Due to COVID-19, most court functions in the state have been suspended. In addition, our office is working remotely. For assistance, please email esr@mmzlaw.com with your contact information and the legal matter you need help with and someone will be in touch. If you are seeking help regarding a Will, Financial, or Health Care Power of Attorney, every effort will be made to respond as quickly as possible.

What Important Things Do You Need to Know About the Private Adoption Process in PA?

As a person who is eagerly awaiting the day you can welcome a new child into your home, navigating the adoption process in PA can be intimidating and overwhelming. Each day brings a mix of anticipation, anxiety, and seemingly endless paperwork. While filled with hope and love, the journey also presents numerous steps to follow and legalities to understand. Yet, every step taken brings you closer to the moment you can hold your child in your arms, making all the challenges worth it.

Adoption is a significant decision that changes lives forever. This process can be difficult, especially if other family members or a tragedy are involved in the process. Understanding the intricacies of the Pennsylvania adoption process is crucial for those considering this path in the Keystone State. Having a lawyer on your side can help. This blog post aims to provide the basic knowledge needed to start your private adoption journey in Pennsylvania if you are dealing with a kinship or relative adoption. It will also highlight why you want to work with a PA family lawyer to ensure you correctly navigate the legal intricacies of this type of adoption.

What Is the Difference Between Adopting a Child through an Agency and Relative Adoptions?

Adopting a child through an agency and adopting a family member, often referred to as kinship or relative adoption, are two different paths with unique processes and considerations.

Agency Adoption:

In an agency adoption, prospective parents work with a public or private adoption agency licensed by the state. The agency handles each part of the adoption process, from matching adoptive parents with a child, conducting home studies, providing pre- and post-adoption counseling, and handling legal paperwork.

Agencies typically work with birth parents who have voluntarily given up their parental rights or with children who are in state custody due to abandonment, abuse, or neglect. The agency is an intermediary, managing contact between birth and adoptive parents. At May Herr & Grosh, we do not work with agency adoptions because they typically use their lawyers to facilitate them.

Kinship or Relative Adoption:

Kinship or relative adoption is when a family member (such as a stepparent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or adult sibling) or close family friend adopts a child. These adoptions often occur due to unforeseen circumstances like the death, incarceration, or incapacity of at least one of the child’s biological parents.

In these scenarios, the adoptive parents might already have a relationship with the child, which can make the process simpler. The process can also be less complicated because some counties simplify the home study requirements or waive them entirely for certain kinship adoptions.

However, kinship adoption is not without its challenges. It can bring complex family dynamics and emotional issues, especially if the child’s biological parent(s) are still involved in their life. We at May Herr & Grosh can help you with this type of adoption.

What Are the Steps in the Adoption Process in PA When Adopting a Relative?

Embarking on the journey to adopt a child is an exciting and life-changing decision. The adoption process in Pennsylvania is a legal procedure that involves terminating the parental rights of any non-adopting biological parent and transferring the terminated parental rights from the birth parent(s) to the adoptive parents.

What Is Termination of Parental Rights in a Kinship Adoption?

Termination of parental rights in a kinship adoption refers to the legal process where a court ends the biological parent’s legal rights and responsibilities towards their child. This step is necessary before a kinship adoption can take place, as it allows the relative or kin to legally adopt and gain full parental rights over the child. The termination can be voluntary or involuntary.

Voluntary Termination

In this case, the biological parent(s) willingly give up their parental rights, often because they acknowledge they cannot adequately care for the child or agree that the kinship adoption is in the child’s best interest. They must provide written consent in accordance with the Adoption Act.

Involuntary Termination

Involuntary termination happens when the adopting parents petition the court to terminate the parental rights against the wishes of the biological parents. There are numerous statutory grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights in Pennsylvania.  In a kinship adoption, the most common is where one or both of the biological parents have abandoned the parent-child relationship by failing to discharge any parental duties or provide any financial support for at least six months.

It is important to note that termination of parental rights is a serious legal action and is typically irreversible. Once terminated, the biological parents no longer have any legal rights or responsibilities for the child, including custody or visitation rights. The child is also free to be adopted by relatives or kin without any legal interference from the biological parents.

Like what you have read so far?
Let us help you!

Given the gravity of this decision, it is strongly recommended to consult with a family law attorney who has experience in kinship adoptions to navigate this process and ensure the best outcome for all parties involved, particularly the child.


After the biological parent(s)’ parental rights have been terminated, the matter is ready for adoption.  If the parental rights were terminated by consent, then there is a combined hearing to both confirm the consents of the biological parent(s) and for adoption to the adoptive parents.  If the parental rights were involuntarily terminated, then the Court will issue an Order terminating those rights and waiting the 30-day appeal period before the Court schedules a separate hearing on adoption.  In either instance, upon adoption, the Court will issue a formal Decree confirming the adoption.

Name Change

A minor who is being adopted is entitled to have their name changed incident to the adoption.  Whether the desired change is simply a changing of the child’s last name, or a full change of the first, middle, and last name, then the Decree can also include a provision to formally change the child’s name as well.


After adoption, if the child was born in Pennsylvania, then the Bureau of Vital Statistics will issue a new birth certificate for the child listing the adoptive parents as the biological parents.  A record of adoption is separately kept with that agency.  If the child was born outside of Pennsylvania, then any changes to the birth certificate will be governed by the law of the state which issued the birth certificate. 

The adoptive parents are also able to take the Decree and add the child to health insurance, change social security cards, update records with schools, etc.

Why Is Legal Representation Crucial in the Adoption Process?

Adoption is not just an emotional journey but a legal one, too. Engaging an experienced Pennsylvania adoption attorney early in the process can provide invaluable guidance through the intricate maze of adoption laws. They can ensure the termination of the birth parent(s)’ rights is/are carried out correctly, and secure the final adoption decree.

How Long Does the Adoption Process Take in Pennsylvania?

While intricate and varying in timeline, the adoption process in PA can be navigated with an understanding of its key stages. The legalities permit the finalization of an adoption as swiftly as one to two months from when the child begins living with the adoptive parents.

However, this is not a standard timeline.

The time it takes for an adoption to go through can range from a few weeks to over a year, depending on various factors.

After the final adoption decree is issued, the adoptive parents assume all legal obligations and rights for the child who becomes a legal member of the family. This comprehensive process involves several complex steps like pre-adoptive home evaluations, legal paperwork, and court appearances, all contributing to the overall timeline of the adoption process.

Change a Child’s Life with Help from a Pennsylvania Adoption Lawyer

Adoption is a beautiful journey filled with love, patience, and determination. While the adoption process in PA may seem complex, knowing the basics of the Pennsylvania adoption process can help you confidently navigate this life-changing experience. Each step brings you closer to welcoming a new member into your family, and the PA adoption lawyers at May Herr & Grosh can help you through this process. Contact us today to get started.


This blog is being published for educational purposes only as well as to provide general information and a basic understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By entering this site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. This site should never be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Let us Help!

If you found this post helpful and would like more advice from an experienced lawyer, fill out the form below to connect.

  • Disclaimer: The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.