How Do I Get the Right Clearances for my Adoption Plan?

August 11, 2021 | By Elizabeth Vaysman

When approaching the adoption process, it is important to know what background information will be required. You can learn more about the adoption process and legal aspects in our “Adoption 101” post. Every state has a pre-adoptive placement process that results in a written report on the fitness of the prospective family, called a Family Profile or the Home Study Report. This process often includes interviews, home assessments for safety, verifying information, and background clearances. States usually require a background search for the family and anyone living in their home to check their state criminal record, child abuse record, and FBI record, depending on their age.  Clearances may be required even if a Home Study is not, such as in a stepparent adoption.

In Pennsylvania, prospective adoptive families are required to have three clearances dated within one year of placement and finalization: PA Criminal Clearance, PA Child Abuse Clearance, and PA FBI Clearance. The cost is about $60.00 per person for all three clearances, and they range in turnover from immediate to several weeks.

Details on how and where to get the clearances, the cost, and the specific process are outlined below.

  • PA Criminal Clearance.

This clearance can be completed online and is automatically available. The cost is $22.00 per clearance. Go to the PA State Police here. Complete the information for who is requesting the clearance and who the clearance is for. You will need the name, aliases, social security number, and date of birth. Add in your queue all of the clearances you will need. Once you complete ordering the clearance(s), you will see a page that looks like an invoice or receipt. Make sure to click on the actual clearance link. This will take you to a web page where you can hit “print” and “save as pdf” to create a pdf of the Criminal Clearance. Save this as a PDF right away to make sure you do not lose the clearance. You will be able to log back into this page for a short period after the clearance is requested, after which you will have to reapply once it is no longer available. The invoice/receipt page of the clearance is not sufficient, the actual clearance is required. More details on how to apply for your PA Criminal Clearance are here.

  • PA Child Abuse Clearance.

The Child Abuse Clearance can be applied for online as well. Visit the State registry and complete the prompts to submit for your clearance. The cost is $13.00 per clearance. After the application is submitted, you will receive an email, usually within 1-2 weeks, which states the clearance is available. Follow the prompt to your Child Abuse Clearance and save this as a PDF right away to make sure you do not lose the clearance. You will be able to log back into this page for a short period after the clearance is requested, after which you will have to reapply once it is no longer available. More details on how to apply for your PA Child Abuse Clearance are here.

  • PA FBI Clearance.

The PA FBI Clearance must be registered for online though you will have to be fingerprinted in person. You will need to register and pay online and be fingerprinted at an onsite location. The clearance will arrive in the mail to your home – this can take several weeks so plan accordingly. To schedule your fingerprint appointment, go to Identogo and register. You must enter the specific code for the type of clearance you will need. The Codes can be found here, and as of March 2020, the Prospective Adoptive Parent Code is “1KG72V”, with details here. If there are not available appointments in your timeframe, you should be able to walk into most locations. Don’t forget to bring identification. This clearance will come back marked with two options, either Eligible or Ineligible for adoption.

Important Considerations. If you’ve recently lived in another state, or have other people living in your home, there are some special considerations.

  •  ALL clearances expire every year.
  • If you lived outside of Pennsylvania in the last 5 years, you will also need to retrieve a child abuse clearance from the other state(s). Your home study agency must then submit this clearance to PA Dept. of Human Services to “interpret” and they will provide a PA Interpretation Letter that approves the out-of-state clearance.
  • Children and other adults living in the home over 18 require all three clearances.
  • All children in the home above the age of 14 require criminal and child abuse clearance, but not FBI clearance.
  • Up to date clearances are required for any interstate adoption placement. Do not travel to another state for your placement without making sure you have your clearances.

For more information, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services outlines the required clearances here.  PA provides this guide sheet FAQs on for Foster/Adoptive Parents & Household Members for families and adoption professionals as well that can be distributed.

The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal or medical advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel or medical consultation, and should not be relied on as such.

About the Authors

Elizabeth Vaysman


Liz is an adoption Fellow in the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (AAAA). She focuses her practice on all aspects of adoption and reproductive law matters in Southeast Pennsylvania and...

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