Pennsylvania Adoption Decree and Finalization (circa 1960, Lehigh County)
Pennsylvania Adoption Decree and Finalization
(circa 1960 Lehigh County, and 1959 Chester County)
and PA Links

Pennsylvania Adoption Decree and Finalization
(circa 1960, Lehigh County)

This is when the adoption records door slams shut- when the decree is issued, finalizing the adoption. Reflect, if you will, on the fact that if the child had NOT been adopted formally or had gone into an orphanage or foster care, the birthparents' names would still be on the birth certificate the child can get. So as you can see, the argument that records are sealed to allow birthparents "confidentiality" is false. Anyone can relinquish a child, but only those whose children get adopted have offspring with state-falsified birth certificates. Let's face it- with the records reflecting truth until the adoption, and then being closed and the "amended" birth certificate being issued when the adoption is finalized, who is being protected? It's more like the adoptive parents are being protected. Certainly the adoptee who wants the truth of their origins has no party present at a decree-issuing finalization hearing. No one stands up and says "Hey! That's not right to take away that baby's right to be treated like other citizens!"

Too bad when adopted most of us cannot speak, and thus are consigned to the old "closed" adoption ignorance. Can you imagine if we could have spoken?

STATE: "OK. We're going to give you a home and because of that, we'll just seal your records, okay?"

ADOPTEE: "WHAAAT? What happened to "the best interests of the child"? Is that the trade-off? Because of someone else's actions I am supposed to pay the price, be grateful and unneedful of my origins? You're asking me if I care if you seal the records and give me a false birth certificate? YES, I care, and given the option, I don't know anyone who would choose differently, do you?"

I do not mean to malign adoption, but adoption does not have to be done THIS WAY. I do not mean to take away from the joy of an adoptive family when they finally get their child- this day is filled with love and excitement for them. They probably do not think for a minute about this babe-in-arms becoming adult and facing the question, "Who am I and where did I come from?" Somebody should.


PREAMBLE about this decree: My a-parents were down at the safe deposit box and so mom got my decree for me. An eye-opener, a real Pennsylvania decree. My adoptive mom had said that my original name was on some paperwork she and my adoptive father had gotten, and this is it. I do not know how widespread this practice was, but suspect not very or more adoptees would have had a name to search with since some a-parents are enlightened about search.

The adoption was finalized and decree issued in my adoptive parents' then-home county. The attorney representing my parents at the hearing was a church/family lawyer friend. The hearing was March 17, certified March 20th, and the decree was in the mail to my parents April 12. Apparently the decree was mailed to the attorney, and then he sent it to my a-parents. My adoption was finalized exactly eight months after my folks got me and 10 and a half months after birth (I was in a foster home for a pre-adoptive study for the first months, something some agencies did to make sure the child was normal/healthy). Based on informal surveys, it seems adoptions in PA have been finalized anywhere from 4 (early) to 6 to 12 months after birth (more average), assuming the child was relinquished immediately at birth.


File No. 781

In re Adoption of Karen Michelle Birthname, A Minor.


And now, March 17, 1962, the court being satisfied that the statements made in the annexed petition are true, and that the welfare of Karen Michelle Birthname will be promoted by her adoption, and that all the requirements of the Act of April 4, 1925, P.L. 127, as last amended by "Adoption Act" No. 400 of August 26, 1953, 1 P.S. Section 1, having been complied with, and it appearing:

THAT the petitioners herein, Joseph Daniel Adoptedname and his wife, Laura Maidenname Adoptedname, are people of respectability and character, fully willing and able to maintain, educate, and rear the said Karen Michelle Birthname....

The Court hereby decrees that the said Karen Michelle Birthname shall be in law the adopted child of Joseph Daniel Adoptedname and his wife, Laura Maidenname Adoptedname and shall have all the rights of a child and heir of said petitioners, and be subject to the duties of such child, and is hereinafter named and known as Susan Frances Adoptedname.

Ethan A. Gearhart P.J.

