NJ Assemblyman Gary Schaer on Tuesday announced he has introduced legislation that would require a private adoption agency, a court or the state to maintain a child’s religious upbringing when placing a child with a guardian, into foster care or into an adoptive home.
“A child’s religious and cultural backgrounds are significant aspects of determining the best interests of the child,” said Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen/Essex). “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.”
Schaer said the legislation (A-4353), introduced Monday, 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.
In the case that such a placement is not feasible or not in the child’s best interest, a written statement will be required explaining the placement decision. In such cases, the bill will require that provisions be made for the child to continue the his religious observance, education and training in the new setting.
The bill has support from advocates.
“While the state has the obligation to remove children from troubled homes, it lacks the legal authority to change their religious heritage,” said Dr. Aref Assaf, the president of American Arab Forum and an advisory board member of the New Jersey Council on American Islamic Relations. “Forcing children to accept a faith other than that in which they were raised by their natural parents is not in the best interest of the child and irreversibly impacts their sense of self-identification, compounds their disillusionment and alienation. We laud the Assemblyman for leading this effort to remedy the legal void in our current laws.”
“We thank Assemblyman Schaer for taking the lead in proposing legislation on maintaining a child’s religious upbringing in adoption or foster care,” said David Mandel, the chief executive officer of Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services, Inc. “This legislation will help ensure and provide continued stability on one of life’s most important choices during a period of trauma and turmoil a young child may be experiencing as they enter foster care. We look forward to continuing to support this effort as part of the overall important work DYFS is working hard to achieve.”
“A child’s religion should not be changed because of the placement into foster care or into adoption,” Schaer said. “Reasonable effort should be to ensure the continuity of the child’s religious upbringing. It’s the right thing to do.”
(YWN Desk – NYC)