Hello New Yorkers, and welcome to this New York adoption guide. New York, the 11th state of the U.S. and home to the Yankees, Jets, and, New York City, is a state full of wonder, excitement, and awe. From the beautiful Adirondack mountains to the crystal clear water of Lake George, New York is one of the most diverse states in the nation with a population of 19.4 million and 67 million visitors per year. People from all over the world settle down here and find ways to settle and grow families. If you are thinking about adopting or placing a child for adoption in New York, here is a guide that can help you navigate this journey.
This page should not be used for any legal advice or decisions. Please refer to a licensed professional when making any decisions regarding adoption. This guide is subject to change at any time and is not responsible for any direct or indirect effect with this information.
How to Adopt a Child
To start, let’s go over the logistics if you are a hopeful adoptive parent. In New York, you can adopt a child once you are 18 years or older. The adoptive parent’s marital status can be single, married, or divorced, and LGBT individuals and couples may petition for adoption and joint adoption. Same-sex partners may also petition to adopt a partner’s child. The adoptive parent (s) must be financially stable, and personality traits should include being kind, caring, resilient, and responsible. Once this certain criterion is met, the next step is a background check to determine whether or not the adoptive parent (s) is eligible to adopt. In New York, it is also required that the agent or attorney check with New York State Child Abuse and Maltreatment Register to determine whether or not the adoptive parent (s) or any person over the age of 18 who resides in the home has previously abused or maltreated a child.
The wait time can be anywhere between three to six months and after that, three months toa year more before the adoption is finalized in court. But because each process is different for every child and family, there is no one true set time when the adoption can be finalized. Once everything is in order, an adoptive parent must file a petition with the court using an attorney in order to finalize the adoption.
The fees involved in adopting a child in New York can vary. The adoptive parent (s) are allowed to pay for the birth parent’s medical fees and other expenses related to the child such as housing, nursing, maternity and baby clothing, and transportation. Under New York state law, certain expenses must be approved by the court if it goes over an unreasonable price. Any payments toward the birth parent (s) are only allowed 60 days prior to the birth, and 30 days after the child is born.
Now that all the facts have been laid out, let’s go over the different types of domestic adoption. In order for an adoptive parent (s) to adopt, he or she can go through a private placement adoption or agency adoption. Private placement adoption is when a child is not being placed for adoption by a local department of social services (LDSS) or New-York Approved voluntary authorized adoption agency (VA). A private placement is between a birth parent and an adoptive parent. An agency adoption is when a child is placed through either LDSS or VA. During this process, the agency conducts a home study, which evaluates the adoptive parents based on certain criteria to determine whether or not the adoptive parents are the best fit for the child. Once this is carried out, the adoptive parent (s) will then complete the rest of the adoption process in court. We will go into more detail with this process in just a moment. Before we can go further, let’s look at adoption agencies.
By law, no person is allowed to conduct an adoption unless he or she is using a licensed or authorized worker. Adoption agencies are the intermediate party that serves as a bridge between the birth parent (s) and adoptive parent (s). Agencies carry out all the administrative and counseling duties and make sure that both sides have as smooth of an adoption process as possible. In New York, there are more than 130 agencies, 58 social service districts, and 70 authorized agencies statewide that work with adoptive parents. For more details on where to find these agencies and other information, please click here. But keep in mind, every adoption agency varies depending on what type of adoption you choose. Different types of adoptions include international adoption, foster adoption, and domestic adoption. In this article, we will only be focusing on domestic adoption. If an adoption agency is not the right pick for you, you can also try using an adoption attorney. An adoption attorney follows the laws within the state where the adoptive parent (s) and the birth parent (s) are located. Most of the time, attorneys are stricter and not as flexible compared to a private agency.
But no matter who you go to, every adoptive parent must enroll in a home study. A home study is an evaluation of an adoptive parent’s home life based on certain criteria that involve meetings, interviews, and training sessions. During this time, adoptive parents are assessed on the motivation for adoption, emotional and financial stability, and of course how personality matches the prospective child. This occurs within four months of the adoption process and is used to evaluate whether or not the adoptive parent (s) is ready to adopt. This process can be intense, and at times, draining but know that all of this dedication and hard work will lead to finding the best match possible. Once this part is completed, a caseworker will prepare the final assessment that will then help the agency determine whether or not the adoptive parents are ready.
In addition to a home study, adoptive parents will also have to attend agency-sponsored training. During this time, adoptive parents will learn all about adoption, the strengths the hopeful adoptive parent (s) can bring to the adoption process, and whether or not the couple or individual is ready to adopt.
Once the home study has been approved, the agency will work with the adoptive parent (s) to place a prospective child. During this process, there is no standard way of doing things–decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. After a match has been made, the agency will then introduce the family and start in-person visits. Visits can take place in the agency, at the birth parent’s home, or the adoptive parent’s home. These start out as quick meetings and over time, develop into longer sessions until the birth parent and child feels comfortable. If the visitation is for a child who is not an infant, the visitation period can last for weeks or even months before the child feels comfortable and moves in with the adoptive family.
But this process is not over just yet. Nothing is official until after living with the adoptive family for three months. Under New York law, the state requires agencies to supervise families before the placement becomes legal. This gives time for both the adoptive parent (s) and the child to transition and see if the match is the best fit. If all goes well, the agency will allow the adoptive parents to petition to adopt. As stated at the beginning of this article, no adoptive family is allowed to finalize an adoption without filing a petition in court that gives the adoptive couple the legal rights to the child’s care. Once this is fulfilled, a child is legally welcomed into the new family and the adoptive parent (s) has officially completed the child’s adoption.
What to Expect as an Adoptive Parent
Now that we know what happens during the adoption process, let’s take a look at what else goes on behind the scenes. It is easy to get carried away in the requirements and evaluations. But let’s look at the other parts that come with the adoption process. These are tips of advice that any adoptive parent can use to stay level headed when things get a bit more crazy.
The first is emotions. Since this process is a journey for both you and your prospective child, it is normal to feel a wide range of emotions without any sure reason why. There will be many ups and downs and know that it is okay to feel sad, happy, angry, and ecstatic all at the same time. Embrace each one and let it go. Anything in this process is subject to change and so are your emotions tied to it. Keep an open mind and let your emotions in when each comes knocking.
The second is delays or unforeseen problems. Whether it’s a complication with the agency or a complication with the birth parent’s family, there will always be room for error and the unknown. But that does not mean it should deter you from giving up or devaluing this experience. Take time to sit with the uncomfortable and know that this roadblock is temporary and only a detour to the final destination.
The last is life after adoption. No matter who you adopt, there will be many times in the child’s life where he or she may want to explore the adoption further. Expect your child to have questions that you may or may not be able to answer. As much as you want to be there for your child, adoption is as much a journey for your child as it is for you. It might take your child a long time to figure out what adoption means to him or her. This is common and completely natural. You may not have the answers to every question, but as long as you give your child the best chance to find answers—such as offering other resources—you can rest easy knowing you are doing the best you can.
How to Place a Child for Adoption and What to Consider
Here is where we switch it up and look at the adoption process from the other side. Now we will talk about adoption from the expectant/birth parent point of view. If you are an expectant parent looking to place your child for adoption, here is how you can go about doing this. The first step is to make an adoption plan. An adoption plan is a personalized plan of how you would like to carry out your adoption both before and after your child is born. By no means is this process easy, and only you can be the one to know what is best for you and your child.
Once you make a plan, you can get in touch with an adoption specialist. By law, it is legally required that any child being placed for adoption go through an adoption agency or attorney. After you find the right adoption specialist for you, he or she will most likely ask questions in regards to your child’s future. Some of these questions include “what kind of family you would like your child to be placed in? What kind of hospital stay would like to have once the baby is born? How much communication would you like to have overtime?” All of these preferences and decisions up to you, and it is your choice for how much or how little you would like to be involved. When choosing what kind of family, some factors you might consider are the size of the family, the location of the adoptive family, and if the adoptive family already has children. All of these take a great deal of time to think about and should not be rushed. Once you feel ready, you can let your adoption specialist know what you prefer and from there, you can start meeting potential families to see who you would like to adopt your child. After choosing a family, you will then have to quickly move onto the next step which is the hospital stay.
This step may seem minor but is very important to know what you would like to happen on the day your child is born. Questions to think about during this time are “how much time would you like to spend with your baby? Which family members or friends would you want to be with you when your baby is born? Would you want photos with the baby and or the adoptive family? Would you want to leave the hospital with the adoptive family or alone?” All of these questions will affect your experience in this adoption process. But as stated before, the choices made are entirely up to you.
The last thing to consider is life after adoption. When it comes to staying in contact with your child, you are entitled to have as little as you would like. This then leads to the question if you would like an open adoption or closed adoption. Open adoption is when the birth parent stays in contact with his or her child through emails, phone calls, letters, and personal visits. A closed adoption is when the birth parent decides to have no contact with the adoptive family or her child. In New York, it is more common to have an open adoption than a closed one because most birth parents want to stay in contact with the child throughout his or her life.
But despite open adoption, there is a fear for many birth parents that she will be left out by the adoptive parents. To ensure that this does not happen, New York created the Post Adoption Contract Agreement (PACA) which allows the birth parent to legally stay connected no matter what. Before the adoption process is over, both the birth parent (s) and adoptive parent (s) must come together and talk about how often the child will interact with the birth parent (s). Today, this law prevents any birth parent from being cut off and has now become part of the New York adoption process. However, this contract agreement is only available to birth parents who have had their child matched to an adoptive family.
Every single choice impacts what kind of relationship you will have with your child going forward and only you know what is right for you. New York has many laws to protect you and your child to have the best chance of staying connected.
We know this process can be a lot at once. But here are some resources for both the adoptive and expectant parent (s) to use before and after the adoption process.
-Join a support group for adoptive parents and expectant parents on social media or in person.
-Use your network of family, friends to lean on when times get rough.
-Enroll in counseling and or therapy once the adoption is finalized.
Katie Iles is a creative writer that lives in NYC and has a BA in psychology and an MFA in creative writing. She was adopted from China, grew up in Massachusetts, and is currently writing her own book of her experiences as an adoptee. In the past couple of years, she has played the cello, became president of a Buddhism club, and worked at Strand Bookstore. In her spare time, she loves to listen to music, explore NYC, and read memoirs. Katie can be reached at [email protected].