DHS Highlights Successes in Helping Children and Youth Achieve Permanent Homes 

Harrisburg, PA – The Department of Human Services (DHS) today recognized those who help children and youth achieve permanent homes. The Wolf Administration is committed to supporting and advocating on behalf of children and youth in the foster care system.

DHS will receive $5,885,500 in Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payments from the United States Department of Health and Human Services for its improved performance in helping children and youth in foster care find permanent homes through adoption and legal guardianship. These funds will be used to further increase awareness of and provide services to families interested in adopting a child from foster care.

“All children deserve the opportunity to live and grow at home with a supportive family, and in many cases, adoption is the best chance for children and youth to achieve a healthy and happy life. That’s why I’m especially proud to recognize Adoption Awareness Month,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “DHS works every day to help Pennsylvania’s children and youth find their forever homes. There is still a need for permanent, loving homes for children in this commonwealth, so I encourage anyone who can offer a loving and nurturing home to children and youth as permanent or foster parents to reach out. You can offer a child a brighter future.”

The Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN), administered by DHS’ Office of Children Youth and Families, helps match children in need of adoption with potential families. SWAN brings together state, county, and private agencies to coordinate permanency-related services for children and post-permanency services to families. Since SWAN began in 1992, there have been more than 51,000 adoptions in Pennsylvania. Currently, Pennsylvania has 14,400 children in foster care and 3,094 with a goal of adoption. In 2019, 2,722 children and youth were successfully adopted – the most adoptions to occur in Pennsylvania in a given year.

Secretary Miller also hosted the 28th Annual Pennsylvania Permanency Conference, which was held virtually due to COVID-19 precautions. The annual conference is attended by child welfare professionals, current and prospective foster or adoptive families, kinship care providers, and others with a vested interest in ensuring children have safe, permanent and loving homes.

The permanency conference is designed to:

  • Train participants on how to prepare children and their families for their journey towards permanency;
  • Educate and support all those involved in finding permanent homes for Pennsylvania’s foster children; and
  • Provide an opportunity for children to be matched with prospective foster and adoptive families.

The conference traditionally includes an awards ceremony to recognize those who help children and youth achieve permanent homes. This year’s virtual awards ceremony honorees include:

Permanent Family Recognition Award

Families selected have provided legalized permanency for a child or children involved in the child welfare system:

  • Ian & Amanda Ferree, Westmoreland County
  • George & Charlotte Beatty, Allegheny County
  • Ruth Ann Esh, Lancaster County
  • Robert and Darren Girardeau, Chester County
  • Kelvin Johnson, Philadelphia County
  • Jackson Duncan, Philadelphia County

Permanency Teamwork Recognition

Teams nominated for this award exemplify a collaborative effort that promotes permanency for children with special needs:

  • Lauren Howard, Berks County Children and Youth Services
  • Erin Oshansky, Diakon
  • Patti Menow, Diakon
  • Dr. Allison Hill, Berks Counseling Associates

Philanthropy Recognition

The individual and organization selected demonstrates a significant charitable commitment that promotes the permanency of children in foster care:

  • Amy Gambler, Little Brown Suitcase Ministries

Permanency Advocate Recognition

This award recognizes a dynamic individual who demonstrates a commitment to building cooperative relationships to expedite the permanency process:

  • Rene Hensley Williams

Independent Living Professional Recognition

The individual selected for this award has demonstrated that they have helped youth transition into becoming successful contributing members of society:

  • Lindsey Glezen, Lackawanna County Children and Youth Services

Permanency Professional Recognition

Individuals selected to receive this award are permanency professionals working in a public or private child welfare agency:

  • Ashley Allen, Chester County Department of Children and Families

Youth Advocate Recognition

The individual nominated for this award is a current or former foster youth who has raised awareness on behalf of themselves and/or their peers about the challenges of foster care:

  • Clishon “CiCi” Griffin, Achieving Independence Center (AIC) Member

To learn how to begin the adoption process and what to expect as you become a foster parent or adoptive parent, go to www.adoptpakids.org, call 1-800-585-SWAN, or follow SWAN on Facebook.