Pennsylvania

Adoption Laws

Consent to Adoption

Who Must Consent to an Adoption Citation: Cons. Stat. Ch. 23, § 2711

Consent to an adoption shall be required of the following:

  • The spouse of the adopting parent, unless he or she joins in the adoption petition
  • The parents or surviving parent of a child who has not reached age 18
  • The guardian of an incapacitated person to be adopted
  • The guardian or custodian of a child under age 18 whenever the child has no parent whose consent is required

The consent of the husband of the mother shall not be necessary if it is proved to the satisfaction of the court that the husband of the natural mother is not the natural father of the child.

Consent of Child Being Adopted Citation: Cons. Stat. Ch. 23, § 2711

A child who is age 12 or older must consent to the adoption.

When Parental Consent Is Not Needed Citation: Cons. Stat. Ch. 23, §§ 2713; 2714; 2511

The consent of the parent is not required when:

  • The person to be adopted is age 18 or older.
  • The child is under age 18 and has no parent living whose consent is required.
  • The parental rights of the parent have been terminated.
  • The court finds that grounds exist for involuntary termination under § 2511.

The rights of a parent in regard to a child may be terminated when the parent:

  • Has refused or failed to perform parental duties
  • Has harmed the child through repeated and continued incapacity, abuse, or neglect
  • Is the presumptive but not the natural father of the child
  • Is unknown or cannot be found and does not claim the child within 3 months after the child is found
  • Has a child in out-of-home care and cannot or will not remedy those conditions that led to the removal or placement of the child within a reasonable period of time
  • In the case of a newborn child, knows or has reason to know of the child’s birth, does not reside with the child, has not married the child’s other parent, and has failed for a period of 4 months to make reasonable efforts to maintain substantial and continuing contact with the child or to support the child
  • Is the father of a child conceived as a result of a rape or incest
  • Has not remedied conditions that led to the removal of the child, 12 months or more have elapsed since the child’s removal, and termination of parental rights would best serve the needs and welfare of the child
  • Has been convicted of criminal homicide or aggravated assault, and the victim was a child of the parent

When Consent Can Be Executed Citation: Cons. Stat. Ch. 23, § 2711

No consent shall be valid if it was executed prior to or within 72 hours after the birth of the child. A putative father may execute consent at any time after receiving notice of the expected or actual birth of the child.

How Consent Must Be Executed Citation: Cons. Stat. Ch. 23, §§ 2501-2504; 2711(d)

When a child under age 18 has been in the care of an agency for 3 days, or the agency has received a written notice executed by the parent of the intent to transfer to it custody of the child, the parent of the child may petition the court for permission to relinquish forever all parental rights and duties with respect to the child.

The written consent of a parent or guardian of a petitioner who has not reached age 18 shall not be required. The consent of the agency to accept custody of the child until the child is adopted shall be required.

When any child under age 18 has been for 3 days in the exclusive care of an adult who has filed a report of intention to adopt, the parent of the child may petition the court for permission to relinquish forever all parental rights to the child.

The written consent of a parent or guardian of a petitioner who has not reached age 18 shall not be required. The adults having care of the child shall file a separate consent to accept custody of the child.

Upon presentation of a petition to relinquish parental rights, the court shall hold a hearing within 10 days. The petitioner must appear at the hearing. After the hearing, the court may enter a decree of termination of parental rights.

If a putative father fails to file a petition, appear at the hearing, or file a written objection to the termination and has not filed a claim of paternity, the court may enter a decree terminating the parental rights of the putative father.

If the parent of the child has executed consent, upon petition by the intermediary or, where there is no intermediary, by the adoptive parent, the court shall hold a hearing to confirm a consent to an adoption. The original consent to the adoption shall be attached to the petition.

The consent shall include the date and place of its execution and names and addresses and signatures of at least two persons who witnessed its execution and their relationship to the consenter.

Revocation of Consent Citation: Cons. Stat. Ch. 23, § 2711

The revocation of a consent shall be in writing and shall be served upon the agency or adult to whom the child was relinquished. The following apply:

  • For a consent executed by a birth father or a putative father, the consent is irrevocable more than 30 days after the birth of the child or the execution of the consent, whichever occurs later.
  • For a consent executed by a birth mother, the consent is irrevocable more than 30 days after the execution of the consent.

