An adoptive family may have birth children, other adoptive children, or no other children. Adoptive families can vary by age, income, lifestyle, and marital status. You may apply to adopt a child if you are single or married, young or old, childless or a parent, a renter or a homeowner.
The legal process of adopting, from application to finalization, can be a lengthy one. It may take six months or more from the time you apply before a child is placed in your home; it will take at least three to twelve months after that before the adoption may be finalized in court.
In New York City, contact the Administration for Children's Services, or call (212) 676-WISH (dialing within New York State) and 1-877-676-WISH (dialing outside New York State).
Staff at the agency will help you with these steps:
1. Attending an orientation session and choose an adoption agency.*
2. Submitting an application and medical history; completing a national and state criminal background check; completing a check by the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.**
3. Completing the home study*** process.
4. Attending agency-sponsored training.****
5. Working with a caseworker to find the child waiting for you.*****
6. Visiting with the child.******
7. After the child is placed in your home, working closely with the child’s caseworker for a period of supervision.*******
8. Working with your agency to complete the necessary steps to receive adoption subsidies, medical subsidies, and reimbursement of nonrecurring adoption expenses, if eligible.********
9. Hiring and working with your attorney to submit the adoption petition to finalize the adoption in court.*********
10. Contacting your local department of social services or a voluntary authorized adoption agency to learn how to obtain post-adoption services, if necessary.**********
*Families must first choose an agency so they can get certified as an adoptive family.
Choosing an agency is a very important step. Talk to different agencies and adoptive parents or parent support groups to learn how the agencies work with prospective adoptive parents. It is very difficult to change agencies once the adoption process has begun. A list of these agencies is available on this web site. In New York State, there are more than 130 adoption agencies. Each of New York's 58 social services districts has an adoption unit, and more than 70 authorized voluntary agencies statewide work with adopting families. Social services districts do not place children from other countries. Some voluntary authorized adoption agencies, approved by New York State, handle foreign adoptions. For a list of these agencies, visit the New York State Adoption website at http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/adopt/agcymenu.asp.
Public and private agencies do not charge a fee for adoption services provided on behalf of children who are in the legal guardianship of the local social services commissioner. For adoption of children in the legal guardianship of authorized voluntary agencies, fees generally are based on the adoptive family's income. Few agencies charge fees when families adopt children with special needs.
**When families apply to adopt, agencies must check with the New York State Child Abuse and Maltreatment Register to determine whether an applicant, or any person over the age of 18 who resides in the home, has previously abused or maltreated a child. Also, a criminal history check for a prospective adoptive parent or any other person over the age of 18, who is currently residing in the home, is required. A criminal record does not necessarily prevent an applicant from adopting. Every effort is made to ensure that children are placed in safe environments.
***A home-study is a series of meetings, interviews, and training sessions involving the agency and the prospective adoptive family. You and your family will need to meet with agency staff in your home as part of the home study approval process. Generally within four months of a family's Application to Adopt, New York State regulations require agencies to complete a home-study for most families registered with the state.
Sometimes prospective adoptive families find the home-study process difficult but it is an essential part of adoption that helps them decide whether they are ready to adopt. A home-study also allows agencies to find out more about what the prospective family has to offer. This helps agencies appropriately place children in their care.
Some families withdraw temporarily to consider whether they are ready to adopt. Most decide to have the home-study completed.
After completion of the home study, the caseworker prepares a written summary about the family. The agency uses this summary in the placement process. Prospective adoptive families can review and discuss the written summary and add their own comments. Once a home-study has been approved, the family and the agency team up to decide what placement would promote the best interest of the child.
****Each adoption agency generally expects applicants to participate in adoptive parent training.... usually consists of multiple sessions designed to:
· help families understand adoption;
· examine the strengths they bring to adoption;
· decide whether they are ready to adopt;
· provide skills and knowledge needed when adopting;
· help families understand the needs of foster children, as well as the kind of child they would best parent.
*****In addition to the child photolisting available on this website, New York State publishes a printed version of The Adoption Album. Take a look at The Adoption Album — Our Children, Our Families to learn about New York State children awaiting adoption. It is available on our website at http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/adopt.
Each page contains a photograph and a brief biography of a child needing a family. The Adoption Album is updated regularly to add children newly freed for adoption. Copies of The Adoption Album are available at public and private adoption agencies, at most libraries, and at other locations across the state and throughout the country.
Sometimes an agency can directly link a prospective adoptive family with the child they wish to adopt. However, an agency must often contact other agencies to inquire about a child.
Families can be identified for children through the Family Adoption Registry. The Family Adoption Registry is part of The Adoption Album database and is an opportunity for prospective parents to register their interest in adopting New York State's waiting children.
When selecting a family for a child, agencies try to select a family that will maintain the child's connections. Maintaining connections provides continuity in the child's life and respects the link between the child and his or her family, siblings, foster family, heritage, and culture. The fundamental standard for all adoptive placements is the best interest of the child, which is decided on a case-by-case basis.
Often, the child's agency selects from a large pool of prospective adoptive families to make a placement.
By considering a number of children, you are more likely to connect with a child.
******After an agency decides that a child is ready to meet the prospective adoptive family, the family and child can begin visiting. Visits take place in the agency, in the home where the child lives, or in the adoptive family's home. Visits start as short meetings, increasing in length as the family and child get to know one another. Visitation can last for a period of weeks or months before the child moves in with the adoptive family.
******* Adoption does not become official the day a child is placed with an adoptive family. Unless the adoptive parent is seeking to adopt a foster child for whom he or she has already been providing care, New York State law requires that agencies generally supervise families for three months after placement before an adoption becomes legal.
During the supervisory period, a caseworker will visit regularly to provide support and assistance. After three months, if the placement is deemed successful, the agency will consent to the family's petition to adopt.
********Adoption Subsidies and payment for Nonrecurring Adoption Expenses may be available.
An adoption subsidy is a monthly payment made to help with the care and support of a child who is considered handicapped or hard-to-place. Families adopting older children and children requiring greater resources receive higher adoption subsidies.
Many children also qualify for Medicaid. This is especially important for families adopting children with disabilities. Medical coverage ensures that the family's financial situation will not be threatened by potentially catastrophic medical costs.
In cases where adoption subsidies are available, they are available regardless of the adoptive parents' income.
When working with your caseworker to complete the adoption subsidy agreement, you should be certain the adoption subsidy rate reflects the needs of the child. The adoption subsidy agreement must be signed and approved by all required parties prior to finalization of the adoption. Your caseworker can provide more detailed information regarding adoption subsidy.
A hard-to-place child is a child who meets specific criteria defined in federal and state statute and regulations. Examples of hard-to-place criteria include: child’s age, sibling group status, and time in care.
A handicapped child is a child who has a physical, mental, or emotional condition or disability that is so severe it would create a significant obstacle to the child’s adoption. Qualifying conditions or disabilities are set forth in the regulations of the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS).
To receive an adoption subsidy, you must apply before the adoption is finalized. If a child is eligible for a subsidy, you will need to sign the Adoption Subsidy Agreement and submit it with the necessary paperwork in time to receive final approval before finalization. Be sure to ask the caseworker about the subsidy application soon after you decide to adopt and before the adoption is finalized. Post-finalization adoption subsidies can only be approved under very specific circumstances. (See below: What is a post-finalization adoption subsidy?)
Most payments start at the time the adoption is finalized. Subsidies may continue until the child reaches the age of 21, as long as the adoptive parent remains legally responsible for the child and continues to provide support for the child.
If your family moves out of New York State after the adoption, you should contact your caseworker to see what medical coverage will be available to your child in his/her new state of residence.
Who pays for the lawyers? Finalizing an adoption in court generally requires a lawyer. This means that there will be legal fees and court costs. Families adopting children with special needs may be eligible for reimbursement of these expenses. These expenses are called “nonrecurring adoption expenses.” They are one-time-only expenses related to the adoption of a child with special needs. Families must sign an agreement for payment of these costs before the adoption finalization date for eligible children. These expenses are reimbursed after the child’s adoption is finalized. Receipts must be submitted within two years of the adoption finalization.
Some children do not qualify for a subsidy when they are adopted. If these children are diagnosed after finalization with a pre-existing condition that was not known to the parent at the time of finalization, a state-funded subsidy with New York State Medical may be approved, starting the date of district approval, and after diagnosis. Parents who adopt a child without a subsidy and feel the child has developed a qualifying condition are encouraged to ask about eligibility as soon as the condition is known.
Children finalized as hard-to-place or handicapped may be eligible for a subsidy upgrade after finalization. For example, some children may be diagnosed with a new condition, or the worsening of existing diagnosed medical or psychological conditions, as they get older. If a new diagnosis is made of a problem certified to be pre-existing but unknown to the parent(s) at the time of finalization, and if symptoms documented in the exam show a higher level of need than the current subsidy, an upgrade request should be submitted to the county or agency responsible as soon as this is known.
The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) established a uniform law to provide an orderly procedure for the placement of children between jurisdictions. In order to start the ICPC process, you must contact the caseworker in the county that has jurisdiction over the child. The county that has jurisdiction over the child will need to contact the county social services office or private child welfare agency which is being asked to accept the child.
Adoption in New York State is governed by various provisions of Domestic Relations Law, Social Services Law, and NYS OCFS regulations. To ensure that the laws and regulations are being followed, a fair hearing, or administrative review, is available for families who seek to challenge the decision of an agency; for example, if their Application for Adoption or Adoption Subsidy has been denied.
*********An adoption generally is completed with the assistance of an attorney retained by the adoptive parents (see What to Expect From an Adoption Attorney Pub. 5054); the attorney files a petition in court. When all the agency papers have been submitted, the adoption is finalized in court. The family agrees to assume full legal rights and obligations for the child's care, and the agency's supervision is no longer required.
**********There may be times when an adoptive family needs assistance from the agency after the adoption has been finalized. Many agencies provide post-adoption services to help families through these transitions. Services may include family and individual counseling, social and support groups, or referral services.
Asking for support during this process is a sign of strength, not weakness. Most successful adoptions occur in families who seek support from the start.
Adoptive parent groups can be a valuable resource for helping families through the adoption experience. New York State has many adoptive parent groups that provide:
· informational meetings;
· newsletters and other printed materials;
· community adoption recruitment materials;
· listings of community resources;
· support groups;
· social events.
These groups bring together adoptive families and families considering adoption to exchange ideas and offer support. This opportunity can be helpful throughout the adoption experience, even after the adoption is finalized. Because adoption is a lifelong process, sometimes adoptive families need advice or information many years after adopting a child. It is important for families to know that support is available at any time, before and after the adoption is finalized. Adoptive parent groups provide an excellent means to discuss age-appropriate responses to the questions adopted children ask about their birth families and why they were adopted.
Learn about post-adoption assistance for families by using this link.
As you may know, New York State adoption records are sealed. The New York State Office of Children and Family Services does not maintain adoption records. You should begin your search by contacting the agency and the county Department of Social Services that handled your case. The address and phone number of a specific county department of social services can be found on the OCFS website at the following link: http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/localdss.asp. In addition, the New York State Health Department's Adoption Registry may have records related to your specific adoption history.
Three kinds of information may be available from the Registry: non-identifying, identifying, and medical:
· Non-identifying Information: If you are adopted or if you are the biological sibling of an adopted person, you can get non-identifying information about your birth parents even if they do not register with the Adoption Registry or consent to sharing. This includes their general appearance, religion, ethnicity, race, education, occupation, etc.; the name of the agency that arranged the adoption; and the facts and circumstances relating to the nature and cause of the adoption.
· Identifying Information: If all are registered and all have given their final consents, adoptees and their birth parents, or adoptees and their biological siblings can share their current names and addresses. If only one parent signed the surrender agreement or consented to the adoption, then the registration of the other parent is not needed for the exchange of identifying information between the adoptee and the registered birth parent.
· Medical Information: Birth parents can give medical and psychological information to the Registry any time after the adoption. If the adoptee is already registered, the information will be shared with him or her. If the adoptee is not registered, the information will be kept until the adoptee registers. The information is important to adoptees because it can indicate if they have a higher risk of some diseases. Medical information updates must be certified by a licensed health care provider.
Additional details about the Adoption Registry are located at New York State Health Department's Adoption Registry, or you can call (518) 474-9600.
For more information, contact the New York State Adoption Service at
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