HARRISBURG, Pa., June 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The dedication and hard work of adoption advocates across Pennsylvania helped the commonwealth to set a record in 2009 for the number of children finding permanent homes, Secretary of Public Welfare Harriet Dichter announced today.
"A total of 2,175 adoptions were finalized in Pennsylvania last year, a tremendous milestone for which we can all be proud," Dichter said in opening the 18th Annual Pennsylvania Permanency Conference. "While we still have more than 3,000 children in Pennsylvania awaiting permanent homes, we are heading in the right direction thanks to a strong, caring network of Pennsylvanians striving to provide our youth with permanency."
The annual permanency conference - sponsored by the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network, or SWAN, and Independent Living Services - brings together families, child welfare professionals, community leaders and policymakers to share ideas for promoting adoptions and providing permanent homes for children in the foster care system.
The 2,175 adoptions in 2009 are the most reported since SWAN's inception in 1992 and represent an increase of 121 adoptions over the previous year. The previous record of 2,065 adoptions occurred in 2005.
Dichter said the increase in adoptions is only one of many notable achievements made by the Department of Public Welfare and child welfare advocates in recent years. Among the other successes:
- Pennsylvania is among six states leading a national initiative to safely reduce the number of children living in non-permanent care and decrease the length of stay for those in care.
- The commonwealth has increased education and job training grants for youth who are "aging out" of foster care, despite cuts in federal funding.
- DPW continues to offer statewide training for the Family Finding process, a comprehensive strategy that uses intensive searches to locate all possible family placements for a child.
"Our comprehensive efforts have enabled more than 28,000 children to be adopted since SWAN began nearly two decades ago," Dichter said. "This remarkable achievement could not have happened without the hard work and collaboration of public and private child advocates like those gathered here today."
Pennsylvania's annual permanency conference provides families and professionals with an opportunity to educate and support current and prospective foster and adoptive families and share ideas for promoting adoption.
The conference also features an award ceremony to honor parents, professionals and organizations that have helped children waiting to be adopted. The conference includes a "matching room" that features photos and videos of Pennsylvania children waiting to be adopted and helps connect those children with families that are interested in adopting a child.
The Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network offers resources to aid families who are interested in adoption. For more information about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, call toll-free 1-800-585-7926 or visit the Pennsylvania Adoption Exchange at www.adoptpakids.org.
Media contact: Beth Myers, 717-787-4592
Editor's Note: The winners of the 2010 Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network Awards, to be presented tonight, are listed below. If the family's county of residence differs from the location of the agency, it is listed in parentheses.
Permanent Family Recognition
Ade Kunle and Adebimpe Babalola (Montgomery County) - Lehigh County Office of Children and Youth Services
Randy Bachman and Patrick Haftl (Northampton County) - Diakon Adoption & Foster Care, Topton, Berks Co.
Rasheed Clark - Philadelphia
Jeromy and Laureen Knepp - Centre County Children and Youth Services
Joseph and Jacquelyn Tindall - Laurel Youth Services, Delmont, Westmoreland Co.
Mary and Joe Walbeck - NHS Human Services, Robinson, Indiana Co.
Permanency Teamwork Recognition
Shadell T. Quinones and Kathy Fried - Chester County Department of Children, Youth, and Families
Susan Guntz and Christine Amorim - The Salvation Army Children's Services
Kelly Myers - Bethanna, Lancaster
County Collaborative Recognition
David Schwille, William Cisek, Judge Oliver Lobaugh, Judge Charles Pratt, Roberta Davis, and Diane Hasek - Venango County Courts and Venango County Office of Children, Youth and Families
Permanency Advocate Recognition
Judge David W. Addy (deceased) - Carbon County
Permanency Professional Recognition
Lisa R. Richards - Children's Aid Home Programs of Somerset County
Independent Living Professional Recognition
Gail Whitley - Northumberland County Children and Youth Services
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare