Adoption & Foster Care FAQs
Q. How many children are there in the foster care system?
A. Approximately 20,000 children and youths enter the foster care system each year in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. There are approximately 1,900 children with a goal of adoption in Pennsylvania and more than 900 children who have no identified resource or family to call their own.
Q. How many children are placed for adoption?
A. As noted, more than 5,000 children are available for adoption just within Pennsylvania.
Q. What are the steps to become a foster parent?
A. The first step is to become a resource parent (that means a foster or adoptive parent). To do that, you should attend an orientation/information session provided by one of our Diakon Adoption & Foster Care offices. Orientations—or “info sessions”—are held monthly (for a schedule, please see our Events page).
After families take part in orientation, they attend resource-family preparation training. This training, which involves twenty-four hours of instruction, provides a solid curriculum to prepare each resource family for success after a child is placed with them, whether for foster care or adoption. Topics covered include grief and loss, sexual abuse, transracial adoption, behavioral management, attachment issues, effects of abuse and neglect and how the child-welfare system works.
Q. Who can become a foster parent?
A. To become a resource family for foster care or adoption, you can be a single- or a two-parent family, but you must be at least 21 years of age. You don’t have to own your own home and, most importantly, you don’t have to be “perfect” to be a “perfect parent.”
Of course, Diakon Adoption & Foster Care does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed or lifestyle. We use a strengths-based approach in licensing resource families. That means we are looking for all types of families, with many life experiences, that can be employed as strengths to parent children and youths with special needs.
Q. Why choose Diakon?
A. The name Diakon is based on a Greek term for “service”—and it’s a name we stand behind! In fact, Diakon has been helping children in need since 1868. Today, we remain committed to continued support for children and youths who need a family, whether temporarily or for a lifetime. See Why Diakon? to learn more.
Q. How much does it cost to adopt?
A. Costs to adopt vary by program. More information will be provided in orientation sessions. However, within Pennsylvania, most fees are covered for adoption of children with special needs through the Statewide Adoption & Permanency Network.
Q. Am I able to work and be a foster or adoptive parent?
A. Yes! Many of our current foster and adoptive parents work. It is important that you consider child-care arrangements for immediately after a placement as well as on a longer term basis. Another consideration to keep in mind is that at least one foster parent must attend court hearings. Having some flexibility in scheduling, particularly for court hearings and visits with birth family, is an important consideration.
Q. I have never parented before. Can I qualify to be a foster parent?
A. Yes! Experience with children is beneficial for any applicant; however, not having this experience will not preclude you from becoming a foster parent.
Q. What is meant by “special needs”?
A. Most children in foster care are considered to have special needs because of the trauma, grief and losses they have experienced. They will benefit from informed parenting to meet their needs for safety, structure and stability. The term “special needs” refers to older children, sibling groups and children and youths with identified social, emotional, behavioral or medical needs.
Q. Am I able to tell you what type of child I would be open to?
A. Yes. Throughout the approval process, we will discuss your preferences in terms of gender, number of children, age and race. The more open your range, the more referrals you will receive.
Q. What age range of children is most requested by families wanting to adopt?
A. Many of our families wish to care for children younger than 5.
Q. What is the greatest need, in terms of the child’s age range, for foster/adoptive parents?
A. Families able to care for sibling groups and children and youths older than 10 are most-needed.
Q. We are interested in the legal-risk (foster-to-adopt) program; can we request a placement that is certain to move to adoption?
A. While the ultimate goal of many of our families is to adopt, families also are expected to support reunification efforts. Unfortunately, we cannot predict which cases will move toward adoption and which will result in reunification with the birth family.
Q. I see there is training involved in becoming a resource family or parent. What does this training involve?
A. Diakon requires twenty-four hours of training, covering such topics as child development, attachment, grief and loss, trauma, positive discipline, transracial/transcultural adoption, sexual abuse, talking with children about difficult birth histories, exposure to drugs and alcohol, common diagnoses and reasonable and prudent parenting. In addition, each foster parent must complete training on recognizing and reporting child abuse, which is offered online. See our in process page for more information.
Q. What if I have to work when training is offered?
A. Diakon strongly believes in the value of group training for prospective foster/adoptive parents. While we offer our trainings on Saturdays, we can make reasonable accommodations for families who are not able to attend three consecutive Saturday sessions. Some families choose to attend a training session at a different Diakon Adoption & Foster Care office so that they can continue the approval process.
Q. Is there reimbursement for foster care or kinship placements?
A. Resource parents receive a per diem payment for each foster child in their care. The per diem should be used to cover the costs of the child’s food, clothing, activities and so on. The payment is based upon the unique needs of the child. If you have questions regarding specific reimbursement amounts, please contact your local office.
Q. How long and what does it take to be certified?
A. After family training, a family must submit an application and provide paperwork to Diakon Adoption & Foster Care. Forms include but are not limited to State police, child abuse and FBI clearances; three references; financial information; birth certificates; marriage licenses; divorce decrees if applicable; driver’s license; autobiography; auto insurance and registration; homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.
After all paperwork is compiled, a Recruitment and Family Development Specialist will visit the resource family home (at least once) to complete a home-safety inspection. An interview will be conducted, from which a family profile will be written to represent the strengths of the families and how that family will meet the needs of a child or youth with special needs.
The profile also will describe in detail what type of child the family is best suited to parent; further, it will represent family preferences to assure that the best match is made between the resource family and child within the child-welfare system. This process normally takes from 60 to 120 days.
Q. How long will it be before we receive a placement?
A. The waiting period for a foster or adoptive child or youth varies, depending on a resource family’s willingness to accept certain special needs and behaviors that a child presents. In fact, it is very difficult to put a time-frame on how long the process takes; however, usually, a family should expect to be placed with an adoptive child within 9 to 18 months.
With foster-care placements, again depending on the family’s openness to a variety of special needs, timing of the first placement will vary. Families willing to accept a variety of children with special needs, older children and children of minority heritage usually have access to more referrals and possible matches, because those are the types of children within the child-welfare system.
Q. What support do we receive from Diakon while a child is placed in our home?
A. After a child is placed with a resource family for either foster care, a legal-risk (foster-to-adopt) placement or adoption, a case manager will be assigned to you. The case manager will visit your home at least monthly to supervise the placement of the child, offer support and tips on behavioral modification, assist in finding resources for the child including counseling or medical or therapeutic support services as needed.
In addition to the availability of your case manager, Diakon Adoption & Foster Care offers a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week on-call service in the event of an emergency or if issues arise with your foster or adoptive child.
In addition, Diakon offers monthly support groups for its families and such programs as a training program for siblings in the home, to help them prepare for the new arrival. More information on supportive services is provided in other sections of our website as you move through the foster care or adoption process.
Additional questions and answers are posted in the “In Process” section of our website.