Pennsylvania foster care and adoption guidelines

Every year, thousands of children enter the foster care system in need of safety, security, nurturing, and love.  Many of our children are able to reunite with their birth family, but many others are not.

We encourage families to consider becoming a resource family. A resource family is willing to support birth family reunification originally and to adopt the child if the goal changes to adoption. 

If you think fostering is not something you are able to do, there are also children looking for someone to adopt them. We are here to answer your questions and be a support.

On this page:

Contact information

Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN)
Email (correo electrónico):
Toll-free Phone (Teléfono): 800-585-SWAN (7926)

Facebook: Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN)


Foster care and adoption licensing requirements


Families interested in adopting or fostering must be at least 21 years old and must go through this process:

  • You will have to attend training. In Pennsylvania, we believe that it is best to complete 24 hours of “parent preparation” but the actual number of hours will vary depending on the agency that you choose to work with (because the state does not actually require the full 24 hours). The purpose of the training is to help you understand how the child’s past experiences can affect them, to talk about issues such as grief and loss, to provide you with parenting techniques, to tell you about resources available to help you, and more.
  • Prospective foster and adoptive parents, plus all individuals older than 18 years old who reside in your home, will need the several different types of background checks: State criminal background check and child abuse clearances; a federal criminal history record check completed by submitting a one-time full set of fingerprints; and certification from statewide registry of child abuse in any state in which he or she has resided during the past five years.
  • Current physical that includes a tuberculosis test.
  • References from non-family members.
  • Safety check of your home.
  • Work with a social worker in the agency that you choose so that he or she can complete a written document about your family’s strengths. This document is referred to as a "family profile" in adoption and a "home study" in foster care.

Our adoption process is strength-based, which means that we help you to identify your strengths and match them up with the needs of a child who is waiting.

We do not discriminate against families based on the topics of:

  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Income
  • Home ownership or renting
  • Type of structure (single family home, apartment, or mobile home)

Foster care and adoption costs


Generally, all foster parent training is free, and the adoption of any child you have already been fostering in your home is free. There may be some minimal miscellaneous costs the family is responsible for, such as the cost of clearances and filing fees. 

Depending upon the agency, a state resident who is adopting a child currently waiting in the foster care system – even if they are doing so without being a foster parent first - will have their agency fees paid by the state up front if:

  • They are adopting a child who is age 10 or older
  • They are adopting a sibling group
  • They are adopting a child with at least moderate challenges

When adopting, without fostering, all other children in the state foster care system or when adopting a child who is waiting in foster care in another state, Pennsylvania families may have to pay for some of the agency fees (e.g., training and family profile) up front. You may be reimbursed after a child is placed in your home. This is up to the policies of the child’s agency and the policies of the agency that you choose to work with.

Agency contact and orientation information


Please contact Pennsylvania's Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN) Helpline by either calling 800-585-7926 (SWAN)  or emailing  You will be put in contact with a SWAN technical specialist trained and experienced in talking with families interested in providing adoption, foster care, and other resource family services to children in placement. Specialists can also answer questions about Pennsylvania’s network of agencies licensed in foster care  and adoption.

Parent support groups

See a comprehensive list of post-adoption and guardianship support services and support groups available to families who live in Pennsylvania.


Information on Pennsylvania's children


A child might be voluntarily placed into the system by parents who are having difficulty caring for their children.  Or children might be taken out of their homes by a court order.  Currently in Pennsylvania, more than 3,000 children are waiting to be adopted.


Upcoming events


Information about upcoming events can be found on the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network’s (SWAN) website.