Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
(212) 428-2500

Date: May 21, 2003

Seal of the Unified Court System
www.nycourts.gov
COURTS, STATE, CITY AND COUNTIES ANNOUNCE MAJOR OVERHAUL OF THE STATE'S ADOPTION SYSTEM: Includes the Adoption of 5,000 Children by Year's End
NEW YORK - New York's Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye, Governor George E. Pataki, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, New York City Administration for Children's Services (ACS) Commissioner William C. Bell and Jim Morris, an adoptive parent, joined together today at the ACS Children's Center in Manhattan to announce a historic partnership called "Adoption Now." This collaboration was formed to help expedite adoptions for New York State's children in foster care who have a goal of adoption.

The project, which was spearheaded by Chief Judge Judith Kaye, is a joint initiative between the courts, the State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), ACS and local districts of social services statewide that aims to find permanent, nurturing adoptive homes for those children in foster care who cannot return home. The goal is to finalize the adoptions of 5,000 children statewide by the end of the calendar year - 3,800 in New York City alone.

By identifying the systemic barriers to timely adoptions and implementing reforms to streamline the process, Adoption Now will help to better achieve permanent, long-term improvements to the adoption process throughout New York State. The plan is to reduce the time it takes to finalize adoptions for foster children in New York State from three or four years to one year.

Since 1995, New York State has reduced the number of children in foster care by more than 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.

Chief Judge Kaye said, "It is so gratifying to see the genuine progress made since last November when I first reached out to OCFS Commissioner John Johnson and ACS Commissioner William Bell to begin an unprecedented collaboration with the Family Court to expedite the adoption of thousands of New York State children.
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 - all this without any additional cost to taxpayers. 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."
Governor Pataki said, "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. 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."

Mayor Bloomberg said, "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. The Adoption Now Initiative takes this reform even one step further, with no additional cost to taxpayers. I am tremendously proud of the work that Commissioner Bell and his staff have accomplished in this, and all areas of child welfare. I urge any New Yorker who has ever considered adoption to call 311 for more information since there are thousands of children in need of a home."

Adoptive parent Jim Morris said, "The joy that has come from adopting six boys between the ages of 11 and 23 over the past five years is immeasurable. 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."

Late last year, Chief Judge Kaye convened a meeting of state and local government child welfare agencies to create a working group that could identify ways to expedite the adoptions of children in foster care statewide who were still awaiting permanency even though their parents' custodial rights had been terminated. The result of that meeting was the "Adoption Now" Initiative.

The committee continues to meet regularly to further streamline the system and, to date, has accomplished the following:

  • 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.
  • Held roundtable discussions with representatives from contracted foster care agencies to identify remaining barriers, discuss best practices and receive their input on how to move this initiative forward.
  • Changed procedure to ensure that termination-of-parental-rights orders are submitted in a timely manner.
  • Prompted the addition of increased judicial resources to focus on exclusively handling adoption cases.
  • Expedited the appeals process statewide of termination-of-parental-rights cases, removing this barrier to adoption finalization.
 Future plans for the Adoption Now working group 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 New York City, OCFS will work with ACS staff so that local database checks for unfounded cases may be completed more efficiently.
For more information on becoming a foster or adoptive parent, or to review information on children currently free for adoption, visit the OCFS website at: www.ocfs.state.ny.us or the ACS website at www.nyc.gov/acs. New York City residents can also call 311.