Adopt a New York Waiting Child

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Is adoption the option for you?

Adoption is a decision for the entire family. Talk to your family about what it might be like. Since most New York State children available for adoption are in foster care, talk to others who have adopted children formerly in foster care. Consider the personal resources you and your family would bring to the new relationship. Consider the community resources available to support your decision - school and medical personnel, support groups, friends, and neighbors.

There are many ways for you to experience caring for children who need a loving adult. Many people become foster parents; some serve as volunteers with a child welfare agency before adopting. Any of the agencies listed on this website can advise you about ways to get involved.

New York State's local social services adoption units offer orientation and training to groups of interested people. Staff can answer questions about adoption, and you can begin to decide whether adoption is the best option for you and your family.

Who are New York's children awaiting adoption?

In New York State, no child may be adopted until the parental rights of the birth parents have been relinquished or terminated. This means that the child is free to be adopted. Typically, nearly 1,000 children are free for adoption and waiting for you, or someone like you, to offer them the permanent family life they have been denied. They need love and security. They need a permanent home. They need you.

  • All are valuable, growing children who deserve a loving, permanent family.
  • Most, if not all, are children waiting in foster care.
  • They are a diverse group of children, primarily African-American, Caucasian, and Hispanic.
  • Few are three years old and younger.
  • Many are between the ages of 7 and 13.
  • Some have physical, mental, or emotional disabilities.
  • Many belong to sibling groups who need to be adopted together.
Who are the families who adopt?

Adoptive families vary in age, income, lifestyle, and financial and marital status. Some adoptive families are headed by a single, working parent. Some are two-parent families with birth children. There is no "typical" adoptive family.

Whether you are single or married, old or young, childless or a parent, renter or homeowner, you may apply to adopt a child. To adopt, you need to be:

  • willing to learn about the unique needs of an adoptive child;
  • patient and loving;
  • energetic and giving;
  • able to provide a secure environment;
  • equipped to meet the needs of a growing child.

To adopt, you do not need to:

  • have parenting experience;
  • be married;
  • own your own home;
  • earn a high income.
The adoption process

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.

See the Adoption Process page for information.

Foster parents as adoptive parents

Many foster parents eventually adopt their foster children. In fact, most children adopted in New York State through adoption agencies are adopted by their foster parents. When a child has been in a foster home for 12 months, first consideration must be given to the foster parents as possible adoptive parents if the child becomes available for adoption.

Families interested in adoption may consider parenting a foster child who has a permanency goal of adoption. However, foster parents have no guarantee that they can eventually adopt their foster children. If a foster child has a goal of return to his or her birth family, foster parents must cooperate with visitation unless the goal is changed. In other cases, children who are free for adoption may be placed with relatives or may be moved to another adoptive home to be reunited with siblings.

Maintaining connections

Many adoptive children can benefit from maintaining connections with people from their past. Adoptive parents may formally or informally agree to maintain ties to the child's former foster family or birth family, but the adoptive parents maintain parental authority after an adoption is completed and will make decisions regarding the continuation of contact with birth family members. Issues may also arise regarding future contact between the child and siblings or grandparents.

Adoptive parents should recognize that there are times when children, especially older children, will want to have contact with members of their birth family or a former foster family. Respecting the experiences that children have shared with others before adoption helps the adopted child integrate into his or her new family. One way adoptive parents can do this is by helping their adopted children keep Life Books. If the child later decides to search for his or her birth family, the adoptive parents can help by being supportive and by offering advice and guidance.

The Adoption and Medical Information Registry (518-474-9600) provides a source for adult adoptees to obtain medical information about their birth parent(s) and to register to be matched with birth parents and or siblings.


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 voluntary authorized 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.

Adoption subsidies

Adoption subsidies are monthly maintenance payments (see Glossary: Maintenance Subsidy) that may be available based on the special needs of a child.

See the Adoption Subsidies page for information.

International adoptions

Social services districts do not place children from other countries. There are approved private adoption agencies that handle foreign adoptions. For a list of these agencies, call New York State Adoption Service at: 1-800-345-KIDS (1-800-345-5437)

Interstate adoptive placements

If a child from another state is being considered, you must comply with New York State laws regarding adoptive placements, and your public or voluntary authorized agency must comply with requirements of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), which governs interstate adoption.

Medical records

Authorized agencies must provide medical histories of foster children legally freed for adoption, with all identifying birth parent information eliminated. They must also provide the prospective adoptive parents with any available nonidentifying medical histories of the child's birth parents. This information is also available to adoptive parents and the adult adoptee after the adoption is finalized.

Regulations and fair hearings

Adoption in New York State is governed by various provisions of Domestic Relations Law, Social Services Law, and NYSOCFS 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.

The next step
  • Call New York State Adoption Service at 1-800-345-KIDS (1-800-345-5437) to request additional information.
  • In addition to the child photolisting available on the website, New York State publishes a printed version of The Adoption Album. It is available at your county's social services adoption unit, at voluntary authorized agencies in your community, and at most local libraries.
  • Ask for books, articles, and videos about adoption at your local library.
  • Attend an adoption orientation meeting at your county's social services adoption unit or a private authorized agency in your community.
  • Meet people who know about adoption firsthand; attend an adoptive parent group. Obtain a list of these groups from the New York State Citizens' Coalition for Children, Inc.

Once you are ready to begin the adoption process, contact your local public or authorized voluntary agency to fill out an application and begin the homestudy process.

Other adoption resources

See the Adoption Resources for National Resources for adoptive parents and people considering adoption.

For more information, contact the New York State Adoption Service at: