A Diakon special needs adoption family posing for a group photo.

Special Needs Adoption 

Many children and youths need a family to help them develop talents, encourage ambitions and offer love.
Are you that family?

Diakon Adoption & Foster Care emphasizes adoption of children and youths with special needs because we believe every child deserves a loving family—and because the number of children and youths with special needs waiting to be adopted far exceeds the number of children adopted through traditional programs.

By focusing on adoption of children and youths with special needs, we—and you—are changing the lives of those at greatest risk of waiting the longest for the permanence they want and deserve.

But what are “special needs”?

Special needs may not be as involved as you think. Children who are said to have “special needs” come from a variety of backgrounds and may include the following:

  • Children and youths who are 10 years of age or older
  • Sibling groups, that is brothers and sisters who should be placed with one foster or adoptive family
  • Children with significant medical, physical, cognitive or emotional challenges
  • Children who live in Pennsylvania

Long before many adoption agencies began to focus on children with special needs, Diakon was a trendsetter. In the early 1970s, when most adoptions focused on the placement of health white infants, our program began to emphasize primarily children and older youths with a range of special needs.

In fact, we became a national model for that effort and, under a contract, helped to train other adoption organizations across the country. 

Pennsylvania's Statewide Adoption & Permanency Network emphasizes adoption of children and youths with special needs.

In addition to its direct service, Diakon separately manages Pennsylvania’s Statewide Adoption & Permanency Network. or SWAN as the network is known. SWAN includes a focus on adoption of children and youths with special needs. Through SWAN, special-needs adoption fees are often waived and state financial support may be provided to adoptive families.


Table top display encouraging PA resource families to consider the adoption of older, special needs youth and children.