Background checks are required for all prospective parents in an adoption matter. In Pennsylvania, there are three background checks that are required: Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance through the Department of Human Services, Pennsylvania Criminal Record Checks through the State Police, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Criminal Background Check through the Department of Welfare. These background checks must also be completed for all other adult household members where the adoptee will reside. At this time, requests for all three background checks can be done online. The cost for each background check is nominal. Fingerprinting is required for the FBI Criminal Background Check.
If a prospective parent has lived outside of Pennsylvania in the five (5) years preceding the adoption petition, similar background checks must be acquired from each state where he or she previously resided. Background checks must be less than one year old at the time of the adoption hearing. The background checks are reviewed in the context of a home study, where required, and attached to that report. Where a home study is not required, the background checks can be submitted to the court with the petition for adoption. The mere existence of a record does not necessarily thwart the adoption process. The court must look to the nature of the record and whether it poses risk to a child. If there is no substantial risk, the adoption may still proceed.