Children of all ages are waiting to be adopted from foster care. The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) welcomes responsible, caring adults who are ready to share their time, their hearts, and their lives with our waiting children. The primary focus of OCFS is the adoption of children from foster care, but there are other adoption processes such as adopting a child who is not in foster care or adopting internationally. For information on adoption from foster care and other adoption paths, contact New York State Adoption Service at 1-800-345-KIDS(5437), which is the office at OCFS that oversees adoption services statewide.
Adoption is a process that creates a binding, legal relationship between parent and child. It is strongly recommended you consult with an adoption attorney while navigating any formal legal process, including adoption.
Please note that the following information is general guidance and does not contain formal legal advice.
What are the different types of adoption?
In New York State, there are two types of adoptions with different procedures: private placement and agency adoptions.
Note: Adoption laws vary from state to state. This guidance addresses New Yorkers seeking to adopt a child in New York or the placement of a child for adoption by either a local department of social services (LDSS) (for children in foster care) or a New York-approved voluntary authorized adoption agency (VA) (for a child who may or may not be in foster care).
- Private placement adoptions are where the child has not been placed for adoption by a LDSS or a VA (so, the child being adopted is not in foster care). The placements are arranged between the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parent(s). There are pre-placement certification requirements for the adoptive parent(s). Except for involvement of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) does not oversee private adoptions.
- Agency adoptions refer to adoptions of children who are placed through either a LDSS or a VA. The agency investigates through the home study process, approves the potential adoptive parent(s), and makes the decision whether the placement of a particular child or children in the home of the approved adoptive parent(s) is in the best interests of the child(ren). The adoptive parent(s) are then able to proceed with completion of the adoption in court.
What are the legal rules for adoption?
The New York State Domestic Relations law regarding adoptions from an authorized agency and private placement adoptions can be found here.
What are my rights? What should I expect from an attorney?
As previously mentioned, it is strongly recommended that you consult with an attorney while navigating the adoption process.
The OCFS publication, What to Expect From an Adoption Attorney: A Guide for Prospective Adoptive Parents in New York State, contains information about how to hire an adoption attorney and about your rights, which include the right:
- To be treated with courtesy and professionalism.
- For your attorney to represent your interest above all others.
- To meet with the attorney in person.
- For your business to be kept private.
- To a quick response.
- To be kept informed of the status of your case.
- To discuss how long the process might take.
- To express your concerns and complaints.
- To have the right to fire your attorney.
- To have your case completed in full.
What is my lawyer’s role in an adoption?
The Unified Court System publication, The Lawyer’s Guide to Adoption, contains detailed information about the role that attorneys have in helping you adopt a child. Pages 19-22 are particularly helpful.
Adoption forms for both private placement and agency adoptions can be found here. Additionally, the Unified Court System provides checklists for private placement and agency adoptions for families completing petitions to adopt.
How do I choose an adoption agency?
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 and to compare your options. Keep in mind that it is very difficult to change agencies once the adoption process has begun. Before you sign any contract with an adoption agency it is recommended that you ask an attorney to review the contract.
Will I have to undergo a background check?
Every effort is made to place children in safe environments. When families apply to adopt, agencies must:
- Perform a check with the New York Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment, and, in some cases, child abuse and neglect checks with other states
- Perform a national and state criminal history check
- Obtain clearance by the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs
What is the home study process?
A home study is a series of meetings, interviews, and training sessions involving the agency and the prospective adoptive family. Under most circumstances, New York State regulations require agencies to complete a home study within about four months of the family submitting an adoption application.
The following is meant to help you prepare for the home study. Please note that a home study for a private placement adoption may vary from these requirements.
As part of the agency adoption study process, LDSS or VA must explore the following characteristics of applicants:
- Capacity to give and receive affection.
- Ability to provide for a child’s physical and emotional needs.
- Ability to accept intrinsic worth of a child, to respect and share his or her past, to understand the meaning of separation he or she has experienced, and to have realistic expectations and goals.
- Flexibility and ability to change.
- Ability to cope with problems, stress, and frustrations.
- Feelings around parenting an adopted child and the ability to make a commitment to a child placed in the home.
- Ability to use community resources to strengthen and enrich family functioning.
Additional factors explored within the adoption study process include an applicant’s:
- Family composition
- Employment and geographical stability
- Ability to budget financial resources
- Child care experience
- Socialization and community support
- Child protective services history
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Criminal history background check
Certain factors may not be used to deny an application for approval:
- Gender preference with regard to child matching
- Marital status (married versus unmarried)
- Employment or volunteer activities
How is a child chosen for my family?
Once a home study has been completed and the family is approved, the family and the agency work together to identify and place a child. The agency and family team up to decide what placement would promote the best interest of the child. The Adoption Album is updated regularly to add children newly freed for adoption.
Will my family and I be able to meet the child?
After an agency decides that a child is ready to meet the prospective adoptive family, the family and child can begin visiting.
- Must be at least 18 years old
- You do not need to be a foster parent to adopt, but if you decide to become a foster parent you must be 21 years old or older.
- Attend an orientation session and choose an adoption agency.
- Submit an application and medical history information, complete a national and state criminal background check, and complete a check by the New York Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.
- Complete the home study process.
- Attend agency-sponsored training.
- Following approval as an adoptive parent, work with a caseworker to find the child waiting for you.
- Visit with the child.
- After the child is placed in a home, work closely with the child’s caseworker for a period of supervision.
- Work with your agency to complete the necessary steps, if eligible, to receive adoption subsidy, medical assistance or subsidy, and reimbursement of nonrecurring adoption expenses, if eligible.
- Hire and work with an attorney to submit the adoption petition to finalize the adoption in court.
- Contact your LDSS or a VA to learn how to obtain post-adoption services, if necessary.
Decide if adopting is the right decision for you: