Finally – the Finalization of an Adoption Part II of II

July 16, 2019
Holly S. Filius

In my previous post I discussed the steps leading up to the adoption hearing.  In this post I will talk about your testimony and completing the finalization of your adoption.

Adoptive parents testimony is typically a recitation of the information contained in an Adoption Petition, and is simply comprised of each parties’ own biographical information, including your name, address, date of birth, age, place of birth, occupation, religious affiliation, racial background, date of marriage, and the first names and ages of any other biological or adoptive children.  The adoption then requires confirmation of additional information, which I always refer to as “the silly questions.”  They are silly because they are obvious, but the law requires that they are affirmed on the record. Those questions include the following:

  1. Have you received the medical history information with regard to your adoptive child, and is there anything in that information that would cause you to not proceed with this adoption?
  2. Does the proposed adoptee own any property of value? (toys don’t count)
  3. Is it your desire to continue the parent-child relationship you have established with the proposed adoptee, and if so, are you willing to assume the parental duties with regard to this child?
  4. Do you understand that if the Court grants your Petition today, the proposed adoptee will have all the rights and obligations as if they were your biological child? (duh – everyone knows that there is no distinction in the law between adoptive children and biological children)
  5. Have you had any out-of-pocket expenses related to this adoption that would not be reimbursed to you?
  6. This one is my favorite – What name would you like the proposed adoptee to assume?

The law also requires that you confirm on the record that you have reviewed the provisions of Act 101 with your attorney and that you do not wish to enter into a Post Adoption Contact Agreement (PACA) with any birth family members. By this time, you would have executed a Notice with regard to Act 101 and acknowledged to the Court that you understand its provisions, but the law requires that you confirm that understanding on the record in the courtroom.

After your caseworker and you have testified, the judge will then read the Adoption Decree into the record. This is truly the best part because it legally decrees that the proposed adoptee is your child and confirms their new name. After the Decree is read, there is typically some hoopla where we get to cheer and clap and hoot and holler a bit, and then the judge will shake your hand and congratulate you. After that, it is sort of a free for all of the pictures, smiles, hugs, tears, and generally complete relief that the process is completed.

You will receive a Certificate of Adoption and several Adoption Decrees about a week to ten days after your adoption hearing has been completed. The multiple Adoption Decrees can be used for school, daycare, medical insurance, securing a passport, etc. I typically provide my clients with five copies, one of which is certified. The Certificate of Adoption and the certified Adoption Decree should be kept with your other important papers and not utilized for any of the foregoing purposes I just mentioned. However, additional certified copies can be obtained from the Court for a small fee if necessary. I then make an application for a new birth certificate for your adopted child. Pennsylvania’s processing time is approximately four months from the date of application. If your adoptive child is born in another state, the time period for processing his or her birth certificate varies significantly. For example, California typically takes up to a year to obtain a new birth certificate, while North Carolina is about six weeks.

The final step in your finalization of an adoption is securing a new social security card for your child. The social security card cannot be obtained until you have received your Adoption Certificate, Adoption Decree, and the new birth certificate. Once you have all of those documents, you take them to the local Social Security Office along with an application that you can obtain from your caseworker, or from the Social Security Office directly, and request that a new social security card be issued for your adoptive child with their new name. I always recommend that a new number be assigned at that time as well. That recommendation is based on the fact that there is always the potential for fraud, as your adoptive child’s social security number could have been accessed by multiple people prior to and after coming into your care, and unfortunately in some cases, multiple people with less than honest intentions.

In short, the finalization process is quick, easy, and quite frankly the best part of your adoption experience. So when you get the green light to proceed with the finalization, take a deep breath and enjoy every moment, as you will finally have a pleasant and efficient experience with the Court system.

Holly Filius is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas, including Adoption and Family Law.