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A child might be voluntarily placed into the system by parents who are having difficulty caring for their children or children might be taken out of their homes by a court order. Ultimately each of these children will do one or more of the

following: return to the family, be placed with a resource caregiver, or be adopted by you!


After the child is within the system, the county agency will work with the child’s family to resolve the issues that led to placement. If it is unlikely that reunification is to occur, the county agency can recommend that a child be considered for adoption. A judge will then hold a hearing to decide if adoption is appropriate. Reunification is the primary objective of the child welfare system. Each child has the potential to be reunified with their biological family. All prospective resource caregivers should be aware of this before they decide to become a resource caregiver

But even before a child can be considered available for adoption, parental rights must be terminated, meaning that the legal relationship between the biological parent(s) and child is ended. Termination can be done voluntarily (if both biological parents agree) or involuntarily when the agency is able to prove parental abuse, neglect, or incapacity that cannot or will not be remedied. This process typically lasts at least 12-15 months.

If parental rights have been terminated and no adoptive family is identified, the child is registered with the Pennsylvania Adoption Exchange. Currently in Pennsylvania, more than 3,000 children are waiting to be adopted. Before adoption can occur, a family profile must be referred and written on the resource family. 

How the System Works