An individual who executed a consent to an adoption may challenge the validity of the consent only by filing a petition alleging fraud or duress within the earlier of the following timeframes:

  • 60 days after the birth of the child or the execution of the consent, whichever occurs later
  • 30 days after the entry of the adoption decree

A consent to an adoption may be invalidated only if the alleged fraud or duress is proven by:

  • A preponderance of the evidence in the case of consent by a person age 21 or younger
  • Clear and convincing evidence in all other cases

Criminal Background Checks for Prospective Foster and Adoptive Parents

Requirements for Foster Parents Cons. Stat. Ch. 23, § 6344

In the course of approving a prospective foster parent, a foster family care agency shall require prospective foster parents and any individual over age 18 residing in the home to submit the following information:

  • A report of criminal history record information from the Pennsylvania State Police or a statement from the Pennsylvania State Police that the State Police Central Repository contains no such information relating to that person
  • A certification from the department as to whether the applicant is named in the central register as the perpetrator of a founded report of child abuse, indicated report of child abuse, founded report for school employee, or indicated report for school employee

In no case shall an application for foster care be approved where the department has verified that the applicant is named in the central register as the perpetrator of a founded report of child abuse committed within the previous 5 years. In no case shall a prospective foster parent be approved if any household member has been convicted of one or more of the following offenses:

  • Criminal homicide
  • Aggravated assault
  • Stalking, kidnapping, or unlawful restraint
  • Rape, sexual assault, indecent exposure, or incest
  • Concealing the death of a child
  • Endangering the welfare of children or dealing in infant children
  • Felony prostitution or pornography
  • Corruption of minors
  • Sexual abuse of children

Approval also shall be denied if a household member has been convicted of a felony drug-related offense in the previous 5 years.

Requirements for Adoptive Parents Cons. Stat. Ch. 23, § 6344

The investigation of prospective adoptive parents and any individual over age 18 residing in the home shall include the following:

  • A report of criminal history record information from the Pennsylvania State Police or a statement from the Pennsylvania State Police that the State Police Central Repository contains no such information relating to that person
  • A certification from the department as to whether the applicant is named in the central register as the perpetrator of a founded report of child abuse, indicated report of child abuse, founded report for school employee, or indicated report for school employee

In no case shall an application for adoption be approved where the department has verified that the applicant is named in the central register as the perpetrator of a founded report of child abuse committed within the previous 5 years. In no case shall a prospective adoptive parent be approved if any household member has been convicted of one or more of the following offenses:

  • Criminal homicide
  • Aggravated assault
  • Stalking, kidnapping, or unlawful restraint
  • Rape, sexual assault, indecent exposure, or incest
  • Concealing the death of a child
  • Endangering the welfare of children or dealing in infant children
  • Felony prostitution or pornography
  • Corruption of minors
  • Sexual abuse of children

Approval also shall be denied if a household member has been convicted of a felony drug-related offense in the previous 5 years.

Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 2511

The rights of a parent in regard to a child may be terminated after a petition filed on any of the following grounds:

  • The parent, for at least 6 months, either has evidenced a settled purpose of relinquishing parental claim to a child or has refused or failed to perform parental duties.
  • 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 or her 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.
  • The parent is the presumptive but not the natural father of the child.
  • The child has 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 3 months after the child is found.
  • The child has been in an out-of-home placement for at least 6 months, the conditions that led to the placement 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 that 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.
  • In the case of a newborn child, the parent knows or has reason to know of the child’s birth, does not reside with the child, has not married the child’s other parent, and has failed for 4 months to make reasonable efforts to maintain substantial and continuing contact or to support the child.
  • The parent is the father of a child conceived as a result of a rape or incest.
  • The child has been removed from the care of the parent, 12 months or more have elapsed from the date of removal, the conditions that led to the removal continue to exist, and termination of parental rights would best serve the needs and welfare of the child.
  • The parent has been convicted of one of the following in which the victim was a child of the parent:
    • Criminal homicide
    • Aggravated assault
    • An attempt, solicitation, or conspiracy to commit an offense listed above

Circumstances That Are Exceptions to Termination of Parental Rights Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 2511

The rights of a parent shall not be terminated solely on the basis of environmental factors such as inadequate housing, furnishings, income, clothing, and medical care, if found to be beyond the control of the parent.

Circumstances Allowing Reinstatement of Parental Rights

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption

Who Must Be Studied Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6344

The study investigation shall include the prospective adoptive parents and any individual over age 18 residing in the home.

