Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Celebrates 20 Years, More than 32,000 Adoptions

Jul 18, 2012, 11:00 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare

HARRISBURG, Pa., July 18, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare Gary D. Alexander today celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network annual conference, which opened today in Lancaster.

The conference, with a theme this year of "Illuminating Lives," is hosted by the Statewide Adoption Network and Permanency Network (SWAN) and is being held through July 20 at the Lancaster Host Resort and Conference Center.

"As we celebrate our 20th year and 32,700 adoptions, we recognize the dedicated professionals and families who have made great strides to illuminate the lives of thousands of Pennsylvania children and youth in need of their forever home," said Alexander.  "It is with pride and renewed commitment that we look to the next 20 years and beyond to continue our journey of finding permanency for the hundreds of children still in our care."

The 20th Annual Pennsylvania Permanency conference serves as a three-day forum to educate professionals and families, addressing a variety of topics regarding permanency for children and youth who are waiting for a forever home and the families who serve them. Some of this year's topics include understanding childhood trauma, the role of men in parenting, and childhood bullying. 

This year's conference highlights families who continue to illuminate the lives of children who are waiting for a permanent home. Families and permanency professionals will be showcased for their inspirational work and dedication to changing the lives of Pennsylvanian children during the recognition banquet.

The Department of Public Welfare oversees the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network, or SWAN, which hosts the annual Permanency Conference.  Learn more online at or find SWAN on Facebook at

For more information about the Department of Public Welfare, visit the department online at Pennsylvanians who suspect welfare fraud should call 1-800- 932-0582.

Media contact: Carey Miller or Anne Bale, 717-425-7606

Editor's Note: This year's award winners include:

Permanent Family Recognition Award

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

  • Sam and Erica Zerkle, Erie County
  • William and Pamela Vojtek, Indiana County
  • John and Jane Thomas, Delaware County
  • Jenell Lassiter, Philadelphia County
  • Kim Price and Susan Schwartz, Berks County
  • Dean and Michelle Lobaugh, Adams County

Philanthropy Recognition

The organization selected to receive this award demonstrates a charitable contribution that promotes the permanency of children in foster care:

  • Rich Pais, Wilkes Barre Racing

Permanency Teamwork Recognition

Teams selected to receive this award exemplify a collaborative effort that promotes the permanency of children with special needs:

  • Deb and Kent Sell – Adoptive Family
  • Laurie Parke – Bethanna
  • Sarah Merkel – Lehigh Country Office of Children & Youth Services
  • Sheryl Bernot – COBYS Family Services
  • Helen Markunas – CASA, Lehigh County Courthouse

County Collaborative Recognition

This award recognizes a collaborative effort between a county court and a county children and youth agency that expedites permanency:

  • Butler County Children & Youth Services
  • Butler County Court of Common Pleas

Permanency Advocate Recognition

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

  • Jennifer Pokempner, Juvenile Law Center, Philadelphia County

Independent Living Professional Recognition

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

  • Heather Finnegan, Sullivan County Children & Youth Services

Permanency Professional Recognition

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

  • Crystal Minnier, Lycoming County Children & Youth Services

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare