How to adopt a child in pennsylvania

How to adopt a child in pennsylvania

According to the most recent federal data, there are currently more than 400,000 children in foster care in the United States. They range in age from infants to 21 years old (in some states). The average age of a child in foster care is more than 8 years old, and there are slightly more boys than girls.

Children and youth enter foster care because they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents or guardians. All of these children have experienced loss and some form of trauma. In other ways, foster children are no different from children who aren’t in foster care: they are learning and growing, like to play and hang out with friends their age, and need the love and stability a permanent home provides.

How to adopt a child in pennsylvania Learn about the children in foster care and the qualities of successful families by clicking through our short, interactive modules.

The median amount of time that a child spends in foster care is just over a year. More than half of the children in foster care will be reunified with their parents or primary caregivers, and nearly one-quarter will be adopted, many by their foster parents.

Each year, approximately 20,000 youth will age out of the foster care system when they turn 18 or 21, or when they finish high school (depending upon the state in which they live.) These children are at increased risk of poor educational outcomes, experiencing homelessness, and being unemployed. Read more about why teens need families.

Frequently asked questions about children in foster care

AdoptUSKids foster care and adoption resource specialists respond to hundreds of questions about foster care and adoption, and an active community of families is always exchanging information on our Facebook page. Following are our responses to some of the questions that are frequently asked about the children in foster care.

How many children are awaiting adoption in the United States?

Of the 400,000 children in foster care, approximately 120,000 are waiting to be adopted.

I have heard that many children in foster care have “special needs.” What does that mean?

The term “special needs” simply refers to children who qualify for adoption assistance—ongoing governmental medical and/or financial support after adoption occurs—due to specific factors or conditions such as:

  • Being an older child
  • Having a particular racial or ethnic background
  • Being part of a sibling group needing to be placed together as one unit
  • Medical conditions
  • Physical, mental, or emotional disabilities

A child with special needs should not be confused with a child who requires special education.

I see a lot of older children in photolistings like the one on AdoptUSKids. Why would I want to adopt an older child?

Imagine being a teenager grappling with the transition into adolescence and independence all alone. That is the situation facing thousands of young people who face aging out of foster care alone every year. These teens need support, guidance, and family now and for the rest of their lives.

Are brothers and sisters always adopted together?

In an ideal world, the answer would be yes. Research suggests that siblings placed together experience lower risk of failed placements, fewer moves, and many emotional benefits. Even when siblings have been separated in foster care, the goal is to find them a safe, permanent home where they can grow up together.

Things to do next:

    . There are more than 5,000 children photolisted on our website.
  • Read about the support available to adoptive families.
  • Contact a foster care and adoption specialist: 888-200-4005 or [email protected]

On the blog

How to adopt a child in pennsylvania

“We are just like every other kid”

Thomas lived in 11 foster homes. Today he is advocating for other young people in care.

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

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 [email protected] 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

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.

Anyone hoping to adopt a child in Pennsylvania will need to meet the requirements for adoption first. But, these adoption qualifications vary depending on the type of adoption you pursue, as well as the adoption professional you adopt through. For example, prospective adoptive parents who intend to adopt from foster care in Pennsylvania must meet different requirements than those who plan on adopting internationally.

Fortunately, we've gathered some information to help you understand these adoption requirements in Pennsylvania, regardless of which path you are considering. If you ever have questions about our agency's requirements for adoption, call us at 1-800-ADOPTION to learn more.

These frequently asked questions about the requirements for adopting a child in Pennsylvania may help you understand if adoption is the right path for your family:

How old do you have to be to adopt in Pennsylvania? Is there an adoption age limit?

Pennsylvania is considered to be one of the least restrictive states on who may adopt a child. There is no minimum age to adopt specified in Pennsylvania adoption laws, nor is there any legal adoption age limit enforced. Even a minor can adopt in some situations.

However, individual adoption professionals usually have their own set of adoption requirements regarding age. American Adoptions requests that adoptive parents be between 22 and 50, although exceptions have been made. Pennsylvania foster care agencies require foster and adoptive parents to be at least 21 years old.

Contact your adoption professional to ask about their adoption requirements if you believe your age may be an issue.

Do you have to be married to adopt in Pennsylvania?

No, you do not have to be married to adopt in Pennsylvania; single persons may adopt in PA. If someone who is married wishes to adopt a child in Pennsylvania, both spouses will have to adopt unless one spouse gives the other consent to adopt on their own.

