Regulations and requirements

PAE manages three registries, which are maintained and supported under the SWAN prime contract:

PAE services include registering children and families into the databases so electronic matching can be performed; referring potential matches to the child’s and the family’s agencies; and providing education, training and technical assistance for workers and families.

Waiting Child Registry

The Adoption Act, 23 Pa. C.S. Domestic Relations Chapters 21–29, requires the DHS to maintain PAE.  PAE accepts registrations for children who are in the custody of a county children and youth agency or a private adoption agency.  They are special children who require special families. Many have suffered from abuse or neglect.  These children may be older or part of a minority group or a sibling group.  Many may have one or more disabilities.  Like all children, they will thrive in a family who accepts and nurtures them and helps them reach their full potential.

PAE provides adoption matching services for registered children. PAE makes referrals for potential matches for waiting children with registered approved adoptive families.  Using demographic and behavioral characteristics, computer-suggested “matches” between registered children and families are forwarded to their respective agencies.  Telephone and internet inquiries received from families or adoption caseworkers about specific children or families are also forwarded to the appropriate agency for potential matching.

Agencies register children with PAE under specific requirements.  Mandatory registration applies to children for whom parental rights are terminated for 90 days and no report of intent to adopt has been filed in the court of common pleas.

  • Most of these children need a permanency resource; however, sometimes children meet the mandatory registration requirement but are already living with their potential permanency resource.  Those children should also be registered with PAE.  Family recruitment efforts are made on behalf of actively waiting children.

Optional registration applies to children where reunification with their birth family is neither possible nor appropriate, where termination of parental rights is being pursued, and where adoption is planned when an adoptive parent or parents is found.

  • These are children who may have a goal of adoption or a concurrent goal of adoption. Children who are registered in these cases must have their identity protected and are not publicized without prior approval by DHS, so the child’s anonymity is protected until parental rights are terminated.
  • In some cases, children are excluded from PAE website listings.  A child for whom termination of parental rights is being appealed in a court must be registered as available but not displayed on the website until the appeal is resolved.

PAE also accepts registrations from agency-approved adoptive families, regardless of the state where the adoptive family lives. This policy helps Pennsylvania meet the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), requirements to eliminate all geographic boundaries that may hinder permanency for a child.  SWAN policy requires that all waiting families who receive family profiles paid for by the SWAN prime contractor be registered with PAE to maximize the opportunity for these waiting children to find a family. Database searches, both electronic and customized, are conducted regularly for waiting children and families to maximize placement opportunities.

Resource Family Registry

Act 160 of 2004[i] amended the Child Protective Services Act and established the Resource Family Registry (RFR), the database where all foster, formal kinship and adoptive families who wish to provide permanency to a child from the child welfare system must be registered.  The act also established additional requirements for the approval of foster and adoptive applicants. (Frequently asked questions and information regarding the Resource Family Registry or the CY131 registration process can be addressed here.)

All public and private agencies must register families with the RFR by submitting a Resource Family Applicant CY131 form[ii].  Approved out-of-state families must also register with the RFR if they want to be matched with Pennsylvania’s waiting children.

Pennsylvania Adoption Information Registry (PAIR)

Act 101 of 2010[iii] amended the Adoption Act and has had far-reaching effects on the ability of adoptees to maintain lifelong connections with their biological family and have access to family information that may not have been readily available in the past.  Act 101 of 2010 established the Pennsylvania Adoption Information Registry (PAIR), a statewide information registry for records and documents associated with all adoptions finalized in Pennsylvania.

PAIR allows adoptees and birth parents to register information about themselves so children can better understand their own past and its potential impact on their lives and the lives of their descendants. DHS developed procedures and forms for birth parents and adoptees to register with PAIR and allows them to specify if identifying or non-identifying information may be released.

PAIR expands the registration and search capabilities of those impacted by adoption.  Siblings may now register and search for each other if they are 21 and older.  Descendants of deceased adoptees may register and search.  For children younger than 18, an adoptive parent or legal guardian may search on their behalf.

All agencies involved in the finalization of a child in Pennsylvania are required to register medical and social information with PAIR.  Unlike its predecessor, the Adoption Medical History Registry (AMHR), both identifying and non-identifying information may be released with the properly signed authorization forms by both adoptee and family.

PAIR replaces the AMHR.  All information originally submitted to the AMHR has been incorporated and is maintained in PAIR.

[i] Act 160 of 2004:

[ii] Resource Family Applicant Registration/Update Form (CY 131):

[iii] Implementation of Act 101 of 2010 Bulletin: