While Pennsylvania does not acknowledge same-sex marriages, the Supreme Court has established that same-sex adoptions can take place in the form of a second-parent adoption. A second-parent adoption allows a person to adopt the child of their “unmarried” partner. In 2002, the Supreme Court held that the parental rights of the first parent need not be terminated for the adoption by the second parent to take place. Since that time, PA has remained in the minority of states that allow second-parent adoptions on a statewide basis.
While in theory, second parent adoptions are similar to step-parent adoptions, they differ in terms of procedure. Both types of adoption will require background checks be completed as it relates to the adopting parents. Presently, there are three background checks required: (1) Child Abuse History Clearance; (2) PA State Police Criminal Record Check; and (3) FBI Criminal Background Check through the Department of Welfare. Same-sex adoptions will also require a home study whereas a step-parent adoption does not. The home study consists of several visits to the home over a span of time to observe the living arrangements and relationship with the proposed adopting parent. In Bucks County, home studies are conducted by the Children & Youth Social Services Agency. Following successful completion of all the pre-requisites and filing of the Petition for Adoption, the final step is the adoption hearing in either scenario.