Again, your adoption professional will likely have their own adoption requirements about married couples and individuals who want to adopt. American Adoptions, for one, does not currently work with single individuals and requires couples to have been married for a minimum of two years.

However, exceptions have been made, so call 1-800-ADOPTION to learn more.

Can same-sex couples adopt in Pennsylvania?

There are no laws in Pennsylvania about same-sex couples adopting. American Adoptions welcomes Pennsylvania LGBT couples who wish to adopt.

Can a felon adopt a child in Pennsylvania?

During the Pennsylvania adoption home study process, prospective adoptive families will undergo background checks. Convicted felons may be approved to adopt in Pennsylvania if their social worker and the court finds that the prospective adoptive parent’s criminal record was non-violent and did not involve child or domestic abuse or neglect.

Previously convicted felons must be cleared on an individual basis after applying to adopt through their adoption agency to ensure that their criminal offenses pose no danger to a child placed in their care, so contact your adoption professional to learn more.

What do I need to adopt a child in Pennsylvania? And how hard is it to adopt a baby?

Aside from the standard legal adoption requirements in Pennsylvania, you may also want to take into account the additional requirements that prospective adoptive parents must meet in order to adopt. This includes:

The Health Requirements for Adoption

You don’t need to be in perfect health in order to adopt, but hopeful parents must be physically able to care for their child. Pennsylvania adoption agencies and home study professionals will review your recent medical statements to ensure that you’re physically and mentally healthy enough to meet the requirements of adoption in PA.

The Financial Requirements for Adoption

Once again, you don’t need flawless finances. But you do need to verify that you’re financially stable enough to provide for a child. Your PA home study professional will review your recent financial statements for this purpose.

The Emotional Requirements for Adoption

Meeting the emotional requirements to adopt a child in Pennsylvania is likely the most important adoption qualification, but it can’t be proven with documentation. Only you can know if you meet the emotional adoption requirements, which include:

Moving past the dream of having a baby biologically, and refocusing on your new dream of having a baby through adoption.

Addressing any infertility grief you may have.

Educating yourself about the emotional steps of the PA adoption process for adoptive parents, birth parents and adoptees.

Getting on the same page as your spouse about your feelings towards adoption and parenthood. Being united in your adoption goals is necessary before moving forward.

Learning how to maintain a positive relationship with your child’s birth family, and releasing expectations that you may have about being biologically tied to your child.

Staying excited about and committed to adoption through challenges.

Do you meet our agency's qualifications for adoption in Pennsylvania? Are you ready to get started with American Adoptions today? Call 1-800-ADOPTION to speak with an adoption specialist now.

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. America Adoptions, Inc. provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

Adoption cases can often be extremely stressful to any potential parent seeking to adopt a child. Like all adoption cases, Step Parent Adoption cases can be some of the most complex custody cases that come before a court. When a Step Parent chooses to adopt a child, the parental rights of the parent who is not the Adopter’s spouse must be terminated. This can happen one of two ways: the first can be through consent from the person whose parental rights will be terminated. The second option is a court’s decision to involuntarily terminate a person’s parental rights.

A parent can voluntarily terminate his or her rights with respect to a child. Many voluntary terminations occur when there is a parent who is not involved in the child’s life. A voluntary termination of parental rights also effectively terminates any support obligation that the terminating parent may face.

An involuntary termination of parental rights will only occur after a petition to the court requests such relief. This petition can be brought by the county when a child has been adjudicated dependent and the county no longer believes reunification is possible. Alternatively, a petition for involuntary termination of parental rights may be presented by a parent due to the other parent’s lack of involvement or abuse. There is a long list of factors the court must consider before involuntary termination can take place. The court must carefully consider each factor and weigh how the termination will affect the child before any decision is made.

After a parent’s parental rights have been terminated, the court will proceed with the adoption process. A step parent can adopt the child with consent of their spouse and consent of the child (if the child is over the age of 12). An adopting step parent will be required to submit their criminal history if they have one and may potentially receive a home-visit from the county prior to the court’s approval of an adoption.

If you are a step parent in Pennsylvania who wishes to adopt your step child, please contact one of our experienced Adoption Attorneys today. Our team of Western Pennsylvania adoption lawyers will work with you to provide you with the legal guidance you need and work to ensure that the adoption process is as easy and stress free as possible. For more information, contact us today!

Every adoption journey is unique. We’re here to support yours.

First of all, you are not alone. We are here to help guide you to the right decision for you and your baby. We welcome you to reach out to us, so that we can talk about your specific situation and help you figure out what is best. Your contact with us is confidential and there’s no obligation to choose adoption.

Step 1. Contact The Children’s Home

Call or Text Us 24/7: 412-736-2908
Email Us: [email protected]

Chat with us on here by clicking the box at the bottom right of this screen. Please note: this chat box is only monitored during regular business hours but you can leave a message for us.

Step 2: Meet with a birthparent specialist

How to adopt a child in pennsylvania

We’re here to help guide you through the process and can be available to chat as little or as much as you’d like. Things we’ll talk about in our first meeting are:

  • Your thoughts and feelings on choosing adoption
  • Is adoption right for you
  • What is the adoption process
  • What choices do I have?
  • What would you like your next steps to be?

We can meet you at your home, at a restaurant or public place, at The Children’s Home in a private room, or virtually. We’re located at 5324 Penn Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15224.

Step 3: Decide if adoption is right for you.

You may know right away or it may take some time. While you are deciding, you can contact your birthparent specialist to talk or ask questions.

Step 4: Create an adoption plan.

How to adopt a child in pennsylvania

Some birthmothers like to be very involved and others prefer we sort out the details. When you create a plan, you can decide on the following:

  • Choosing an adoptive family. You can look at photos and learn more about them or even meet them if you’d like.
  • Decide on a level of openness you are comfortable with. Openness means any contact you might want with your child and adoptive family as your child grows.
  • How you would like your time in the hospital to look. Do you want to spend time with the baby? Have the adoptive family there with you? Name the baby? Or do you want to be involved as little as possible?

Step 5: The Baby’s Birth

How to adopt a child in pennsylvaniaWe’re your adoption advocate and are happy to help you on this day. We can come to the hospital before, during, or after delivery and ensure that the hospital staff follow your adoption wishes.

There is a lot to consider, and there is no right or wrong path to take in creating an adoption plan for your child. Your birthparent specialist can review all choices with you and even help you make a birth plan specific to the adoption, as well as an open adoption agreement with the adoptive family for after.

While the process of becoming a foster family in Pennsylvania requires forethought and planning, it’s worth every bit of effort.

After all, 25,000 children in Pennsylvania are living without their families and are in need of supportive, structured homes.

Our foster care agency in Pennsylvania, Family Care for Children and Youth (FCCY) developed this FAQ page to answer the most frequently asked questions we get about foster care, adoption, and how to become a foster parent in PA.

We hope that our resources assist you as you consider becoming a foster family in Pennsylvania. You should also consult our blog page, as we’ve covered many of these topics in more detail.

If you have any additional questions or want to help a child in need in Pennsylvania, give us a call today!



In cases of both foster care and adoption, a child in need is placed in a supportive home. The difference hinges on parental rights.

For foster care, parental rights for major decisions still belong to birth parents (unless a specific circumstance makes this impossible) or the agency that oversees the child.

With adoption, however, adoptive parents gain full legal rights and can make all decisions regarding the child.

In both cases, the goal is to support the child and to have them in the healthiest situation possible.


Yes! We offer both family-based foster care and adoption services in PA.

Look at our individual service pages for more information.


It depends on the situation. When possible, the goal of foster care is always to support a child while their birth parents are unable to do so. This means that foster care is, by nature, a temporary arrangement. In some cases, foster children are adopted by foster parents, but this is not necessarily the end-goal of a foster situation.

How to adopt a child in pennsylvania


Usually, understanding the difference in parental rights and permanency is enough to make a decision about foster care vs. adoption. If you and your household want to start a family of your own, it is best to adopt a child in need. When you want to support your community and offer a safe space to a child in need, a foster situation would be best.

If you have questions about your specific situation, be sure to give our foster care agency in PA a call today.



Each state has different qualifications for a foster parent, but here are the general guidelines for becoming a foster family in Pennsylvania.

You and/or your partner must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Pass an extensive background check
  • Demonstrate financial stability
  • Pass a home inspection
  • Show the ability to provide for a child and meet any specific needs a child has
  • Show emotional and physical health

These are general guidelines; for more specific protocol, contact our team at FCCY today and we’d be happy to answer any questions!


