The New York State Office of Children and Family Services has issued an Administrative Directive that provides guidance to New York adoption agencies in processing requests from adult adopted people who were born outside of New York but adopted within the state.
The administrative directive, issued on June 8, may raise more questions than answers. It requires an adult adopted person (or their descendants if the adopted person is deceased) to apply for an original birth certificate from the New York state or city department of health before requesting information from the agency that handled the adoption. Once the adopted person receives a letter from the state or the city that no original birth certificate for the person can be found, the person may apply for “identifying information . . . that would have appeared on such original birth certificate.”
New York’s new current law specifically states:
When it shall be impossible for the commissioner or a local registrar to provide a copy of an adult adopted person’s original long form birth certificate (as may occur in the case of an adopted person born outside of, but adopted within, the state and such certificate is not part of the records of the commissioner or a local registrar), the true and correct information about the adopted person and the adopted person’s birth parents, including their identifying information, that would have appeared on such original birth certificate shall be provided to: (i) the adopted person, if eighteen years of age or more, or (ii) if the adopted person is deceased, the adopted person’s direct line descendants . . . by any authorized agency . . . .
The Office of Children and Family Services is interpreting the new law strictly, requiring first that the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH), and/or the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH) verify that no original birth certificate exists in the state for the adopted person before the person may apply for identifying information from the adoption agency. The directive sets out a “matrix” that requires an “official letter” from the respective state or city health departments (or both), as follows:
- Production of an official letter from NYS DOH and an official letter from NYC DOHMH that each agency is unable to provide a certified copy of the adult adoptee’s original long-form birth certificate; or
- Production of an official letter from NYS DOH that such agency is unable to provide a certified copy of the adult adoptee’s original long-form birth certificate and [the authorized agency] is aware based on its records that the adult adoptee was not born in the City of New York; or
- Production of an official letter from NYC DOHMH that such agency is unable to provide a certified copy of the adult adoptee’s original long-form birth certificate and the [the authorized agency] is aware based on its records that the adult adoptee was not born in a NYS county outside of the City of New York.
The new administrative directive is here (and a PDF copy is here). It also includes a newly created form that the adopted person (or the person’s descendant) should complete and submit to the agency that holds the adoptee’s identifying information. The form and directive generally sets out what information may be provided from the agency.
Impact on Adopted People and their Descendants
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is currently taking more than a year in many cases to process requests for an adopted person’s original birth record. Requiring a person to apply for and receive a “no record found” letter will likely greatly increase how long it will take a person who was not born in New York (but adopted in the state) to requesting and obtaining their information. It will also increase the cost to these adoptees, who must apply for and pay for a search for an original birth record that does not exist in the state’s vital records offices. It is not clear (but appears doubtful under the current directive) that an adopted person may simply provide to an authorized agency their amended birth certificate from their state of birth as proof that they were not born anywhere in the state of New York.
NYARC will continue to monitor how the new directive is followed.
NOTE: Under New York law, an “authorized agency” includes a county child welfare agency, a private child-placing agency, and the court that finalized a private placement adoption.