Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Child and Family Services (PA-CFS) 28: Matching and Placement in Adoptions and Guardianships

The agency identifies adoptive families or guardians who can meet children’s needs, and arranges for children to join families in a timely manner.



When children are already living with prospective adoptive families or guardians, some aspects of this process may overlap with the initial placement process addressed in PA-CFS 12. Aspects of this process will also overlap with PA-CFS 13: “Child Permanency,” and PA-CFS 22: “Resource Family Recruitment.”
2020 Edition




Child and Family Services promote child and family well-being, protect children’s safety, stablilize and strengthen families, and ensure permanency.
Full Implementation, Outstanding Performance
A rating of (1) indicates that the agency's practices fully meet the standard and reflect a high level of capacity.  
  • All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, with rare or no exceptions; exceptions do not impact service quality or agency performance. 
Substantial Implementation, Good Performance
A rating of (2) indicates that an agency's infrastructure and practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement. 
  • The majority of the standards requirements have been met and the basic framework required by the standard has been implemented.  
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality or agency performance.  
Partial Implementation, Concerning Performance
A rating of (3) indicates that the agency's observed infrastructure and/or practices require significant improvement.  
  • The agency has not implemented the basic framework of the standard but instead has in place only part of this framework.   
  • Omissions or exceptions to the practices outlined in the standard occur regularly, or practices are implemented in a cursory or haphazard manner. 
  • Service quality or agency functioning may be compromised.   
  • Capacity is at a basic level.
Unsatisfactory Implementation or Performance
A rating of (4) indicates that implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all.  
  • The agency’s observed service delivery infrastructure and practices are weak or non-existent; or show signs of neglect, stagnation, or deterioration.  
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Matching and placement procedures
No On-Site Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Parents served
    4. Children served
    5. Resource parents
  • Review case records
  • Review resource parent records

PA-CFS 28.01

The agency assesses all available information about the birth parents, the child, and prospective adoptive parents or guardians, including expressed preferences, and determines which prospective adoptive parents or guardians may be most suitable to meet the needs of the child.


Some circumstances that can make the transition to adoption more difficult, and that have been found to be factors in some disruptions and dissolutions, include:
  1. placement of more than one unrelated child into a home at the same time; and
  2. placement of a child too soon after the birth or addition of another child to the family.

The agency might generally avoid matching children with prospective adoptive parents in these circumstances or take additional steps to prepare for and support such placements.

PA-CFS 28.02

The agency incorporates provisions of applicable laws and regulations for placement preferences and matching into its established criteria for determining the best interests of the child, makes placement decisions based on these criteria, and documents the decision in its records.  

Interpretation: The agency must follow guidelines set forth in the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act and the Indian Child Welfare Act and should take into account birth parents’ expressed desires and the importance of keeping siblings together. When there is any conflict in these preferences or priorities the agency should engage administrative personnel and legal counsel as needed to make its decision, and carefully document its deliberations and a rationale for its decision.


When the agency is working with American Indian and Alaska Native children and families, tribal representatives and service providers must be involved in placement decisions in order to ensure compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act, which requires that preference be given to families in the following order: 
  1. a member of the child’s extended family;
  2. families who are members of the child’s tribe; and
  3. other American Indian or Alaska Native families.
Alternative placement preferences established by the child’s tribe may apply, and the court may also take into consideration the preferences of the child or his/her birth parents.

PA-CFS 28.03

The agency provides prospective adoptive parents and guardians with:
  1. the child study, and all other information it is legally permitted to provide; and
  2. sufficient time to process the information and make an informed decision about the adoption or guardianship.

Interpretation: If they are already living with the children, prospective adoptive parents or guardians will presumably already have extensive information about the children. However, the agency should still make sure that prospective adoptive parents or guardians understand all relevant aspects of the children’s background and are provided with sufficient time to make a decision about the adoption or guardianship.

PA-CFS 28.04

Children join families as soon as the children, their birth families, and the adoptive parents or guardians are prepared, and adoptive parents and guardians are helped to prepare for the transition through supports and services including:
  1. planning for the details of the transition;
  2. information on the types of behaviors and emotions children typically experience during the transition and typical length of time for the transition period;
  3. counseling on how to ease the transition given the information known about the child; and
  4. assistance with the preparation of other children or individuals living or frequently in the home.

Examples: Information can be provided through reading materials, contact information for service providers, group or individual counseling and training sessions, and online resources.

PA-CFS 28.05

When a child is placed with prospective adoptive parents prior to termination of parental rights, the agency: 
  1. ensures that the prospective adoptive parents understand their responsibility to support the child’s case plan;
  2. informs the prospective adoptive parents of the substantial risks involved and limitations on confidentiality;
  3. ensures that the prospective adoptive parents are committed to adopting the child; and
  4. makes diligent efforts to remove any barriers to the adoption if parental rights are terminated.

Interpretation: When the placement involves an American Indian or Alaska Native child, prospective adoptive parents must be informed about the Indian Child Welfare Act and its implications for the adoption of the child. 

This standard does not apply in the case of tribal customary adoption as adjudicated or approved within tribal court.

NA  The agency does not work with children placed in out-of-home care.