Pennsylvania law limits the number of children under 18 in a foster home to six — this includes all children residing in the house, birth and adoptive or foster.


Yes, you can foster a child if it’s just you.


Yes. You will work with FCCY in PA to connect you with a child in need, complete the mandatory screening, and receive support throughout the process.


To become a foster parent you will need training and there will be monthly training thereafter. Before you become an official foster parent or family in Pennsylvania, you must take a few steps through the University of Pittsburgh, School Of Social Work.

Start by completing a simple demographics form that you can find here:

Once you have completed this demographic survey, you can begin required trainings through the Pennsylvania Child Welfare Resource Center.

These trainings are meant to provide you with resources, strategies, and child welfare competencies to ensure that you are fully prepared to become a foster parent. If you have any questions along the way, please do not hesitate to contact us at FCCY.



In Pennsylvania, foster families are entitled to daily reimbursement per foster child. The amount of the stipend varies.


There are many foster family community groups in Pennsylvania. Chat with our team if you want local recommendations for foster family support.


All children will have Medical Assistance, private insurance, or other support in place.


FCCY offers community-based foster care and adoption services in Pennsylvania. As a non-profit, social service agency, we are committed to connecting children in need to nurturing and supportive families.

If you are ready and able to help a child in need, please contact our foster care agency in PA today.


We make the adoption process in Pennsylvania simple, fast and affordable.

How to adopt a child in pennsylvania

Now you can complete your stepparent adoption in Pennsylvania without having to pay high attorney fees. We make it possible to file and your own adoption. We never sell “automated” adoption forms, only documents prepared by an experienced adoption specialist. Our experienced Pennsylvania adoption team will review your information and prepare adoption papers specifically for your situation.

Information on filing an adoption in Pennsylvania.

When we prepare your Pennsylvania adoption papers, we will include all the provisions specific to your situation. Documents we prepare for one family will be different than the documents for another family, because circumstances are different. We ensure that your adoption forms are ready to sign and file with the court in Pennsylvania. Whether you are filing a stepparent adoption or an adult adoption, we will be able to help you get your adoption finalized.

You can complete your Pennsylvania stepparent adoption. We prepare your legal forms and help you through the adoption process.

Residency in Pennsylvania:

You must be a resident of the State of Pennsylvania for 6 months prior to filing your adoption. The adoption is filed with the Probate Court in the county where you reside.

Consent of Absent Parent:

Most of the adoptions we help families complete are not able to get the consent of the absent parent. The adoption can be completed without the absent parent’s consent if that parent has abandoned the child. Abandonment is when the other parent has not any substantial contact for the past 12 months.

Consent of child:

In Pennsylvania, if the child is 14 years or older, the child will sign a consent to adoption.

When absent parent’s whereabouts or identity are unknown:

It is fairly common that the absent parent’s whereabouts are unknown. It is also fairly common that the biological father’s identity is unknown. In both situations, you can still complete the stepparent adoption.

Stepparent Adoption in Pennsylvania:

No matter what your situation may be, we have the experience to help you complete your adoption. A stepparent adoption in Pennsylvania takes approximately 3 months to be final. Once completed, the child will receive a new birth certificate showing the child’s new name and the new parent.

Adult Adoption in Pennsylvania:

Adult adoptions in Pennsylvania are very simple. As an adult, the adoptee can decide on their own that they want to be adopted, and they don’t need the consent of the biological parent. An adult adoption can be finalized as soon as 45-60 days.

How to adopt a child in pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania courts approve our adoption forms. You can file with confidence.

You may have heard of the recent Florida adoption case (Goodman v. Goodman) where a man tried to adopt his adult girlfriend in an effort to circumvent an irrevocable trust that was established for the benefit of his children when he and his ex-wife were still married. The Florida court determined that the adoption was invalid, but not for the reason you may think. It may surprise you, but adopting an adult is legal in Florida, as is adopting an adult in Pennsylvania! The Florida court invalidated Mr. Goodman’s adoption of his girlfriend not because she was an adult, but because Mr. Goodman’s only apparent reason for adopting his girlfriend was to name her as a beneficiary of the irrevocable trust and thereby reduce the shares to his biological children. Because of this, the court determined that the adoption was invalid for lack of notice to the persons who had a direct financial and immediate interest in the adoption (Mr. Goodman’s children).