Next page: (I think basically certifying the first page)


I, Russel F.C. Benfer, Clerk of Orphans' Court and for the county of Lehigh, do certify that the above and forgoing is a true, correct and entire copy of the Decree of Court, re: Adoption of Karen Michelle Birthname, a minor, file number 781;

so full and entire as the same remains of record and on file in said office. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand affixed the seal of said Office, this 20th day of April A.D. one thousand nine hundred and sixty two.

Russell F.C. Benfer Clerk of Orphans' Court

Per Thelma A. Bieler Assistant Clerk of Orphans' Court

The whole package is bundled into a blue cardboard cover that folds into quarters to 4" by 8", on the front of which it says:




RUSSELL F.C. BENFER Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans' Court Lehigh County, PA"


My folks say they do not recall having to say a word at the hearing, but they were extremely relieved when it was over. They claim never to have feared my birthmother would try to reclaim me, just that they were afraid the agency who was interviewing them and conducting home studies on them would pull out. They waited over 2 years to get a child, and then had to wait another 8 months, sweating it out before they got the final okay.

I did enjoy reading this and laughed about it with my a-parents- always thought they were reasonably cool, but to see them certified as being people of "respectability and character" was pretty funny.

Would you like to see another decree?

Pennsylvania Adoption Search and Education Links


PAFind EMAIL LIST - a FREE e-mail list of PA searchers helping one another.

STATE REGISTRIES AND POLITICS - Why neither are helping PA searchers much.

RELINQUISHMENT PAPERS - Like to see an example of PA relinquishment papers?

YOUR OLD AGENCY - Backtrack here for possible help in search.

COUNTY OF FINALIZATION - Some county specific info. You need to find this out and it may not be where you think.

FORMAL PETITION - Learn how some counties make it a bit harder.

NON-ID - Learn what it is, and how to ask for it.


PA ADOPTION LAW - the easy version or the actual wording.

ADOPTION GROUPS - known in PA that handle search, support, legisilation or all three.

SEARCH BASICS - In addition to this whole menu, here's a list of ways to search and try to be found.

PHONE CALL AND LETTER IDEAS - When you are close to making that respectful first contact.

SEARCH SUCKS! I NEED A *@$#! BREAK! - Take one, pal.

HIRING A SEARCHER OR PI? - Caveat emptor! Read some parameters and cautions.

THE UNIFORM ADOPTION ACT or UAA - Learn more about "The Evil Act". Coming to PA or your state?

CITY PAPER - Coverage of adoption search, law and the UAA in PA.

PERSONAL ESSAY - on adoption with info for all sides of the triad.

REGISTRIES AND GENERAL (NON-PA) ADOPTION STUFF - links to varied good places.

Read about PA's new potential adoption law and write to your legislators!

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The UAA (Uniform Adoption Act) was a proposed law in PA which would have made it CRIMINAL for you to search for your biological family (A FELONY!) and make it criminal for anyone to help you. Additionally, it would have allowed a relinquishing birthmother a whopping eight days post-birth to change her mind. It was sponsored by Ed Krebs (Lebanon County) and was identified as House Bill 654. Thank heavens, it's dead now in PA! Still, read up on it here. Some of the new proposed law Senate Bill 859 though mostly good, has some elements of the UAA in it. This bill needs amendment and legislators are seeking our input now!


The irony of adoptions that entail closed records is that they generally begin and end with love- the love to endure and relinquish, and the love to raise and nuture. But in between? If you're an adoptee refused the right to see your own records, you're apt to feel a bit like a traded, uh...

Well, the mule's done growed up and learned how to read. Be real nice if the state took that into account.

People wanting to check out an adoption decree (who are probably scared they will hurt their adoptive parents if they ask for their own) have numbered . Come on, you're an adult now. They should know you're not going to run away and blow them off. And you should have this paperwork since it is yours. Love doesn't answer all life's fundamental questions. It's okay to ask. Do it.
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