Different circumstances may lead individuals and families to consider adoption.  The legal adoption process gives the adopting party the same rights and responsibilities of natural parents.  The child (or adult) being adopted takes the same last name as the adopting parents, and has the same rights and privileges as if she or he had been born naturally to them.

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How does adoption happen in New York?

There are two types of adoptions in New York:

(1) agency adoptions; and

(2) private placement adoptions

Agency adoptions involve children who are in the custody of state or private agencies that have a state license.  These children may have been voluntarily surrendered by their birth parents who lack the ability to provide proper care, or they may have been forcibly removed from them through a court order, possibly due to neglect and/or abuse.  

Private placement adoptions, on the other hand, are for children who do not come into the care of the state or go to a licensed adoption agency.  Instead, they usually begin with private agreements/contract between parties, which may be a step-parent or family member, or may be unrelated people such as a birth mother and the person(s) adopting the child.  

Regardless of the type of adoption, the adoption process is governed by New York State law, and ultimately must be approved by a court. The people involved in the adoption are represented by attorneys, including in the case of a foster child, a law guardian.

How much does adoption cost?


The cost of adoption depends on the type of adoption.  In agency adoptions of children in foster care, the government pays for all adoption costs, including legal fees. Private placement adoptions, however, may result in out-of-pocket costs for the adopting parents, including for example:

  • the adoption agency’s fees;
  • legal charges; and
  • expenses to cover the birth mother’s cost of giving birth (if applicable) and/or related expenses.


What is an open adoption?

More and more, adoptive parents are choosing to maintain an open relationship with the child’s birth parents, and in some cases, to allow the child to interact with them too.  This arrangement is called an “open adoption.”  A study conducted in 2012 among U.S. adoption agencies reported that 95% of their domestic infant adoptions were open.  The belief among some people is that open adoption allows adopted children and youth to:

  • Develop a deeper understanding of their identity and a greater sense of wholeness;
  • Preserve connections not only to family but also to their cultural and ethnic heritage;
  • Gain access to important genetic and medical information; and
  • Develop a better understanding of the reasons for placement, which can lessen feelings of abandonment and increase a sense of belonging.

Despite these potential benefits, open adoption may not be for every family, and the decision should be made on a case-by-case basis.

For more assistance, you may:

  • Chat with someone on LiveHelp for legal resources and information
  • Contact a legal referral service. For NYC, call the NYC Bar Association Legal Referral at 212-626-7373. For outside of NYC, you may call the New York State Bar Association Legal Referral Service at 1-800-342-3661.
  • Take a look at The Basics: Adoption in New York State and Openness in Adoption.


-Clara Kang Wee, Columbia Law School

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