Agency or Person Conducting the Study Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 2530

The home study shall be conducted by a local public child care agency, an adoption agency, or a licensed social worker designated by the court to perform such study. A preplacement report shall be prepared by the agency or person conducting the home study.

Qualifications for Adoptive Parents Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 2312

Any individual may become an adopting parent.

Elements of a Home Study Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, §§ 2530; 6344

The preplacement report shall set forth all pertinent information relating to the fitness of the adopting parents as parents. The report shall be based upon a study of the home environment; family life; parenting skills; age; physical and mental health; social, cultural, and religious background; facilities and resources of the adoptive parents; and their ability to manage their resources.

In the course of an investigation, the prospective adoptive parents and any individual older than age 18 residing in the home must submit the following information:

  • A report of criminal history record information from the State police
  • A certification from the department as to whether the applicant is named in the central register as the perpetrator of a founded or indicated report of child abuse
  • A fingerprint-based check of Federal criminal history record information

If a prospective adoptive parent or any individual over age 18 years has resided outside the State at any time within the previous 5 years, the person must submit a certification obtained within the past year from the Statewide central registry in each State in which the person has resided within the previous 5-year period, as to whether the person is named as a perpetrator of child abuse.

Grounds for Withholding Approval Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6344

A prospective adoptive parent may not be approved if the prospective adoptive parent or an individual age 14 or older who resides for at least 30 days in a calendar year with the prospective adoptive parent meets either of the following:

  • Is named in the central register as the perpetrator of a founded report of child abuse committed within the 5-year period immediately preceding verification or is named in the central register as the perpetrator of a founded report for a school employee committed within the 5-year period immediately preceding verification
  • Has been found guilty at any time of an offense listed in § 6344(c)(2), including criminal homicide, aggravated assault, kidnapping, rape, sexual assault, incest, endangering the welfare of children, prostitution, or sexual abuse of children
  • Has been found guilty of a drug-related offense within the past 5 years

When Studies Must Be Completed Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, §§ 2530; 2531

Before a child may be placed with a prospective adoptive parent, a home study containing a favorable recommendation must have been completed within 3 years and been supplemented within 1 year prior to placement.

The preplacement report must be included with a report of intention to adopt that must be filed with the court.

Postplacement Study Requirements Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, §§ 2533; 2535

Within 6 months after filing the report of intention to adopt, the intermediary that arranged the adoption placement of the child shall make a written report to the court in which the petition for adoption will be filed. The report shall include:

  • The name and address of the intermediary
  • The name, sex, racial background, age, date and place of birth, and religious affiliation of the child
  • The date of the placement of the child with the adopting parents
  • A statement that medical history information was obtained and if not obtained, a statement of the reason

When a report of intention to adopt has been filed, the court shall order an investigation to be made and a report filed by a local public child care agency, a voluntary child care agency, or an appropriate person designated by the court. In lieu of the investigation, the court may accept an investigation made by the agency that placed the child and the report of investigation in such cases may be incorporated into the report of the intermediary.

The investigation shall cover all pertinent information regarding the child’s eligibility for adoption and the suitability of the placement, including the physical, mental, and emotional needs and welfare of the child, and the child’s and the adopting parents’ age, sex, health, and racial, ethnic, and religious background.

Exceptions for Stepparent or Relative Adoptions Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 2531

The report of intention to adopt shall not be required when the child is the child, grandchild, stepchild, brother or sister of the whole or half blood, or niece or nephew by blood, marriage, or adoption of the person receiving or retaining custody or physical care.

Requirements for Interjurisdictional Placements Citation: Pa. Stat. Tit. 62, § 761

Any out-of-home placement of a child outside the State is subject to the provisions of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

The child shall not be sent into the receiving State until the appropriate public authorities in the receiving State notify the sending agency, in writing, that the proposed placement does not appear to be contrary to the interests of the child.

Foster to Adopt Placements Citation: Pa. Stat. Tit. 11, § 2624

A resource family parent or parents shall be given an interview with the appropriate county or private agency when all of the following occur:

  • The county or private agency that placed the child with that resource family has changed the child’s goal from foster care to adoption.
  • The resource family parent is interested in becoming an adoptive resource for that child.
  • The child has resided with that resource family for 6 months or more.

