors.

Expenses which may be paid by the adoptive parents include:
  • hospital and medical prenatal care incident to the birth;
  • medical, hospital and foster care expense for the child prior to the adoption decree;
  • reasonable third party or adoption agency expense that provides adjustment counseling and training for the adoptive parents, and for home studies;
  • reasonable administrative costs incurred by the agency which can include overhead and attorney expense;
  • legal fees and related costs of the adoption are also acceptable costs.


Birth parents’ living expenses and attorney fees are not reimbursable by the adoptive parents.


 Adoptive parents of “special needs” children may qualify to receive a monthly stipend.  Known as an adoption subsidy, the county agency must qualify the youngster’s condition and also determine the amount of the stipend prior to the child’s placement with the adoptive parents.


The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recognizes 18 as the age of majority.  If the birth parents are under the age of 18, both of their parents must receive notice of the proposed adoption.


The pre-placement process also requires that good consideration be given to the matters of privacy and confidentiality.  There are only two options, an “open” adoption or a “closed” adoption. 

After the adoption has been finalized, do the adoptive parents wish to include the birth parent(s) in the child’s life?  If the answer is “yes”, this is an example of an “open adoption”.

If the adoptive parents wish to retain their anonymity and elect no exchange of information between the child, his or her natal parents, and the adoptive parents, the adoption is deemed “closed or a confidential adoption”.

DORSETT LAW FIRM happily accepts adoption cases for Adams County, Bedford County, Cumberland County, Franklin County, Fulton County, Huntingdon County, and other nearby counties, on a case-by-case basis.

We invite you to contact us by telephone at (717) 267-2921, or contact us here by email.



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