Frequently Asked Questions
1. What does it mean when a child is described as having special needs?
The term special needs is commonly used to refer to children waiting to be adopted who are older, of minority heritage, part of a sibling group placed together or have the presence of a genetic condition, medical condition, or physical, mental or emotional disabilities. It is also used to refer to those children for whom finding an adoptive family may be more challenging. These children may be eligible to receive adoption assistance until the age of 18 or 21.
2. Are there many children with special needs who are waiting to be adopted?
Many children who are available for adoption in the foster care system are considered to have special needs. Currently, Pennsylvania has more than 2,500 children who are waiting to be adopted.
3. What qualities do agencies look for in families considering adoption?
Agencies look for families who can best meet the needs of a child. Agencies are also looking for families who can commit to a child and are willing to accept the reality of raising that child to adulthood.
4. Are there any restrictions, such as age or income?
Anyone with an approved family profile may adopt. Agencies must determine which family will best meet the needs of a child. Factors such as age, income, marital status and employment are explored during the family profile process. Pennsylvania wants to be inclusive with potential families rather than limit our resources for children who are waiting.
5. Is it expensive to adopt?
Adoption fees vary by agency and depend on the child the family wants to adopt. The adoption of children in the Pennsylvania foster care system is largely subsidized through the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN) program, to minimize the expense to families. In most cases, there is little or no cost to adopting families. More information about adoption expenses is available from the child's agency or by contacting the SWAN Helpline at 1-800-585-7926 or
6. How long does it take to adopt a child?
Waiting times vary due to several reasons. Here are a few:
  • The characteristics of the child you wish to adopt may affect the length of time you wait until a child is placed with you;
  • Waiting periods (after a child is placed) established by law in the state in which you plan to finalize the adoption; or
  • The child or family's readiness to finalize the adoption.
The family profile process may take up to 120 days. Matching services should begin upon approval of the family profile and registration with the Pennsylvania Adoption Exchange.
7. If a family chooses to adopt a healthy infant or a child from another county, is there any financial assistance available?
Families choosing domestic non-special needs or international adoption are eligible for a federal tax credit. Those adopting a domestic child with special needs are also eligible for a tax credit and possibly adoption assistance. For more information visit the IRS Web site.
8. When is the best time to talk to my child about being adopted?
It is important to answer your child's questions about adoption. Many books are available that are geared to children of different ages. Pennsylvania has 10 district libraries that serve as Resource Centers for SWAN. Each center has many books, magazines, videos and resources specific to adoption issues. The National Adoption Information Clearinghouse also has many resources available on adoption.
9. How can I learn more about adoption?
For more information about adoption in Pennsylvania, please contact the SWAN Helpline at 1-800-585-79261-800-585-7926
Josh Shapiro, Governor / Commonwealth of Pennsylvania