In addition to information obtained from interviews of other prospective adoptive families, the interviewing agency shall convey information obtained from the interview with the resource family parent to the county agency responsible for making the determination as to adoptive placement of the child. When more than one adoptive resource is available for the placement of a child, the county agency shall document its reasons for placing the child with the selected adoptive parents in the child’s case record.

No resource parent who meets the conditions set forth above shall be denied consideration as an adoptive parent solely because of the inability to access that individual as a resource family parent in the future.

Infant Safe Haven Laws

Infant’s Age Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, §§ 6502; 6503

A newborn may be relinquished. The term ‘newborn’ means a child less than 28 days of age as reasonably determined by a physician.

Who May Relinquish the Infant Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6503

The child may be relinquished by his or her parent.

Who May Receive the Infant Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, §§ 6504; 6505

The child may be left with a health-care provider at a hospital. For purposes of this section, health-care provider includes administrative, managerial, and security personnel employed by a hospital.

Responsibilities of the Safe Haven Provider Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, §§ 6504; 6505

A health-care provider at a hospital shall do all of the following:

  • Take the newborn into protective custody
  • Perform a medical evaluation as well as perform any act necessary to care for and protect the physical health and safety of the newborn

When relinquishing a newborn pursuant to this chapter, a parent may give a health-care provider information about the newborn’s medical history and any identifying information.

A health-care provider at a hospital shall in all cases notify the county agency and the local municipal police department, or the Pennsylvania State Police where no municipal police jurisdiction exists, immediately by telephone regarding a newborn accepted by a hospital under this chapter. A written report shall be submitted to the county agency and local municipal police department or the Pennsylvania State Police within 48 hours after the oral report.

Immunity for the Provider Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6507

Except for a violation of § 6506 (relating to failure to report acceptance of newborns), no hospital or health-care provider at a hospital shall be subject to civil liability or criminal penalty solely by reason of complying with the provisions of this chapter.

Protection for Relinquishing Parent Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6503; Title 18, § 4306

The parent is not criminally liable under any provision of title 18 (relating to crimes and offenses) if the criteria of 18 Pa.C.S. § 4306 are met.

A parent of a newborn shall not be criminally liable for any violation of this title solely for leaving a newborn in the care of a hospital pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. Ch. 65 (relating to newborn protection) provided that the following criteria are met:

  • The parent expresses, either orally or through conduct, the intent to have the hospital accept the newborn.
  • The newborn is not a victim of child abuse or criminal conduct.

Effect on Parental Rights

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Regulation of Private Domestic Adoption Expenses

Birth Parent Expenses Allowed Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 2533(d)

Payments made by the adoptive parents to an intermediary or a third party for reimbursement of the following expenses, calculated without regard to the income of the adoptive parents, are permissible:

  • Medical and hospital expenses incurred by the birth mother for prenatal care, and medical and hospital expenses incurred by the birth mother and child incident to birth
  • Medical, hospital, and foster care expenses incurred on behalf of the child prior to the decree of adoption

Birth Parent Expenses Not Allowed Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 2533(c)

The court may provide appropriate relief when it finds the expenses reported are excessive.

Allowable Payments for Arranging Adoption Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 18, § 4305

It is unlawful to trade, barter, buy, sell, or deal in infant children.

Allowable Payments for Relinquishing Child Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 18, § 4305

It is unlawful to trade, barter, buy, sell, or deal in infant children.

Allowable Fees Charged by Department/Agency Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 2533(d)

Payments made by the adoptive parents to an intermediary or a third party for reimbursement of the following expenses, calculated without regard to the income of the adoptive parents, are permissible:

  • Reasonable expenses incurred by the agency or a third party for adjustment counseling and training services provided to the adoptive parents and for home studies or investigations
  • Reasonable administrative expenses incurred by the agency, including overhead costs and attorney fees

Accounting of Expenses Required by Court Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit., 23, § 2533 (b)(8)

The intermediary’s written report to the court shall include an itemized accounting of all monies paid, agreed to be paid, or received in connection with the adoption.

The Rights of Unmarried Fathers

Legal Definition of Father Cons. Stat. tit. 23 § 5102

For purposes of prescribing benefits to children born out of wedlock by, from, and through the father, paternity shall be determined by any one of the following ways:

  • If the parents of a child born out of wedlock have married each other
  • If, during the lifetime of the child, it is determined by clear and convincing evidence that the father openly holds out the child to be his and either receives the child into his home or provides support for the child
  • If there is clear and convincing evidence that the man was the father of the child, including a prior court determination of paternity

Paternity Registry Cons. Stat. tit. 23, § 510

The father of a child born to an unmarried woman may file with the Department of Public Welfare, on forms prescribed by the department, an acknowledgment of paternity of the child that shall include the consent of the mother of the child.

