House Passes Petri Bill to Expedite Termination of Parental Rights in Adoption Process
– On Tuesday evening, the House unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Scott Petri (R-Bucks) that seeks to ease the Commonwealth’s adoption process, giving Pennsylvania children a better chance of being adopted.
“I have heard from many would-be adoptive parents who have found it difficult and costly to navigate Pennsylvania’s cumbersome adoption laws and have opted to go elsewhere to adopt a child,” said Petri. “The adoption process is unnecessarily challenging, risky and expensive – factors that are not only discouraging would-be adoptive parents, but also hurting Pennsylvania children in need of stable, loving homes. My colleagues and I have introduced a package of bills to streamline the adoption process – including House Bill 1525
, which I am sponsoring.”
House Bill 1525 would expedite the procedures for relinquishment or termination of parental rights, and place into law important procedures required by many courts in Pennsylvania to protect the rights of putative fathers.
Currently there is no deadline by which to hold a hearing after the birth parents file a petition to voluntarily relinquish their parental rights. Petri’s bill requires courts to set a hearing date within 20 days after such action, although the birth parent may request an additional 10 days. The bill also further defines paternal rights and addresses procedures for notification and the relinquishment or termination of paternal rights. Notice to putative fathers or a diligent search when the putative father’s whereabouts is unknown are essential and have been included in the legislation.
In cases where the identity or whereabouts of a parent or putative father cannot be determined, a diligent search must be made for the purpose of providing notice in an adoption proceeding. Additionally, notice of the proceeding may be published in a newspaper of general circulation and in the county legal journal at least 10 days prior to the date of the hearing. The bill stipulates that notice to the putative father is not necessary if he consents to adoption prior to the birth of the child or denies paternity.
Under the bill, the court may waive the requirement to search for a putative father and publish notice in limited circumstances if it is determined by the court that the putative father knows or should have known of the child’s birth and failed to make reasonable efforts to contact or provide substantial financial support for the child or that such notification would not serve the best interest of the child.
The bill also permits a birth mother, father or putative father who has consented to an adoption to execute a waiver of notice requirements pertaining to all legal proceedings involving the child. However, giving consent does not remove the requirement that birth parents and putative fathers must provide personal and medical history.
Petri’s bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, also removes the requirement that the names of adoptive parents be disclosed.
In June, another adoption bill sponsored by Petri passed in the House and is also awaiting action in the state Senate. House Bill 1526
reduces the amount of time birth parents have to revoke consent for an adoption from 30 days to 14 days after a birth mother formally gives her consent. The bill also eliminates the timetable for a birth parent or putative father who has consented to an adoption to challenge the validity of that consent.
“Many adoptive parents are unwilling to risk losing a child to a birth parent who changes their mind,” said Petri. “By narrowing the timeframe allowed to rescind consent, many more children stand a chance of being adopted and avoiding foster care. I am hopeful the Senate will act on this important legislation.”
Representative Scott Petri
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Donna Pinkham