The Many Faces of Adoption

Q:  Who can adopt?

When it comes to Pennsylvania adoption law, there are many avenues to a child and many questions to consider along the journey. Where will you adopt – – domestically or internationally? What age will you adopt – – an infant, child, or teen? How will the adoption be structured – – anonymously or “open” where the birth parent is known and involved on some level in the child’s life (even if only through periodic photo and status updates)?

But who can adopt? Is adoption really accessible to anyone?

When most people think of adoption they think of a young “traditional” couple with man and a woman who are unable to conceive and are looking to adopt a newborn to complete their family. But where does that leave the people who want to adopt who don’t fit into that narrow vision of family – – single women or men, LGBT couples, or older “traditional” couples?

Legally, all those over the age of 18 are able to adopt in most states, but whether adoption agencies will except applicants from nontraditional situations and process them as aggressively as traditional applicants, is not as likely. But even if they did, some birth parents may be reluctant to consider a nontraditional placement.

The prevalence of divorce and the legalization of gay marriage has certainly begun to pave the way for accepting single parent families and LGBT parenting, but the bias in favor of traditional parenting is still often an obstacle. And nontraditional applicants may face longer waits or be offered children with special needs or older children instead of newborns. While there is no guarantee that after the adoption, today’s happy “traditional” couple will not divorce or become a single-parent household as a result of an unexpected death, many birth parents may still cling to the traditional two-parent model—especially the old-fashioned working dad and stay-at-home mom—as being more “ideal” and financially-secure than a single parent adoption. After all, single parenting is hard and may be the primary reason the birth mother has chosen adoption.

Stepparent adoption is perhaps the most common modern adoption scenario. This often happens when the custodial biological parent remarries and the new spouse, who is playing the role of parent on a daily basis, wants to “make it official” and adopt their spouse’s child as their own. This requires the consent of the noncustodial biological parent who is often not as involved in the child’s life, or a court order terminating the their parental rights if consent is not obtainable and legal grounds, such as abandonment or abuse, exist.

If you are looking to welcome a new member into your home, or are a relative hoping to assume responsibility for a minor in your family, or are a parent looking to place a child for adoption, the Law Office of Gary R. Swavely, Jr. can help. From our office in Redding, we’ve been representing clients throughout Pennsylvania in all aspects of family law for over 25 years. Call us at 610-816-6366 today to schedule a consultation.