May 21, 2003
ACS Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Governor George E. Pataki and New York State Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye Announce Major Overhaul of State's Adoption System
5,000 Adoptions To Be Finalized In New York State By End of Calendar Year 2003
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Governor George E. Pataki and New York State Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye today announced a major overhaul of New York State’s adoption system. The “Adoption Now” initiative, a collaborative effort between the court system, the NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and the NYS Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) spearheaded by Chief Judge Kaye, identifies the systemic barriers to timely adoptions and implements reforms to streamline the process. The goal of the initiative is to reduce the time it takes to finalize adoptions for children in foster care from 3.5 years to just 1 year. ACS Commissioner William C. Bell and New York City adoptive parent Jim Morris also attended the announcement at the ACS Children’s Center in Manhattan.
“During the past seven years, ACS has made tremendous strides in reforming the children’s services system in New York City and the continuing increase in adoptions over the years is just one indicator of that success,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The ‘Adoption Now’ initiative takes this reform one step further, and I am tremendously proud of the work that ACS Commissioner Bell and his staff have accomplished in this, and in all areas of child welfare. I urge any New York City resident who has ever considered adoption to dial 311 for more information since there are hundreds of children in need of a home.”
“It is so gratifying to see the genuine progress made since last November when I first reached out to Commissioners John Johnson and William Bell to begin an unprecedented collaboration with the Family Court to expedite the adoption of thousands of New York State children,” said Chief Judge Kaye. “Through interagency cooperation and concerted effort, these adoptions now have either been completed or shortly will be ready for finalization, and monumental changes have been made within the system to prevent similar such logjams in the future. I am indebted to the Governor and the Mayor, as well as their wonderful child welfare agency Commissioners Johnson and Bell, for making possible this happy outcome for thousands of New York’s children.”
“Every child deserves a stable and loving home and while we can’t be satisfied so long as even one child remains in care, it is clear we are making tremendous headway in helping find permanency and security for thousands of New York’s children,” said OCFS Commissioner John Johnson. “This collaborative effort to streamline the adoption system is one more example of how we in State government are working with all of our partners – the courts, local departments of social services and community-based providers – to help make life better for all New Yorkers so our children can grow to reach their full potential.”
“The joy that has come from adopting six boys between the ages of 11 and 23 over the past five years is immeasurable,” said adoptive parent Jim Morris. “Our family is rich in love as a result of these adoptions and I’m so happy to be the father of these tremendous young men.”
In November 2002, Chief Judge Kaye convened a meeting of state and local government child welfare agencies to create a task force that could identify ways to expedite the adoptions of children in foster care statewide who were still awaiting permanency even though their biological parents’ rights had been terminated. The result of that meeting was the “Adoption Now” Initiative. The task force continues to meet regularly to further streamline the system.
New York State expects to increase adoptions by 28% by the end of calendar year 2003 completing 5,000 adoptions statewide with 3,800 finalizations projected in New York City alone, which is a 36% increase. In 2001, 3,901 adoptions were completed statewide, with 2,794 finalized in New York City. In order to achieve this goal of 5,000 completed adoptions the task force, led by Judge Kaye, has already:
- Intensively reviewed more than 4,000 individual cases statewide to identify the barriers that have prohibited or delayed adoption for these children in the past.
- Changed procedure to ensure that termination-of-parental-rights orders are submitted in a timely manner.
- Increased judicial resources that will focus exclusively on adoption cases.
- Expedited the appeals process statewide for termination-of-parental-rights cases.
- Held roundtable discussions with representatives from foster care agencies to identify remaining barriers, discuss best practices and receive their input on how to move this initiative forward.
These same best practices will be repeated moving forward to ensure that the overhaul of the system and timely adoptions continue. Future plans for the task force and the initiative include:
- Distributing a white paper in the late summer outlining the overall statewide systemic reform that will streamline the adoption process and make it work more smoothly in the future.
- Reducing the length of time it takes to issue adoption subsidies to families in New York City from six weeks to three weeks. During peak periods of activity, State staff will augment ACS to help further expedite these approvals.
- Giving adoption requests priority status, which will reduce the time it takes to conduct background checks for history of child abuse or neglect in the State Central Register. In NYC, OCFS will work with ACS staff so that local database checks for unfounded cases may be done locally.
Since 1995, New York State has reduced the number of children in foster care by 31 percent, from nearly 54,000 to 37,068 at the end of 2002. New York City has reduced the number of children in foster care by 59 percent since 1995 from 43,000 to approximately 25,500 today. Statewide, approximately 6,000 children are freed for adoption.
For more information about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, or to review information on children currently free for adoption, visit the ACS website at www.nyc.gov or dial 311.