David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
Date: November 22, 2003
|New York Hosts National Adoption Day
Record Number of Adoptions Finalized in One Day in NYC
QUEENS, NY - Four hundred newly adopted children received teddy bears, hugs and the security of having a family to call their own today in a courthouse filled with celebrities and dignitaries alike, including Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye, actor Bruce Willis, New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) Commissioner William C. Bell and State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) Deputy Commissioner Larry Brown, during New York’s celebration of National Adoption Day. Over 200 volunteers—including judges, lawyers, court staff and agency personnel—converged on Queens Family Court to donate their time and specialized skills to help make this happy event possible, achieving a record number of adoptions completed in one day in New York City.
New York has been a participant in National Adoption Day—designed to highlight the joys of adoption and to encourage families to adopt children in foster care—since its creation four years ago and was chosen to host the national press conference this year. As part of the celebration, over 600 adoptions will be completed among 34 counties participating statewide, including the 400 finalized today at Queens Family Court, which were consolidated from all five boroughs of New York City.
New York has been leading the country with innovative and successful programs to promote foster care adoptions, annually completing about 5,000 of these adoptions throughout the state. Last year, Chief Judge Kaye spearheaded an ambitious initiative called “Adoption Now,” joining the courts with OCFS, ACS and other local child welfare agencies in a historic collaboration to break through logjams delaying adoption finalization for thousands of children already legally freed to be adopted. Always keeping the focus on children’s safety, the Adoption Now committee identified systemic obstacles to prompt adoptions, instituted permanent improvements to the process, and is developing a multi-agency model of best practices.
Chief Judge Kaye said, “Seeing the abundance of happiness here today—from the smiles of youngsters who now are legally recognized as official members of the families who love them to the grandparents who look on with pride and tears of joy—we feel even greater impetus to make this happy outcome possible for the thousands of children in this state who remain in foster care. With the Adoption Now initiative, which forged a new partnership between the Family Court and state and city child welfare agencies, we shone a bright, unforgiving light on New York’s system for foster care adoptions, to uncover defects and rectify flaws, so that children—from whose vantage point, time is greatly magnified—are not kept waiting for permanent homes longer than is absolutely necessary to ensure safety. These 400 newly adopted children, tightly embraced by their grateful families, are a living testament to the tremendous work that has already been accomplished in New York and inspire us to continue onward in our reform efforts. We, along with 120 communities across the country that are participating in National Adoption Day, join with these families today in celebrating the wonders and joys of adoption.”
At the press conference at Queens Family Court, Bruce Willis, named National Spokesperson for Children in Foster Care by President George W. Bush, spoke about the need to educate the public on what they can do to help young people available for adoption. “I participate in National Adoption Day so I can personally thank the dedicated people who are adopting children and to let others know how they can help the thousands of young people in foster care still waiting for permanent families,” Willis said.
“One of ACS’s guiding principles is to achieve permanency for every child who is in our care,” said ACS Commissioner William C. Bell. “Since our formation in 1996, ACS has worked closely with the Family Court and OCFS to finalize adoptions for more than 26,000 children in foster care in New York City. Our successful efforts to find permanent homes for these children would not be possible without the ongoing support of organizations like the national partners who are here with us on National Adoption Day. This event is a wonderful opportunity to remind New Yorkers, as well as the nation, that one of the greatest ways to make a difference in the life of a child is to provide a loving and supportive home.”
OCFS Commissioner John A. Johnson said, “Governor George E. Pataki is committed to our state’s ongoing efforts to find every child available for adoption a stable and loving home, and it is clear we are making tremendous headway in helping find permanency and security for thousands of New York’s children. By working together—with the courts, local departments of social services and community-based providers—we can continue to help make life better for all of New York’s children, so they can grow to reach their full potential.”
Providing support for adoptive families, OCFS is administering a special college assistance program for teens in foster care, for which youths adopted after reaching the age of 16 are also eligible. The program makes available $5,000 a year for tuition and other assistance for college, post-secondary education or vocational courses, providing financial aid for both teens in foster care and those recently adopted out of the system.
National Adoption Day brings together volunteer lawyers, foster care professionals, child advocates and local judges in one day to give children the loving families they deserve. The annual event draws special attention to the 126,000 foster children in the United States who are waiting to be adopted, as well as celebrating all families who adopt. Since its inception in 2000, National Adoption Day has grown from events in nine jurisdictions now to include events in more than 120 communities from coast to coast. Sponsored by The Alliance for Children’s Rights, Casey Family Services, Children’s Action Network, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Freddie Mac Foundation and Target Corporation, this year’s celebration on Saturday, November 22, is expected to result in over 3,100 adoptions finalized nationwide.
The New York state court system received an overwhelming number of donations to help stage the National Adoption Day celebration from companies, individuals and agencies, as well as from the national co-sponsors, OCFS and ACS. Of particular note were generous book contributions from Random House and Scholastic Corporation, which alone supplied over 10,000 books to be given to young courthouse visitors.