“We know that we can provide a loving supportive home filled with adventure and joy. We also have amazing friends and family, who are also prepared to love our future children.”
Every day, more and more LGBTQ people are adopting children who need a good and loving home. It can be tough to get started if you are considering adoption either as a single parent or with a partner. In honor of National Adoption Month, we lay out what you need to know about adopting in New York State.
There are four options for adopting a child:
- State or Public Agency Adoption. Plan to adopt a child who is in foster care from the public child welfare system. These children tend to be older and have been removed from their birthparents due to abuse or neglect. A series of classes on how to successfully parent these children is often required.
- Agency Open Adoption. Plan an open adoption through an adoption agency;
- Open Independent Adoption. Set out on your own to find birth parents who want or need to place their child in an adoption and complete that adoption through an attorney.
- International adoption. Adopt a child from another country through an agency or independently.
LGBTQ people have successfully adopted children through each of these methods. However, each road poses its own challenges. For example, in the past some prospective LGBTQ parents who pursue an agency open adoption have found that there is a hierarchy of preferred parents for a child, and they are not on top. It is important to thoroughly research agencies to ensure you will be welcome, and their protocol is compatible with your adoption needs.
More and more birth parents are choosing same-sex couples over different-sex couples and some private agencies report an increase in placements with our community. Again, choosing an agency that you know will positively represent you to birth parents is essential. It is also important to talk to other LGBTQ adoptive parents in your community about their experiences and for agency recommendations. We have some resources listed at the end of this spread.
The Nitty-Gritty Requirements:
New York has a residency requirement of three months before adopting. This means that would-be adopting parents must live in the state for three months before the adoption is finalized. However, this does not prevent the soon-to-be parents from beginning the adoption process sooner, before they meet the three-month residency requirement.
Any adult unmarried person or adult spouses together at least 3 years prior to filing may adopt a child. Chapter 509 of the Laws of 2010 in NYS codified the court decision to authorize unmarried people to adopt a child together, allowing same-sex couples adoption proceedings before marriage equality was passed in 2011 at the state level and 2015 across the country.
Whether you are single or married, older or younger, renter or homeowner, you may apply to adopt a child. You do not need to have parenting experience, own your own home, or earn a high income.
New York adoption laws provide same-sex/LGBTQ couples with the same opportunity to create a family through adoption as single people and non-LGBTQ couples. 18 CRR-NY 441.24 prohibits discrimination in adoption and foster care based on sexual orientation and 11-0CFS-INF01 (2011) states that unmarried partners are explicitly allowed to jointly adopt.
All states now must permit joint adoption by married couples. As a result of the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex couples throughout the United States are now permitted to marry and are thus permitted to adopt jointly.
If you are not adopting in New York State, find your state’s requirements by checking out lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/foster_and_adoption_laws
What Happens Next?:
One of the most important steps for prospective adoptive and foster parents in New York is the home study. The home study determines whether prospective parents are able to provide a safe, nurturing home to a child.
What is included in the New York home study process?
- A report of a physical exam conducted within one year regarding the family’s general health
- Inquiry into the applicant’s experience with children and training to strengthen his or her experience and knowledge in this area
- Checks with the State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment and checks of out-of-state registries if a member of the household lived in another state any time during the past five years
- Fingerprint-based state and federal criminal history record checks for all adult members of the household
Who is included in the home study process?
The applicant and any adults residing in the applicant’s home must be included in the home study.
Who will conduct the home study?
The home study must be made by a disinterested person qualified by training and experience to examine the allegations set forth in the application. This includes a licensed master social worker, licensed clinical social worker, the probation service of the family court, or an authorized agency specifically designated by the court to conduct pre-placement investigations.
For an adoptive child under age 18, the adoption will not be finalized until three months after the adoption petition has been filed. A post-placement investigation will be made by a disinterested person, and a report will be submitted to the court within 30 days.
The post-placement investigation will include information about:
- The parents’ and child’s marital and family status and history
- The physical and mental health of the family and child
- The adoptive parents’ property and income
- Payments made in connection with the adoption
- Any involvement of either parent in any proceeding concerning allegedly abused, neglected, abandoned or delinquent children
- Any other circumstances relevant to the determination of adoption
“It is easy to be discouraged, and often difficult for others who aren’t familiar with the
process to understand why it’s taking so long. The right children are out there!”
NYS Adoption Resources and Agencies:
All prospective adoptive parents are encouraged to do their own research to find the right agency, avenue, and process for their family. Below are some of the resources available in New York and the Rochester area to get the process started:
New York State’s Bureau of Permanency Services:
Children of all ages are waiting to be adopted. New York State’s Bureau of Permanency Services welcomes “responsible, caring adults who are ready to share their time, their hearts, and their lives with our waiting children. When you adopt a waiting child, you will be giving that child a permanent family and another chance in life. All children deserve a loving, committed, safe, and permanent family.” https://ocfs.ny.gov/adopt/
The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC):
The ICPC is an agreement among all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands that establishes procedures for the placement of children across state lines. The child’s originating state and receiving state must approve the child’s movement before the child can legally move. The Office of Children and Family Services administers the ICPC in New York State. https://ocfs.ny.gov/adopt/interstate_compact_Placement_of_Children.asp
Monroe County Children and Family Services Division:
“Our team is comprised of caseworkers who will assist you in identifying and learning about our children in need of an adoptive home. Our goal is to find a permanent family for each of our freed children; a family where children can grow and thrive in a close, loving environment. The team’s wide ranging skills will help you access any services you may need to help you and your child create a warm, loving and long lasting relationship. All children who are available for adoption are children who are currently in foster care. They have been freed from their birth parents by court order.”
For more information call 585-753-6084 or visit www2.monroecounty.gov/hs-adoption.php
Children Awaiting Parents:
CAP is a national not-for-profit charitable organization that recruits foster and adoptive families for special needs children who have been waiting the longest for a “forever” family. They are located in Rochester at 595 Blossom Road, Suite 306.
“Children Awaiting Parents strives to match families with children. We search for homes that will bring out the best in our youths – families that can unconditionally love and support them, regardless of the parent’s or the child’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” www.childrenawaitingparents.org/
Hillside Adoption Resource Network and Adoption Services:
Hillside ARN provides information, education, referral and support on all aspects of adoption and foster care. They also offer an annual conference, trainings and support groups. Call 585-256-7500 for information. http://www.hillside.com/Services/adoption.htm
Pride and Joy Families Project:
Dedicated to helping lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people in Upstate NY achieve their goals of building and sustaining healthy families.
The Project offers “provider trainings, educational programs, information and referral services, a Directory of LGBTQ-Inclusive Services, and support for LGBTQ families and prospective parents. Our network of Pride and Joy Families provides social and educational opportunities, and a sense of community to LGBTQ parents and their children.”
Visit www.binghamton.edu/prideandjoyfamilies/about/index.html for information, events, and more. There is even a Rochester Pride and Joy Families Facebook group to connect with other adoptive and prospective parents in the Greater Rochester area: bit.ly/RocPJF