Foster Care and Kinship Care

About Foster Care

Foster care is:

  • caring for a child or teen until his or her parent(s) can resume full responsibility, or until another permanent home is found
  • a commitment to help a youth through a difficult period
  • for people who can provide love and guidance and then be able to let go

Situations that lead to a child or teen needing foster care include:

  • physical and sexual abuse
  • neglect or abandonment
  • physical or mental illness of a parent
  • death of parents
  • emotional or behavioral problems

Children and teens who need foster care:

  • are every race, age, religion, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation
  • have different likes and dislikes, talents and skills
  • are often in sibling groups, which are kept intact when possible

If you want to be a foster parent

Foster parents are adults who:

  • are married, single or partnered
  • are often related to or family friends of the youth (kin)
  • represent all races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations and genders
  • have a desire to help a youth succeed
  • are willing to accept a youth, and possibly siblings, as a temporary member of their family

Foster parents must be:

  • Flexible
    Foster care is usually temporary. Foster parents must be able to let go. In some cases, however, if the youth is not able to be returned home safely, the foster parents may be interested in adopting. Every situation is different, and often unpredictable.
  • Organized
    Foster parents work with the youth's team to organize the youth's family visits, schoolwork, clinical appointments, CYF meetings, and court appointments.
  • Team players
    Foster parents collaborate with caseworkers, therapists, doctors, and others. Foster parents welcome service providers into their home and transport youth to appointments. Ideally, foster parents can partner with the birth parent(s), as well, and build a positive relationship with them when possible.
  • Dedicated and understanding
    Children and teens healing from trauma are hurt. They express their hurt at many different times, in many different ways. Foster parents work to respond to these expressions in the best way possible, based on their training and supports.

Foster parents are required to:

  • meet all state requirements
  • undergo a criminal and child abuse background check
  • be at least 21 years of age
  • complete 15 hours of pre-service training
  • demonstrate proof of income

No one fosters alone

The Office of Children, Youth and Families (CYF), foster care agencies, and many other organizations support foster parents in caring for children and teens.

Foster parents meet with the youth's team at least quarterly to make plans and manage challenges. Foster parents are given a stipend to defray the cost of caring for the youth, and each youth is covered by medical and dental insurance.

Get Started Fostering Goodness

Studies show that youth who are raised in a loving, nurturing family are more likely to have a successful future. When families become involved in child welfare because of child maltreatment or neglect, most are able to remain together through the provision of supportive, family-strengthening services. But sometimes, for safety or other reasons, children have to be removed from their homes. Most of these youth are placed with kin, that is, extended family or close family friends. When this is not possible, we rely on loving, nurturing non-relative families in the community to provide for these youth.

If you have an interest in caring for a child or teen during a difficult time, foster parenting might be right for you.

Learn the basics

To get a better understanding about what foster care is all about, please read through this page and the Foster Care Frequently Asked Questions(PDF, 101KB) . You can also visit AdoptUSKids to learn more about foster care and adoption.

Get a real-life perspective

To help you get a real-life perspective of the joys and challenges of fostering goodness in our community, we have interviewed teens in foster care as well as foster parents of teens. You can watch the videos of teens in the Meet Teens in Foster Care section below. Interviews with foster parents are in the Meet Foster Parents section below.

Select an agency

Once you have an idea of what it means to be a foster parent, the next step is to meet with family foster care provider agencies.

You can find the basics about all the agencies in our network in the Meet the Agencies section below.

Then, you can contact the family foster care provider agencies of interest to you to learn about them and get the details. In addition to any other questions you might have, these are some suggested points for discussion:

  • Where do required training classes take place?
  • How long will it take to be licensed through your agency?
  • Can I speak with two or three current foster parents who are currently licensed through your agency, as a reference?
  • What support will I receive once a child is placed in my home?
  • What opportunities do you provide so I can connect with other foster parents?
  • Do you provide on-call assistance 24/7? Who staffs the on-call and what are their qualifications?
  • How will your agency respect my culture, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity?
  • How long to foster parents typically remain with your agency?
  • What opportunities do you provide to foster parents to offer feedback on the quality of services provided by the agency?
  • Can you tell me what I can expect on a typical day of providing foster care?


And thanks from your community for your interest in welcoming a child or teen into your life when they need it most. We hope you will decide to foster goodness.

Meet Teens in Foster Families

Teens in foster care come from all types of situations.

One thing they have in common is that they are happiest in a family that accepts them unconditionally.

They want to laugh when they’re happy, cry when they’re sad, and express their joy, fears and frustrations.

They want to have someone there to support and applaud their successes and comfort them when life is not going so well. They want to know there will be food at mealtime. They want to feel loved.

Hear some real-life stories of local teens who live with foster families.

Hear two sisters describe how important it is that they had each other through all the challenges they’ve faced.

Hear two sisters describe their experiences moving in with their foster family.

Hear a young man who has spent time in the foster care system express how important having a family is to every child and teen.

Hear a young man in foster care express his appreciation for the simple gifts of love and caring he found in his foster family.

Hear for yourself how important it is for all youth, especially those who identify as LGBTQ, to feel accepted and comfortable in their foster family.

View more Foster Goodness videos.

Meet Foster Families

Foster families know there will be challenges.

Foster families know change is hard.

Foster families also know that the rewards of fostering last a lifetime.

Hear local foster parents describe the challenges and rewards of choosing to foster goodness.

Hear for yourself how one man bonded with his foster son as they moved through challenges toward brighter days.

Hear for yourself why an experienced foster father feels the super heroes in the fostering experience are the foster children.

Hear for yourself how a birth mom and daughter describe fostering teen sisters as a positive experience for all.

