Watson Applauds House Passage of Bills to Improve Adoption Process in Pennsylvania
– To improve the way in which adoptions are handled in Pennsylvania and ensure that children are placed in loving homes, the House this week passed a legislative package designed to eliminate unnecessary barriers for adoptive parents, said Rep. Kathy Watson (R-Bucks/144th), chairman of the House Children and Youth Committee.
“Pennsylvania’s adoption laws are frustrating for everyone involved in the process – birth parents, adoptive parents and children,” said Watson, who was adopted as a young child and who adopted her now-adult son years ago. “Our state’s policies should be encouraging to families who want to bring a child into their home and supportive of birth parents who are making this difficult choice. This bill package is designed to make the process easier for those who want nothing but the best for their children.”
To help birth parents with their decision, the bill package contains House Bill 56
, which Watson sponsored, to help ensure that birth parents, if they so desire, have access to adoption-related counseling services. The counseling would be available when they are considering relinquishing parental rights and placing a child for adoption, or when they have relinquished parental rights and have consented to place their child for adoption.
The purpose of the counseling is to help a birth parent understand the adoption process, the birth parent’s rights and obligations, the consequences of a decision to relinquish parental rights, and the alternatives to relinquishment and adoption. This would assist an individual or individuals in navigating through an extremely emotional decision, or in the event that the decision to relinquish parental rights has been made, to help the birth parent or parents deal with the psychological aftermath of that decision.
Watson said that one of the key bills in the package would shorten the period in which a birth parent can revoke his/her consent to an adoption. Currently, the time period is 30 days in Pennsylvania, which is one of the longest in the country. House Bill 58
would shorten that period to 14 days, and the window of time would start after consent for adoption has been given, not from the time the child is born.
Other bills would streamline and expedite the procedures for terminating parental rights; allow adoptive families to appeal the amount of an adoption subsidy; make it easier for parents who are incarcerated to relinquish their parental rights by allowing correctional staff to witness the individual’s consent to adoption; eliminate the hearing currently required to confirm a consent to adoption; refine the definition of “intermediary” to include a licensed attorney or social worker; and add reasonable living expenses incurred by a birth mother to the list of permissible reimbursable expenses paid by a prospective adoptive family during the course of the adoption process.
The package is nearly identical to several adoption reform bills that passed the House last year but did not clear the Senate before the end of the 2015-16 session.
All of the bills now go to the Senate for consideration.
Representative Kathy Watson
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Jennifer Keaton