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
- Foster care and adoption licensing requirements
- Foster care and adoption costs
- Post-adoption support services
- Agency contact and orientation information
- Information on Pennsylvania's children
- Upcoming events
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
- Home ownership or renting
- Type of structure (single family home, apartment, or mobile home)
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.
The Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN) offers support groups to any family who has either adopted or has a formal kinship and permanent legal custodianship of children from Pennsylvania's child welfare system. To access support group and other post permanency services, families should call the toll-free SWAN Helpline at 800-585-7926.
In addition, TRAC Services for Families has an extensive adoption and foster care library that includes books, tapes, and articles that are available to the public. For information on TRAC’s library location and hours, how to borrow in-person and by mail, and what they have, call 412-471-8722.
Also see the website of the Pennsylvania State Resource Family Association.
Please contact Pennsylvania's Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN) Helpline by either calling 800-585-7926 (SWAN) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Our children have all experienced things that children should never experience. They have learned that you can’t trust adults to keep you safe, and they need someone to help them heal.
Many Pennsylvania children need resource families (foster families who are open to the possibility of adopting if the children cannot be reunited with their birth families). These children are all ages.
For many other children, their case workers have already determined that they cannot return to their birth families. They need adoptive families. These are older children (most of them are age 8 and older), and many of them have siblings that want to stay together.
Information about upcoming events can be found on the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network’s (SWAN) website.