A new law is closer to being passed in New Jersey that would require adoption agencies to maintain a child’s religious upbringing when placing the child in an adoptive or foster home. The bill was authored by Gary Schaer, Assembly member (D-Dist. 36) and has been approved by the Assembly Women and Children Committee. It is now on to the full assembly and State Senate for final approval and passage.
Independent Adoption Center strongly opposes this bill, for it would raise the barrier to finding permanent homes for children in foster care. Finding new permanent homes for foster children is already a tough task. This bill would further limit the number of possibilities for the children.
Schaer said “A child’s religious and cultural backgrounds are significant aspects of determining the best interests of the child. That’s why it’s so important that the placement of a child into foster care or adoption should be consistent with their religious and cultural backgrounds, unless it’s proven by convincing evidence that such placement is not in the best interests of the child.”
In open adoption, the birthmother chooses a family based on criteria that are important to her. If religion is or isn’t important, that will be reflected in her chosen adoptive family.
At Independent Adoption Center, we teach our adoptive parents that honoring the adopted child’s heritage is an important factor in building a healthy self-esteem. Any religious and cultural traditions that the child’s family had in place should be respected in a new adoptive household.
The reality is that this bill was most likely drafted with good intentions, but could result in more complications for adoption agencies and foster care placement. This could result in fewer children placed in permanent homes out of foster care and fewer adoptions for qualified adoptive parents.