An adult adoption is an adoption of any person who 18 years of age or older. There are a variety of motivations for seeking an adult adoption in Pennsylvania, including Pennsylvania Estate Planning. One of the most common for adult adoptions in Pennsylvania is to care for an elderly or incapacitated adult. While there are other legal mechanisms designed to aid caretakers in making healthcare and financial decisions on behalf of elderly or incapacitated adults, completing the adult adoption process can streamline the process of making health, medical, and financial decisions.

The legal effect of an adult adoption in PA includes the issuing of a new birth certificate, as well as a legal name change (which is optional). Unlike adopting a child in Pennsylvania, there is no requirement to notify and/or obtain consent from the birth parents of individuals age 18 or older. However, some other issues that could prevent the adoption of an adult in Pennsylvania include:

• A pre-existing sexual relationship between the adult individual and the intended adoptive parent;

• The individual to be adopted or the intended adoptive parent has been convicted of a felony or faces criminal charges in Pennsylvania or another state;

• Fraudulent reasons are suspected for seeking the adoption;

• The adult individual to be adopted is not competent to understand what is going on.

After an adult is adopted in Pennsylvania any legal relationship between the adopted adult and their biological parents is ceased. Practically, this means that an adopted person will no longer have the right to inherit from their biological parents through Pennsylvania’s intestacy law; however, biological parents may nevertheless give property and/or gifts to their adult child by specifically including them in their Pennsylvania estate plan through a Pennsylvania Will or a Pennsylvania Trust.

As with all adoption and estate law matters, the process of adult adoption is complex and can best be best navigated with the assistance of a qualified Pennsylvania Adoption Law Attorney. If you’re considering an adult adoption, you should consult with an experienced PA adoption lawyer to ensure that all parties involved understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to the adult adoption process.

Adoption laws historically have varied from state to state, but are becoming more uniform. Pennsylvania adoption laws allow any child and only certain adults to be adopted, while any unmarried adult, unmarried minor parent of adoptee, or married couple may adopt. Additionally, the adoption of Pennsylvania children age 12 and older requires the child’s consent to the adoption.

The following table lists the basics provisions of Pennsylvania’s adoption laws and you can learn more in the background information that follows or see FindLaw’s Adoption section.

Code Section Tit. 23 §§2101 to 2910; No
Who May Be Adopted Any person
Age that Child’s Consent Needed 12 years and older
Who May Adopt Any person
Home Residency Required Prior to Finalization of Adoption? Not required, but may do temporary placement
State Agency/Court Pennsylvania Adoption Cooperative Exchange (PACE) in Dept. of Public Welfare/Common Pleas
Statute of Limitations to Challenge Not specified

Who may adopt?

Pennsylvania is one of the least restrictive states on who may adopt. Pennsylvania adoption is generally open, and does not prohibit any adult from adopting. As well, in certain circumstances, minors may adopt as well. This is most common when they adopt a younger sibling.

If a married couple wants to adopt, both spouses will have to adopt, unless one spouse gives the other consent to adopt alone. Generally, unmarried couples cannot adopt in Pennsylvania, but there may be exceptions.

Who may be adopted in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania’s adoption laws do not restrict who may or may not be adopted. This means that adults can be adopted too.

Whose consent is needed for adoption?

Generally, the birth parents must consent to an adoption. However, there are many circumstances that may remove a child from a home, and make that child available for adoption without the birth parents’ consent. As well, consent is required from any adult who is adopted, and any child age 12 or older.

What is the residency requirement for adoption in Pennsylvania?

Many states require a period of residency before adopting in that state. However, Pennsylvania is one of the few states that does not have a residency requirement. Pennsylvania courts and adoption agencies still have the right to require a temporary placement before the adoption is finalized, though.

Open vs. Closed Adoptions

Birth parents and adopting parents may be concerned about an adopted child’s rights to get in contact with their birth parents. If the birth parents agree to the contact, the adoption is known as an open adoption. How old the child has to be before contact, and the method of contact allowed may change from case to case. If the birth parents do not consent to the contact, it is called a closed adoption. In this circumstance, some records may be maintained for medical reasons, and to track potential genetic disorders.

If you would like to know more about Pennsylvania’s adoption laws, and the rights of both the adopting parents and the birth parents, there are many lawyers throughout Pennsylvania with adoption law experience who may be able to help.