NJ religion-in-adoption bill heads for vote in legislature

NJ religion-in-adoption bill heads for vote in legislature

NJ legislators are closer to passing a law that would require agencies to maintain a child’s religious upbringing when placing the child in an adoptive or foster home.

The bill, authored by Assembly member Gary Schaer (D-Dist. 36) of Passaic, was approved by the Assembly Women and Children Committee on May 14. It awaits passage by the full Assembly and State Senate.

“A child’s religious and cultural backgrounds are significant aspects of determining the best interests of the child,” said Schaer, an Orthodox Jew, in a May 15 press release. “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.”

Groups that oppose the bill, including Foster and Adoptive Family Services, worry that its passage will restrict the pool of potential families for any particular child.

According to its sponsors, the legislation would permit agencies and courts to place a child in a setting of a different religion “only with a written statement from the child’s birth parent or legal guardian.”

“For many children, religion is a guiding force in their life and a strong part of their inherent identity,” said Pamela Lampitt (D-Dist. 6), a cosponsor of the legislation.

Assembly Member Upendra Chivukula (D-Dist. 17), the bill’s third sponsor, agrees. “Reasonable effort should be made to ensure the continuity of the child’s religious upbringing,” he said in the press release. “It’s the right thing to do.”

The measure is being sponsored in the Legislature’s upper house by State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-Dist. 25). No date has been set for a vote in either chamber.

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