Pennsylvania

Adoption

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

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Collection of Family Information About Adopted Persons and Their Birth Families

Agency or Person Preparing the Report
Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23 §§ 2533; 2535
The investigation may be made 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 or the report made by the intermediary who arranged the placement of the child.

Contents of Report About the Adopted Person
Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23 §§ 2533; 2535
The report of the intermediary shall include:

  • The name, sex, racial background, age, date and place of birth, and religious affiliation of the child
  • A full description and statement of the value of all property owned or possessed by the child
  • A statement that medical history information was obtained or if not obtained, a statement of why it was not obtained

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.

Contents of Report About the Birth Family
Citation: Cons. Stat. Ch. 23, §§2533; 2535
The report of the intermediary shall include:

  • The name, age, and marital status at the time of the birth of the child and during 1 year prior
  • The racial backgrounds and religious affiliations of the birth parents
  • The parents’ residence if their parental rights have not been terminated
  • A statement that medical history information was obtained or if not obtained, a statement of why it was not obtained

When the Report Is Made
Citation: Cons. Stat. Ch. 23, §§2533; 2535
When a report of intention to adopt has been filed, the court shall cause an investigation to be made and a report filed by a local public child care agency, a voluntary child care agency with its consent, 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 required by § 2533.Within 6 months after filing the report of intention to adopt, the intermediary who arranged the adoption placement shall make a written report under oath to the court in which the petition for adoption will be filed and shall thereupon forthwith notify in writing the adopting parent or parents of the fact that the report has been filed and the date thereof.

Exceptions for Stepparent or Relative Adoptions

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

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Intestate Inheritance Rights for Adopted Children

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.

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State Recognition of Intercountry Adoptions Finalized Abroad

Effect and Recognition of a Foreign Adoption Decree
Citation: 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
Citation: 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
Citation: 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.


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