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Department of Human Services Hosts 30th Annual Permanency Conference Focusing on Adoption Successes


Pocono Manor, PA - Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead today kicked off the 30th Annual Pennsylvania Permanency Conference at Kalahari Resorts and Conventions in the Pocono Mountains. The 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.

“We are here to celebrate 30 years of families and professionals from all aspects of the child welfare system coming together to learn and share with one another, each one with the same goal of helping Pennsylvania’s children and youth find their forever home,” said Acting Secretary Snead. “The last two years have been challenging for our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians, including children and youth facing tremendous uncertainties when placed in our foster care system during the COVID-19 crisis. As we recover, we must continue to support the people most affected and thank the caseworkers, foster families, and advocates that have worked tirelessly to achieve permanent connections for our children and youth. I personally thank you for your hard work and dedication.”

Since the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN) began in 1992, there have been more than 53,000 adoptions in Pennsylvania. The most adoptions to occur in Pennsylvania was in FFY 2019, with 2,829 children and youth successfully adopted. 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.

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:

  • Corey Aungst, Centre County  
  • Keisha Barnes and Earl Axon, Pike County
  • Jennie Rushnak, Luzerne County
  • Francine Whitmore, Philadelphia County
  • Gus and Sonya Pagonis, Butler County
  • Joe and Melissa Schwartz, Erie County

Philanthropy Recognition

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

  • Gregory Tapler, Northampton and Lehigh 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:

  • Tiffany Wettstein, The Institute of Human Resources and Services 
  • Christine Walter, Bethanna
  • Megan Maier, Delaware County Children and Youth Services
  • Charlotte Kiker, Delaware County Children and Youth Services
  • Julia Sullender, Delaware County Children and Youth Services

Permanency Advocate Recognition

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

  • Kerith Strano-Taylor, Jefferson County

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:

  • Deborah Bracey, Philadelphia

Permanency Professional Recognition

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

  • Michelle Matthews, Allegheny County

Youth Advocate Recognition

  • Julia Mueller, Chester County

To learn more, go to, or call 1-800-585-SWAN. Follow SWAN on Facebook at “Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Brandon Cwalina -

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