Opinion: New York should not make adoption harder for our residents

An argument for reversing a state regulation change that made it more difficult for New Yorkers to seek adoptions in other states.

New York State Capitol in Albany, New York

New York State Capitol in Albany, New York Larry Lee Photography

As it is for many couples, the ability to conceive is hard. A common reply they often hear is,  “There are so many kids who need homes, why not just adopt?” What many people don't  understand is just how hard going through the adoption process usually is. Prospective adoptive  parents routinely endure an expensive, onerous and highly regulated process. This leads them to  be faced with feeling overwhelmed emotionally, physically and mentally. Financially, it is costly  and many have to make major monetary decisions, whether that be tapping into a 401k, taking a  high interest loan, or borrowing from family and friends. Sadly, after several years of trying,  many give up on their dream of becoming parents. 

As access to abortion becomes more and more prohibitive in this country, we should be  alleviating the obstacles to adoption whenever and wherever possible. Many of us who believe in the right to choose sometimes forget it means the right to choose in either direction. When a  woman gives birth, whether out of choice or due to lack of access to healthcare, it behooves us as  a nation to help facilitate this option in a way that makes it as seamless as possible for both birth  mothers and qualified parents wishing to adopt. 

In most states, part of this process allows prospective adoptive parents to support a birth mother  with necessary and reasonable living expenses during her pregnancy as well as for a duration  after birth. New York State law allows for this support only when she reaches her 8th month of  gestation and 30 days after birth. Other states allow for prospective birth parents to support a  birth mother for much longer, sometimes stretching to as long as six months or more prior to  birth. Adoptive parents in New York have always had the right to follow the laws of other states  during this process, supporting birth mothers in other states for as long as that state may permit.  That is, until the beginning of 2024, when New York State completely reversed its long held  policy on this matter.  

On January 5th, the state Office of Children and Family Services released a  regulation change requiring out of state adoptions to comply with New York law. This does not  allow for New York's adoptive parents with a birth mother who resides in another state to assist  her in a manner in which her own state allows. Therefore, this prevents them from competing with adoptive parents in other states in which this regulation is not being mandated. The potential  consequences of this new rule are baffling and scary. Birth mothers across the nation will know  that if they choose an adoptive parent in New York, they will leave significant resources on the  table versus if they had selected a family in any other state. Individuals considering moving to  New York, whether they be LGBTQ or anyone else considering adoption for a variety of reasons,  will no longer just be weighing New York's tax burden and cost of living, they will also have to  wrestle with the fact that being a New York resident now severely diminishes their chances of  ever adopting.  

As adoptive fathers who have been through the process, we can tell you firsthand the strain it  already places on your family. Even families with the requisite resources can find the adoption  process emotionally trying, full of heartbreaking disappointments, legal hurdles, and logistical roadblocks. A failed placement with a birth mother who chooses to parent her child instead of  placing them for adoption can feel like a death to prospective parents. Home studies,  background checks, attorney fees, agency fees, website fees, marketing fees, advertisement fees,  profile books, the details and compliance never end. Then, once you finally adopt and hold your  precious child in your arms, you have to start the finalization process which entails home visits,  background checks, fingerprinting, letters of recommendation, legal fees, and court fees up until  the day that the child becomes officially yours. 

As we said, adopting is hard, which is why we are calling on our state leaders – starting with  Gov. Kathy Hochul – to reverse this policy in its nascent stages. Having a two month window for  financial assistance to birth mothers is the law in our state, but arbitrarily enforcing this law in  other states is senseless, and makes adoption for New York parents virtually impossible. We find  it laudable that New York continues to provide easy access to abortion for women from other  states seeking this care. But at the same time, we should do our part to ensure the choice to  conceive for these women is equally accessible. 

We love our children dearly, and as adoptive fathers our connection with them is often even more  emotionally intense than if they were genetically our own. Much of this is because the fight one  goes through to make them yours is so arduous, and your desire to parent them is so unequivocal from the outset. What results in the wake of this process is the type of love that is enduring and  knows no bounds.  

That said, this fight is already hard enough for too many New Yorkers. Gov. Hochul and our  lawmakers should not only change this policy for out of state adoptions, but also take the  additional necessary steps to roll back the current law for those adopting within New York. It's  time we make adoption reasonably accessible for parents wanting to provide loving homes for so  many throughout our state and nation who so desperately need them.