Hear for yourself the similar views from both the foster son and the parents of adapting to living as a foster family.

Hear an experienced foster father describe the rich rewards of being a foster parent for a teen.

Hear an experienced foster father describe what it’s like to foster a teen.

Hear a patient and determined foster mom tell the story of how fostering a teen was rewarding for her family.

View more Foster Goodness videos.

Meet the Agencies

Foster parents in Allegheny County must be trained by a licensed agency and meet all requirements and standards set by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Allegheny County Department of Human Services contracts with family foster care provider agencies throughout the county to connect foster parents with children and teens who need them.

Once you have an idea of what it means to be a foster parent, the next step is to get better acquainted with our agencies to help you choose one that best meets your needs.

A short description of each program is below. You may want to visit the agency websites for more details by clicking on the agency's name before each description.

The agency’s location may also be an important factor to consider. This map of Allegheny County foster care agency locations may be helpful to you. Trainings, as well as additional resources, activities and meetings generally occur at the agency location. Most agencies permit future and current foster parents to take trainings at other member agencies and accept those hours toward the total number of hours required to be licensed. Each agency description indicates whether it participates in this training cooperative.

You can get to know more about the agencies by contacting them by phone. The contacts listed below are available to answer your questions. Please refer to the Get Started section above for suggested topics. If you still have questions after talking with the agency representative, please contact the Director’s Action Line by email or by phone at 1-800-862-6783. Our specialists are here to help.

DHS-contracted Foster Care Agencies by Region

Regions are identified based on training location. All agencies serve all of Allegheny County and accept trainings from other listed agencies. Click on the name of the region below to see descriptions of the agencies.

Beaver County(PDF, 90KB)

  • Adoption Connection

City of Pittsburgh(PDF, 232KB)

  • Cayuga Centers
  • Every Child, Inc.
  • Pressley Ridge
  • TRAC Services for Families (formerly Three Rivers Adoption Council)
  • Three Rivers Youth

East of Pittsburgh(PDF, 158KB)

  • Auberle
  • Greater Valley Community Services
  • Wesley Family Services

South of Pittsburgh(PDF, 152KB)

  • Bair Foundation
  • Merakey

Interactive map of all DHS-contracted Foster Care Agencies

Current Foster Parents

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services contracts with a network of non-profit agencies to recruit, train and approve foster parents in Allegheny County. Current foster parents are under contract with one of these agencies.

Child Care

Finding a reliable, safe place to care for your foster child is important. Resources are available to help.

Child Care Information Services (CCIS)
All kinship and foster caregivers who are working or in school qualify for subsidized child care provided by CCIS.

PA DHS Child Care Providers
In order to qualify for its subsidies, CCIS requires that caregivers choose a child care facility ranked two “STARS” or higher by the Keystone STARS initiative. This COMPASS database allows users to filter child care providers based on location and the number of STARS. 

Peer Support

Two family support partners from Allegheny Family Network (AFN), who are experienced foster and adoptive parents, are available to assist individuals who are fostering teens and young adults.

Services include

  • Help to complete the application, training and certification process of becoming a foster parent.
  • In-home sessions to make the foster parent aware of all available resources (legal, educational, community-based, recreational) to promote the successful placement of the teen in the family.
  • Structured training sessions to help foster parents participate effectively in court hearings, treatment planning sessions and Individualized Education Plan development.
  • Access to the AFN Chat Line (1-888-273-2361), a confidential support line (not a crisis line), that operates from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
  • Access to regular AFN educational and social events held throughout the year.

For additional information regarding the services available to families who foster teens and young adults, please contact the Allegheny Family Network at 412-246-2030.


All foster parents are required to receive training hours each year to maintain their certification. In Allegheny County, most foster care agencies participate in a training cooperative that offers a broad spectrum of trainings at convenient times and locations. Please talk with a representative at your foster care agency to find out how many hours they require. Then review the schedule below to see what topics, times and locations best fit your needs. Please remember to RSVP so the trainer can make the appropriate preparations.

Resource Parent Training Calendar(PDF, 4MB)

Related Information

Prudent Parenting - Foster Parent Tip Sheet(PDF, 313KB)
Provides a quick overview of ways foster parents can bring normalcy to the lives of the children and youth in their care.

Stepping Up for Kids - what government and communities should do to support kinship families(PDF, 2MB)
Examines the challenges and rewards of providing kinship care and makes suggestions to improve the circumstances in kinship families to promote better outcomes for children. Allegheny County is spotlighted on page 11. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, May 2012

Kinship Care in Pa. - Support for Families with Grandparents and Other Kin Raising Children(PDF, 4MB)
Published by The Pennsylvania State University, 2005

What's Happening in Dependency Court - An Activity Book for Children Going to Court in Pennsylvania
Young children who are removed from their birth families due to abuse or neglect can find helpful information in this age-appropriate booklet. Foster and kinship parents may find it a useful tool to help children understand what is happening in their lives. Available as a pdf and for order on the Pa. Office of Children and Families in the Courts website.



  • Review the FAQs(PDF, 101KB) to find answers to the most common questions.
  • Or contact the Director’s Action Line by email or phone at 1-800-862-6783

Staff at the DHS Director’s Action Line is available weekdays between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm to take your call at 1-800-862-6783. You can also connect with the staff by email and as a walk-in.

Next Steps

If you think being a foster parent might be a good fit for you, please visit the Get Started section above to learn how to get involved.

Foster Goodness Campaign

In January 2016, DHS embarked on the Foster Goodness Campaign to encourage individuals to foster teens and young adults. Our Foster Goodness Public Service Announcement aired locally during the campaign.