Frequently Asked Adoption Questions

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Who are the families who adopt?

There is no typical adoptive family. An adoptive family can have a single parent or two parents. The 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.

How do I adopt a child?

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.

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 website and through:

New York State Adoption Service:

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).

If you are considering adoption and wish to learn about available children in New York State, the adoption process, subsidies, and resources, please visit the New York State Adoption Service to learn How to Adopt a New York Waiting Child. You can also use the Child Photolisting, where you will be able to see pictures of some of the children who await the opoortunity to live with a loving family.

What are the steps in the adoption process?

There are many required steps in the adoption process, and many of these steps can take several months. Here are the basic steps to adopt a child in New York State. Staff at the agency will help you with these steps:

  1. Attend an orientation session and choose an adoption agency.
  2. Submit an application and medical history, complete a national and state criminal background check, and also complete a check by the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.
  3. Complete the home study process. You and your family will need to meet with agency staff in your home as part of the home study approval process.
  4. Attend agency-sponsored training.
  5. Work with a caseworker to find the child waiting for you.
  6. Visit with the child.
  7. After the child is placed in your home, work closely with the child’s caseworker for a period of supervision.
  8. Work with your agency to complete the necessary steps to receive adoption subsidies, medical subsidies, and reimbursement of nonrecurring adoption expenses, if eligible.
  9. Hire and work with your attorney to submit the adoption petition to finalize the adoption in court.
  10. Contact your local department of social services or a voluntary authorized adoption agency to learn how to obtain post-adoption services, if necessary.
How do I complete the home study in New York State?

A home study is a series of meetings, interviews, and training sessions involving the agency and the prospective adoptive family. New York State regulations require agencies to complete a home study for most families registered with the state, generally within four months of a family's Application to Adopt. 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. The process can be intense, but it is in the best interest of both the child and the prospective adoptive family. 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.

Is financial/medical assistance available for children who are adopted?

Yes. Adoption Subsidies and payment for Nonrecurring Adoption Expenses may be available.

What is an adoption subsidy?

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. 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.

What is the definition of a “hard-to-place” child?

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.

What is the definition of a “handicapped” child?

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).

When must an application for adoption subsidy be submitted?

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?)

How are subsidy payments made, and how long do they last?

Payments are made monthly to the adoptive parent(s). 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.

Is medical coverage available for children with special needs?

Many of New York’s waiting children who are adopted qualify for either Medicaid or a New York Medical Subsidy — payments equivalent to Medicaid for children who do not qualify for Medicaid. This benefit is very important for families adopting children with disabilities. Medical coverage helps families meet the cost of health care for children with physical and emotional needs. 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.

Are funds available to help with the cost of adopting a child with special needs?

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.

What is a post-finalization adoption subsidy?

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.

What is a subsidy upgrade?

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.

What are the costs associated with adopting a child from foster care?

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.

Completing an adoption in court generally requires an attorney and the payment of legal fees, including court costs. Families adopting New York State children with special needs are eligible for limited reimbursement of nonrecurring adoption-related costs such as lawyer and agency fees. Local social services departments accept applications for such reimbursement.

What is the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children?

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is a law enacted by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the US Virgin Islands to provide for the protection and services to children placed across state lines. The Compact establishes uniform guidelines and procedures intended to safeguard the best interests of each child. New York was the first state to enact the ICPC in 1960 (NY Social Services Law 374-a).

In general, the ICPC applies to the following types of interstate placements:

  • Placement preliminary to an adoption.
  • Placements into foster care, including foster homes, group homes, residential treatment facilities, and institutions.
  • Placements with parents and relatives when a parent or relative does not hold legal custody of the child(ren).

The ICPC does not apply to interstate placements made in medical or psychiatric hospitals, institutions for the mentally ill or in boarding schools, or any institution primarily educational in nature.

The New York State ICPC Office is located within the OCFS Bureau of Permanency Services. This office administers the Compact and serves as the central clearing point for all incoming and outgoing ICPC referrals.

Visit the NYS ICPC page for more information.

Can a family challenge the agency's decision?

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.

Is there a way to view NYS children available for adoption?

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

Are post-adoption services available?

Yes. Learn about post-adoption assistance for families by using this link.

What should I do if I am interested in an international adoption?

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

How do I obtain adoption records?

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. 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.

The address and phone number of a specific county department of social services can be found on the OCFS website at the following link:

Can you tell me about the adoption process and form OCFS-5183?

Please refer to the FAQ for the Certification/Approval Process for Foster/Adoptive Parents.