If the mother of the child fails or refuses to join in the acknowledgment of paternity, the Department of Public Welfare shall index it as a claim of paternity. The filing and indexing of a claim of paternity shall not confer upon the putative father any rights as to the child except that the putative father shall be entitled to notice of any proceeding brought to terminate any parental rights as to the child.

An acknowledgment of paternity shall constitute conclusive evidence of paternity without further judicial ratification in any action to establish support. The court shall give full faith and credit to an acknowledgment of paternity signed in another State according to its procedures.

Alternate Means to Establish Paternity Cons. Stat. tit. 23, § 5103

The name of the father shall be included on the record of birth of the child of unmarried parents only if one of the following applies:

  • The father and mother have signed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.
  • A court or administrative agency of competent jurisdiction has issued an adjudication of paternity.

Required Information Cons. Stat. tit. 23, § 5103

This acknowledgment shall contain:

  • A signed, witnessed statement by the birth mother consenting to the acknowledgment of paternity
  • A signed, witnessed statement by the birth father acknowledging his paternity
  • A written explanation of the parental duties and parental rights that arise from signing such a statement
  • The Social Security numbers and addresses of both birth parents

Revocation of Claim to Paternity Cons. Stat. tit. 23, § 5103

A signed, voluntary, witnessed acknowledgment of paternity shall be considered a legal finding of paternity, subject to the right of any signatory to rescind the acknowledgment within the earlier of the following:

  • 60 days
  • The date of an administrative or judicial proceeding relating to the child, including, but not limited to, a domestic relations section conference or a proceeding to establish a support order in which the signatory is a party

After the expiration of the 60 days, an acknowledgment of paternity may be challenged in court only on the basis of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact that must be established by the challenger through clear and convincing evidence. An order for support shall not be suspended during the period of challenge except for good cause shown.

Access to Information

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Use of Advertising and Facilitators in Adoptive Placements

Use of Advertisement

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Use of Intermediaries/Facilitators Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, §§ 2102; 2530; 2533

An intermediary is a person or agency acting between the parent or parents and proposed adoptive parent or parents in arranging an adoptive placement. No intermediary shall place a child with a prospective adoptive parent unless there is a favorable home study that has been completed within 3 years and supplemented within 1 year.

If the home study has not been completed, the child may be placed with the prospective adoptive parent if the intermediary has no reason to believe that the parent would not receive a favorable recommendation, the agency conducting the home study assents to the interim placement, and the intermediary notifies the court.

Within 6 months of filing the report of intention to adopt, the intermediary shall make a written report, to include:

  • Indepth background information about the child and the child’s birth parents
  • Name and address of the intermediary
  • An itemized accounting of moneys and considerations paid or to be received by the intermediary or any other person

Only the following payments to an intermediary are permitted:

  • Reimbursement for medical and hospital expenses of the birth mother for prenatal care and hospital expenses of mother and child incident to the birth
  • Medical, hospital, and foster care expenses of the child prior to adoption
  • Reasonable expenses for counseling and training services provided to the adoptive parents, or for home studies or investigations
  • Reasonable administrative expenses incurred by the agency, including overhead costs and attorney fees

Who May Adopt, Be Adopted, or Place a Child for Adoption?

Who May Adopt Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 2312

Any individual may adopt.

Who May Be Adopted Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 2311

Any individual may be adopted, regardless of age or residence.

Who May Place a Child for Adoption Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, §§ 2501; 2502; 2102

The child’s parent(s) may relinquish the child to a child-placing agency or directly to the adoptive parents.

Post-Adoption Laws

Access to Adoption Records

Who May Access Information Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, §§ 2924; 2931

The following persons may request information from the registry, the court that finalized the adoption, or the agency that coordinated the adoption:

  • An adopted person who is at least age 18
  • An adoptive parent of an adopted person who is younger than 18, incapacitated, or deceased
  • A legal guardian of an adopted person who is younger than 18 or incapacitated
  • A descendant of a deceased adopted person
  • The birth parent of an adopted person who is at least 21
  • A parent of a birth parent of an adopted person who is at least 21 if the birth parent consents or is incapacitated or deceased
  • A birth sibling of an adopted person, if both the birth sibling and adopted person are at least 21, and:
    • The birth sibling remained in the custody of the birth parent and the birth parent consents or is deceased or incapacitated.
    • Both the birth sibling and adopted person were adopted out of the same birth family.
    • The birth sibling was not adopted out of the birth family and did not remain in the custody of the birth parent.

