Legal Toolkit Pennsylvania Adoption and Surrogacy

What to Know About Adoption and Surrogacy


Legally, adoption involves the termination of birth parents’ rights, the placement of a child with the prospective adoptive parents and finally the creation of a new legal parent/child relationship. Adoption is also a wonderful option for expanding a family and can take many forms, including private, open, closed, domestic agency, interstate, international, special needs, foster, single parent, grandparent and step-parent. The laws governing the process can be complex but there is a lot of information available to prospective adoptive parents. Pennsylvania parents can seek assistance and information on the process and the various types of adoption from experienced adoption attorneys, adoption agencies (local, national and international), The Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption Network, Three Rivers Adoption Council and Allegheny County Deparment of Human Services. Churches, priests, ministers and rabbis can also be good resources.  An experienced adoption attorney can provide an unbiased explanation of Pennsylvania adoption laws and rights, direct clients to local, national and international resources, assess risks and determine what adoption fees clients may face.


Birth mothers seeking to place their child for adoption can choose an adoption attorney to advise them of their options, Pennsylvania laws regarding adoption and help them develop an adoption plan that meets their requirements. This can include the kind of adoption they are seeking as well as addressing any medical coverage needs the birth mother may have. An experienced adoption attorney can create a plan that specifies an adoption that is completely private and closed with no contact after the baby is born, an open adoption with pre-determined amounts and types of contact once the baby has been adopted (sometimes known as a post-adoption contact agreement), or something in between. The adoption attorney may also be able to provide the birth mother with prospective adoptive family profiles from which she can choose to interview parents hoping to adopt. 


Post-adoption contact agreements are arrangements specifying some kind of future contact between a child's adoptive family and members of the child's birth family or someone else with whom the child has an established relationship, such as a foster parent, once the child's adoption has been finalized. Post-adoption contact agreements may also be referred to as cooperative adoption or open adoption agreements. They can be written, formal contracts created by an experienced adoption attorney or less formal understandings between the birth and adoptive families. These agreements might be requested by a birth parent as a requirement in their selection of adoptive parents and/or might be desired by the adoptive parents to be used as a future resource for information about a child’s medical, ancestral and cultural history. As of April 25, 2011, Pennsylvania law now provides for legally enforceable Voluntary Post Adoption Contract Aggreements. 


International adoptions are usually finalized in the country of origin and/or birth country of the child, and are usually facilitated by an adoption agency that works in that country or is accredited by that country to facilitate international adoptions. An attorney experienced with international adoptions can help you to consider the best options for your family and can guide you in selecting an international adoption agency. Many of these agencies deal with more than one country, and each country has different rules and regulations regarding accreditation for adoption agencies and the adoption process.

International adoptions finalized abroad, in most situations, are legally binding in the United States.  However, some states do not automatically recognize a foreign adoption decree.  An attorney experienced with international adoptions can help you determine if a re-adoption is required.

Even if your state recognizes a foreign adoption decree, you may want to consider re-adoption in the United States because re-adoption in the United States enables you to obtain an American birth certificate from your state of residence for your child, as well as certified copies of your child’s birth certificate from your state department of vital records (needed for school registration, athletics, etc.).  A legal name change can also be completed through a re-adoption in the United States.  An attorney experienced with international adoptions can help you with the re-adoption process in state court.

There are also international adoption clinics and programs that provide pre-adoptive services, which can include the review of any medical records, videotapes or photographs sent to you from the child’s birth country, consultation services while you are traveling in the child’s birth country, and post-adoption services, including post-adoption physical examinations, health evaluations, immunization status testing and evaluations, creation of a care plan and any necessary development or pediatric specialist referrals.  Please see our “Where to Read More” section for links to these programs and adoption agencies that may be of assistance.



Surrogacy laws vary from state to state. Pennsylvania currently has no laws which address surrogacy. While there are no statutory provisions the "Assisted Conception Birth Registration" procedure, which many counties in Pennsylvania have allowed, provides for the intended parent' names to appear on the original birth certificate. This process IS discretionary however, and is not guaranteed. A thorough discussion with an experienced attorney is essential before taking any further steps.