Ensuring Safe & Loving Homes: DHS Secretary Speaks at Annual Permanency Conference on Adoption Successes

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services

POCONO MANOR, PA — On Friday, Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Val Arkoosh delivered remarks at the 31st Annual Pennsylvania Permanency Conference in Monroe County. The conference hosts 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.

“DHS and our partners around the Commonwealth gather every year to reaffirm our commitment to supporting children, families, and professionals from all aspects of the child welfare system. We all share the goal of finding Pennsylvania’s children and youth their forever home because every child deserves a childhood in a loving home and with a supportive family,” said Acting Secretary Arkoosh. “By working together across agencies, counties, and foster and adoptive parents, I am incredibly proud to say that we have been able to achieve this goal for more than 55,000 Pennsylvania children. I urge anyone who may have a place in your heart and in your home for a child to please consider adoption.”

Since the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN) began in 1992, there have been more than 55,000 adoptions in Pennsylvania. In federal fiscal year 2022 alone, there were 2,042 exits to adoption and 690 exits to permanent legal custodians. There are more than 13,600 Pennsylvania children in foster care on any given day and more than 3,000 who need forever 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;
  • Network and share information surrounding issues for children and youth in special needs adoptions and permanency.
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Attendees are encouraged to work together to find innovative ways to help participants through the permanency process. The conference also includes an awards ceremony recognizing those who help children and youth achieve permanent homes. This year’s award winners include:

Permanent Family Recognition Award

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

  • Lindy and Linda Fisher, Montgomery County
  • Anthony and Jessica Johnston, Westmoreland County
  • David Kasievich and Andrew Kellner, Delaware County
  • Yumaira Saavedra-Mozo, Lehigh County
  • Brian and Danielle Sommers, Union County

Philanthropy Recognition

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

  • Emil Rodriguez-Powell, Slice of Lime Photography, Cumberland County

Permanency Teamwork Recognition

The organizations exemplify a collaborative effort between a county court and a county children and youth agency that expedites permanency through adoption, formal kinship care or legal custodianship:

  • Yileine Caolo, Berks County Children and Youth Services
  • Christine Esterly, Berk County Children and Youth Services
  • Nicole Gardecki, Berks County Children and Youth Services
  • Sara Sweitzer, Berks County Children and Youth Services
  • Ashley Esposito, Guardian Ad Litem
  • Kristina Kulp, Diakon
  • Amy Silfies, KidsPeace

Permanency Advocate Recognition

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

  • Valerie Crabbe, Being Beautiful Foundation, Montgomery County

Independent Living Professional Recognition

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

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This is the first year two individuals have been awarded the Independent Living Professional Recognition.

Permanency Professional Recognition

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

  • Jane Leach, Lackawanna County
  • Linda Zeager, Montour County

This is the first year two individuals have been awarded the Permanency Professional Recognition.

Youth Advocate Recognition

  • Phyllis Wood, Indiana County

To learn more, go to www.adoptpakids.org, or call 1-800-585-SWAN.

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