A person listed above may request nonidentifying or identifying information about or contact with the following persons:

  • An adopted person who is age 21 or older
  • A birth parent of an adopted person
  • A parent of a birth parent of an adopted person who is age 21 or older, if the birth parent consents or is incapacitated or deceased
  • A birth sibling of an adopted person, if both the birth sibling and the adopted person are age 21 or older, and:
    • The birth sibling remained in the custody of the birth parent and the birth parent consents or is deceased or incapacitated.
    • Both the birth sibling and adopted person were adopted out of the same birth family.
    • The birth sibling was not adopted out of the birth family and did not remain in the custody of the birth parent.

Access to Nonidentifying Information Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, §§ 2925; 2932; 2934

Nonidentifying information available to the registry shall be provided to the requester within 30 days of the request. Before the release of information, the department shall remove any identifying information unless release has been authorized in writing by the subject of the information.

When the court or agency receives a written request for nonidentifying information, it shall, within 30 days, notify the requester of its receipt of the request. The court or agency shall, within 120 days, review its records and furnish to the requester any information concerning the adoption that will not compromise the confidentiality of the relationship between the adopted person and the adopted person’s birth parent.

Medical and social history information may be filed with the court that terminated parental rights or finalized the adoption, the agency that coordinated the adoption, or the information registry.

The following persons may at any time file, update, and request medical and social history information:

  • An adopted person who is age 18 or older
  • An adoptive parent of an adopted person who is younger than 18 or incapacitated
  • A descendant of a deceased adopted person
  • A birth parent
  • A legal guardian of an incapacitated birth parent
  • A survivor of a deceased birth parent

When the court or agency receives a written request for medical and social history information, it shall notify the requester within 120 days whether it possesses any medical and social history information related to the adoption.

For nonidentifying information, the court or agency shall, within 120 days of locating the information, review and furnish to the requester any medical and social history information that will not compromise confidentiality.

If the requester is an adopted person seeking information about a birth parent who is deceased, any information on file regarding the deceased birth parent may be disclosed.

Mutual Access to Identifying Information Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, §§ 2912; 2925; 2933; 2934

The Department of Public Welfare shall establish a Statewide confidential registry for the retention of medical and social history information for all adoptions finalized or registered in the State.

For identifying information from the registry, if an authorization form is on file, the department shall notify the requester within 30 days whether information may be released. If there is no authorization on file, the department shall designate an authorized representative to use reasonable efforts to locate the subject of the request and obtain written authorization before any information is released.

An authorization form allowing the release of identifying information may be withdrawn at any time by the person who signed the form.

The court or agency, within 120 days of receiving a written request for identifying information or contact, shall determine whether it has any records relating to the adopted person and conduct a good faith search for identifying information. A representative shall review the court and agency record for identifying information regarding the birth or adoptive family and shall determine whether an authorization form has been filed.

If the requester is an adopted person seeking the identity of a birth parent, the identity of and any information about a deceased birth parent may be disclosed. If the requester is an adopted person seeking the identity of both birth parents and only one birth parent agrees to the disclosure, only the information relating to that birth parent shall be disclosed.

When the court or agency receives a written request for medical and social history information, it shall notify the requester within 120 days whether it possesses any information. For identifying information, if an authorization form is on file, the information will be released.

Access to Original Birth Certificate Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 2937

No disclosure shall be made regarding an adopted person’s original birth record or regarding the documents or proof on which an amended certificate of birth is based or relating in any way to the birth parents unless the disclosure is made pursuant to the provisions of this section.

The birth parents may, at the time their parental rights are terminated or at any time thereafter, place on file with the court and the Department of Health a consent form granting permission for the court or the department to issue a copy of the summary of the adopted person’s original birth record, disclosing the identity of the birth parents, at any time after the adopted person turns age 18 or, if the adopted person is younger than age 18, to the adoptive parent or legal guardian.

If only one birth parent has filed a consent, a copy of the summary of the original birth record naming only the consenting birth parent shall be issued.

The consent of a birth parent may be withdrawn at any time by filing a withdrawal of consent form with the court and the Department of Health.

Where the Information Can Be Located

Adoption Medical History Registry, Pennsylvania Department of Health, Division of Vital Records

Intestate Inheritance Rights for Adopted Persons

Birth Parents in Relation to Adopted Person Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 20, ($§ 2108; 2514

An adopted person shall not be considered as continuing to be the child of his or her birth parents except in distributing the estate of a birth kin, other than the birth parent, who has maintained a family relationship with the adopted person. If a birth parent shall have married the adopting parent, the adopted person for purposes of inheritance by, from and through him also shall be considered the issue of such birth parent.

Adoptive Parents in Relation to Adopted Person Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 20, §§ 2108; 2514

For purposes of inheritance by, from, and through an adopted person, he or she shall be considered the issue of his or her adopting parent or parents.

Adopted Persons Who Are Not Included in a Will Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 20, § 2507

If the testator fails to provide in his or her will for a child who was adopted after he or she made his or her will, unless it appears from the will that the failure was intentional, such child shall receive out of the estate such share as he or she would have received if the testator had died unmarried and intestate, except for the portion of the estate that is passed to a surviving spouse.

Postadoption Contact Agreements Between Birth and Adoptive Families

What may be included in postadoption contact agreements? Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 2731

The purpose of this subchapter is to provide an option for adoptive parents and birth relatives to enter into a voluntary agreement for ongoing communication or contact that:

  • Is in the best interests of the child
  • Recognizes the parties’ interests and desires for ongoing communication or contact
  • Is appropriate given the role of the parties in the child’s life
  • Is subject to approval by the courts

Who may be a party to a postadoption contact agreement? Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, §§ 2733; 2734

A prospective adoptive parent of a child may enter into an agreement with a birth relative of the child to permit continuing contact or communication between the child and the birth relative or between the adoptive parent and the birth relative. If there are siblings who are free for adoption through the termination of parental rights following a dependency proceeding, and the prospective adoptive parent is not adopting all of the siblings, each such sibling who is younger than age 18 shall be represented by a guardian ad litem in the development of an agreement.

An agency or anyone representing the parties in an adoption shall provide notification to a prospective adoptive parent, a birth parent, and a child who can be reasonably expected to understand that a prospective adoptive parent and birth relative of a child have the option to enter into a voluntary agreement for continuing contact or communication.

If the child is age 12 years or older, an agreement may not be entered into without the child’s consent.

What is the role of the court in postadoption contact agreements? Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 2735

An agreement shall be filed with the court that finalizes the adoption of the child. The court shall approve the agreement if the court determines that:

  • The agreement has been entered into knowingly and voluntarily by all parties. An affidavit made under oath affirmatively stating that the agreement was entered into knowingly and voluntarily and is not the product of coercion, fraud, or duress must accompany the agreement. The affidavit may be executed jointly or separately.
  • The agreement is in the best interests of the child. In making that determination, the court may consider the following:
    • The circumstances of and length of time that the child has been under actual care, custody, and control of a person other than a birth parent
    • The interaction and relationships of the child with birth relatives and other persons who routinely interact with the birth relatives who may significantly affect the child's best interests
    • The adjustment to the child's home, school, and community
    • The willingness and ability of the birth relative to respect and appreciate the bond between the child and prospective adoptive parent
    • The willingness and ability of the prospective adoptive parent to respect and appreciate the bond between the child and the birth relative
    • Any evidence of abuse or neglect of the child

Are agreements legally enforceable? Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, §§ 2734(b); 2738; 2736

An agreement shall not be legally enforceable unless approved by the court.

Any party to an agreement, a sibling, or a child who is the subject of an agreement may seek enforcement of an agreement by filing an action in the court that finalized the adoption. That party may request only specific performance in seeking to enforce an agreement and may not request monetary damages or modification of an agreement.

For an agreement to be enforceable, it must be in writing and approved by the court on or before the date for any adoption decree. If the child is age 12 or older when the agreement is executed, the child must consent to the agreement at the time of its execution.

Before the court may enter an order enforcing an agreement, it must find all of the following:

  • The party seeking enforcement of the agreement is in substantial compliance with the agreement.
  • By clear and convincing evidence, enforcement serves the needs, welfare, and best interests of the child.

An agreement shall cease to be enforceable on the date the child turns age 18 unless the agreement otherwise stipulates or is modified by the court. The court issuing final approval of an agreement shall have continuing jurisdiction over enforcement of the agreement until the child turns age 18 unless the agreement otherwise stipulates or is modified by the court.

This section constitutes the exclusive remedy for enforcement of an agreement. No statutory or common law remedy is available for enforcement or damages in connection with an agreement. Failure to comply with the terms of an agreement that has been approved by the court pursuant to this subchapter shall not be grounds for setting aside an adoption decree.

How may an agreement be terminated or modified? Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, §§ 2737; 2739

Only the adoptive parent or a child who is age 12 or older may seek to modify an agreement by filing an action in the court that finalized the adoption. Before the court may enter an order modifying the agreement, it must find by clear and convincing evidence that modification serves the needs, welfare, and best interests of the child.

A party to an agreement or a child who is at least age 12 may seek to discontinue an agreement by filing an action in the court that finalized the adoption. Before the court may enter an order discontinuing an agreement, it must find by clear and convincing evidence that discontinuance serves the needs, welfare, and best interests of the child.

Laws Related to Intercountry Adoption

Effect and Recognition of a Foreign Adoption Decree

Cons. Stat. Ann. Tit. 23, § 2908

When a minor is adopted by a resident of this Commonwealth and a final decree of adoption is made or entered in conformity with the laws of a foreign country, the adopting parent shall file a properly authenticated copy of the foreign decree of adoption, a copy of the child’s visa, and either the child’s birth certificate or some form of birth identification with the clerk of the court in the county of residence of the parent. If the foreign decree of adoption is not in English, the adopting parent shall also file a certified English translation. If no birth certificate or birth identification can be obtained, the adopting parent shall include an affidavit stating the reason why.

Readoption After an Intercountry Adoption

Cons. Stat. Ann. Tit. 23, § 2908

The court shall develop a foreign adoption registration form and instructions for its use. The form shall include statements indicating that the foreign adoption may not be a full and final adoption if:

  • Both parents, or the sole parent if only one parent is adopting, were not present for the adoption hearing in the foreign country.
  • The foreign court did not enter a final adoption decree.
  • The child’s visa is not the type that would afford the child full U.S. citizenship.

The form shall notify the adopting parent or parents that an adoption decree may be obtained from the Commonwealth if the documents are reviewed by the court and the court determines the foreign adoption was full and final.

At the time of filing, a copy of the foreign decree of adoption and a certified English translation (if necessary), the child’s visa, and either the child’s birth certificate or some form of birth identification shall be attached to the foreign registration form and submitted to the clerk of the court.

In cases where the court determines the foreign adoption was full and final, the court shall direct the clerk to enter upon the docket an entry showing the foreign court identification of the proceedings in that court and the date of the decree. The clerk shall issue to the parent a certificate of adoption and send documentation to the Department of Health. No hearing shall be required prior to the issuance of the certificate of adoption, and the parent shall not be required to obtain counsel.

The court shall develop a standard petition, a standard court order, and instructions for their use for occasions when a child must be readopted to finalize the adoption. The clerk shall provide the adopting parent with the standardized information.

Application for a U.S. Birth Certificate

Ann. Stat. Tit. 35, § 450.604

For any child born in a foreign country but adopted in Pennsylvania, whose adopting parents are U.S. citizens and residents of Pennsylvania, the department shall, upon request, complete and register a birth certificate upon receipt of a certified copy of the decree of adoption, together with proof of the date and place of the child’s birth.

Except as provided below, the birth certificate shall show the new name of the child as specified in the decree of adoption, and such further information concerning the adopting parents as may be necessary to complete the birth certificate. The certificate shall show the true country and date of birth of the child, and that the certificate is not evidence of U.S. citizenship.

For any foreign-born child who satisfies the requirements of either § 1431 or 1433 of title 8, United States Code, and whose parent presents documents from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or their successor agencies, including either a certificate of citizenship, a U.S. passport, or other document as specified by the department, verifying the child’s U.S. citizenship, the birth certificate shall show the true country and date of birth but will not contain any notation regarding citizenship of the registrant. For such registration, the department shall require proof of parental U.S. citizenship and of Pennsylvania residence.

Source

Child Welfare Information Gateway. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. [1]

References