Pennsylvania is a beautiful state.

With its colorful, crisp landscapes, affordable housing, and proximity to great attractions like Hershey Park and Sesame Place, it is the perfect place to raise a child (or two!)

If you have thought about adoption in PA, there are a number of places you can begin. Let’s explore some opportunities for hopeful adoptive parents:

Adoption through Foster Care

If you have ever considered an affordable way to pursue adoption in PA, foster care is an excellent option. There are currently 13,000 to 15,000 kids in the Pennsylvania foster care system. Nearly 8,000 of these young people are ages 13 or older, and 1,100 will “age out” of the system when they reach 18. They will have no family or support system to guide them into a productive adulthood.

Many of these children have already been released for adoption, meaning that their biological parents’ rights have been terminated, either voluntarily or involuntarily. The parents did not meet the minimum requirements to regain custody.

Several of these children are over 8 years old or are part of a sibling group that needs to be adopted together. It is also possible to pursue a foster-to-adopt program. Children can be identified as being more likely to become available for adoption in the future, although the state cannot guarantee that they will become free for adoption.

The influence of a loving parent or set of parents on a life is invaluable. Your love, support, and resources can make the difference between your child failing or thriving in a complicated world.

A foster parent in Pennsylvania receives a monthly stipend to be applied toward meeting the basic needs of your child, including food, childcare, and bedding. Basic foster rates are between $657 and $820 per month, depending on the age of the child. There is also a specialized care increment for children with different needs.

Adopting through foster care is very affordable, topping out around $2,500. If you are adopting a child who is already being fostered in your home, the adoption is free in the state of Pennsylvania.

If you are adopting a foster child through an adoption agency, the fees will be paid by the state if the child is over ten, or if they are part of a sibling group, or if they have challenges that are at least moderate in nature. Adoption assistance is also available through a state-funded subsidy. The amount varies, depending on the needs of the child you decide to adopt.

If you are in Pennsylvania adopting from another state, you may have to pay some fees up-front, but you could be reimbursed for your expenses, depending on the adoption agency. Foster children under the age of 18 in Pennsylvania are eligible for Medicaid or free to low-cost healthcare through CHIP. Foster youth can also receive free college tuition and money toward rent and transportation related to their education.

If you are a foster-to-adopt parent, you will be given the priority for custody if and when the biological family becomes unable to care for the child or children. You can also be matched with children who are already eligible to be adopted.

Couples and singles between ages 21 and 60 are eligible to adopt through foster care. You must be in reasonably good health, as verified by a physical, including a TB test. You must also have a sufficient income to provide for your existing family’s needs. There needs to be a police clearance, child abuse clearance, and FBI clearance for each member of your household over the age of 14. This can be concluded with a one-time set of fingerprints.

Parents must undergo a home study that includes a home inspection, non-family references, and 24 hours of foster-parent training courses. The purpose of these courses is to help prospective parents to understand how past experiences will affect your child. Topics include grief, loss, and effective parenting techniques.You will also meet with a caseworker to talk about your family’s unique strengths.

Once you are certified as a resource family, preplacement visits can begin, and you may be contacted at any time for emergency foster care or shelter placements.

Post-placement visits take place for six months to two years after placement. You will have bimonthly supervisions by a caseworker. Adoption placements end upon finalization, which takes place in a Court of Common Pleas.

Some resources for prospective parents interested in adopting through foster care include Pennsylvania’s Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network, the PA Adoption Photolisting Website, the US Adoption Photolisting, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, the Pennsylvania State Resource Family Association, Haven Adoptions, Bethanna, the Three Rivers Adoption Council, and Friendship House.

Agency Adoption

Another way to pursue adoption in PA is agency-assisted—the type of adoption most people think of when they hear the word “adoption.”

Unlike foster-to-adopt programs, agency adoption does not have the built-in risk of the child being reunited with their birth family after being placed with you. The agency does most of the work, locating birth mothers and allowing them to choose an adoptive family that is the best fit.

Infants, toddlers, and school-aged children can all be adopted through adoption agencies. In many cases, the adoptive family travels to the state the baby is being born in to be at the hospital for the birth.

Agency adoptions usually have some degree of openness, meaning that there will be at least some form of contact with the birth mother after the adoption is finalized. This could be anything from emails on birthdays to supervised visits and can be arranged with the agency and birth mother ahead of time.

Oftentimes, a prospective adoptive family will make a photo album or “family book,” highlighting the strengths and interests of a family that a birth mother might be considering. It can include hobbies, relatives, pets, professions, or favorite sports teams.

The cost of agency-assisted adoption is between $30,000 and $40,000. This includes an application fee, educational courses, post-placement education, and a home study. The study involves background checks, fingerprinting, a home inspection, possible travel costs for the caseworker, and post-placement reports. Agency fees also cover legal costs that make the adoption final.

You may need to add an addendum to you home study if you move or if you decide to adopt a child who is older than you were initially approved for. You also need to update the study if you decide to adopt a sibling group and need to have your home certified for more than one child.

About 80% of adoptions make it to finalization. After the paperwork is in, that number climbs to 98%. However, in the unlikely event that an agency adoption fails, fees are usually applied toward a future adoption.

The adoption tax credit is available to families whose combined income is less than $203,570 per year. After that salary level, it begins to phase out, so you will be available for less of a refund. If your combined income is higher than $243,570, you are not eligible for the credit.

The adoption tax credit caps at $13,570 per child. While it is not a windfall, it is money that you will not have to pay in income taxes, and you have up to five years to recoup the funds. Money spent on your home study, adoption-related travel, attorney fees, agency fees, and other adoption-related expenses can all be deducted.

You may also want to look into employer-related adoption assistance. Employers will occasionally provide a flat amount per child that you adopt, as they do for fertility treatments. Prospective adoptive couples can also apply for adoption grants.

Private Adoption

Adoption in PA through a private lawyer takes about 18 months, although your wait could be shorter. It is a bit less expensive than agency adoption, costing somewhere between $10,000 and $30,000.

Couples are more involved in locating birth parents when the adoption is private and may help with placing ads or answering birth mother inquiries. They will need to become certified by cooperating with a home study, including a home inspection and fingerprint clearance.

Private adoptions can be completely closed or completely open, but most are somewhere in between, with birth parents and adoptive parents on a first-name basis and meeting only at the time of birth. After that, photos and updates may be shared via email, text, or a confidential website.

Adopt in PA

If you are interested in a Pennsylvania adoption, get ready for an exciting journey. The highs and lows create a beautiful landscape in the life of a child and parent that is rivaled only by the loveliness of the country sky.