As a hopeful adoptive parent or pregnant mother considering adoption in the Garden State, you may feel overwhelmed by adoption processes, laws and qualifications. If you live in Newark, Jersey City or anywhere else in the state, read on to learn how to adopt or place a child for adoption in New Jersey.
Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Adopting a Child in New Jersey
Every state has adoption laws regulating many aspects of the adoption process, from who can adopt to allowable adoption expenses. The following guidelines provide information on basic laws and guidelines for adopting in New Jersey.
What are the laws and qualifications for adopting a child in New Jersey?
To adopt in New Jersey, an individual must be at least 18 years old and at least 10 years older than the child to be adopted. A married couple may adopt jointly, or a married person who is living separately and apart from his or her spouse can adopt. In addition, a child’s brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent, birth father or stepparent may adopt.
What adoption expenses can be paid by adoptive families in New Jersey?
New Jersey regulates the expenses that can be paid by adoptive parents throughout the adoption process. The adoptive parent is permitted to make the following payments:
- Medical, hospital and counseling expenses for the birth mother and baby
- Reasonable living expenses, including food, clothing, medical expenses, shelter and counseling services for the birth mother during her pregnancy
- If the child is being adopted internationally, reasonable expenses of a foreign agency or attorney who cares for or represents the child in his or her country of origin
- Legal fees
Payments for birth parent expenses cannot extend beyond four weeks after the baby’s birth or after the pregnancy is terminated.
Adoptive parents must file a detailed report disclosing all money and anything else of value given to anyone in connection with the adoption, as well as the names and addresses of anyone who received such payments.
What are the laws to become a foster parent in New Jersey?
Foster parents in New Jersey must be at least 18 years old and 10 years older than any child that is placed in the home. Prospective foster parents should be able to support themselves and be physically and emotionally healthy. New Jersey foster parents must complete a home study process as well as 27 hours of PRIDE training.
What are the requirements to finalize an international adoption in New Jersey?
New Jersey will recognize foreign adoptions if the adoptive parent is a resident of the state and the adoption’s validity has been verified by an immigrant visa by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Adoptive parents will not be required to petition a New Jersey court for adoption of the child if he or she was adopted under the laws of another country and the adoption has been verified by an immigrant visa for the child by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
The State Registrar may file a new birth certificate for the child upon receipt of the following:
- A request from the court, the adoptive parent, or the adopted person when he or she becomes an adult
- Proof of the adoptive parent’s residency
- An official copy of the judgment from the country where the child was adopted
- A certified translation of the adoption
- Proof of the child’s birthdate and place
- Proof of the child’s immigrant visa status
The State Registrar may file a new certificate for any child who is not a U.S. citizen and who is adopted by a resident of New Jersey. The certificate will note that the child was adopted. This notation may be removed upon receipt of proof that the child has become a U.S. citizen.
Is it legal to use advertising or facilitators to adopt in New Jersey?
Use of advertisement is not addressed in New Jersey statutes.
Any person or entity other than an approved agency that acts for or between any birth parent and adoptive parent in connection with an adoption may not receive money or anything of value in connection with the adoption.
When a child is placed for adoption through an intermediary, the adoptive parent must be approved for placement by an approved home study, and the birth parent must be offered counseling and receive written notice. In the event a birth parent decides not to place the child for adoption, the expenses paid by the adoptive parents cannot be reimbursed.
Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Placing a Baby for Adoption in New Jersey
New Jersey has several laws in place to protect birth parents’ rights throughout the adoption process. If you are considering adoption for your child, it is important to understand the basic rules and regulations of placing a baby for adoption in New Jersey.
When and how can birth parents consent to the adoption?
In New Jersey, the birth parent may consent to the adoption 72 hours after the baby’s birth. If an alleged father denies his paternity at any time, including prior to the baby’s birth, this is considered a surrender for the purposes of allowing the child to be adopted.
Consent must be signed by the birth parent and executed before an officer authorized to take acknowledgements. Prior to execution of consent, the approved agency must inform the birth parent that they are relinquishing their parental rights, permanently ending the relationship.
Who must consent to the adoption?
The child’s parent or guardian or any agency that has obtained proper authority must consent to an adoption. If the child is at least 10 years old, he or she must appear at the final adoption hearing and express his or her wishes concerning the adoption.
When does the birth parents’ consent become irrevocable?
Consent is irrevocable unless the court determines that the consent was obtained by fraud, duress, or misrepresentation by the approved agency taking the consent.
What rights does the father of the baby have in New Jersey adoptions?
A man is presumed to be a child’s biological father if he is, was, or attempted to be married to the child’s mother, and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage ended. A man may also be presumed to be the child’s father if:
- After the child’s birth, he and the mother married or attempted to marry each other, and he has acknowledged his paternity in writing, has sought to have his name placed on the child’s birth certificate, or is obligated to support the child by voluntary agreement or court order
- He receives the child into his home and openly claims the child as his own
- He provides support for the child and openly claims the child as his own
Paternity may also be established by:
- Proof that his paternity has been adjudicated under prior law
- A determination of paternity made by another state or jurisdiction
- A certificate of parentage executed by the father
- A court order, including those based on a genetic test
Home Study and Post-Placement Requirements in New Jersey
One of the most important steps for prospective adoptive and foster parents in New Jersey is the home study. The home study determines whether prospective parents are able to provide a safe, nurturing home to a child. The following section answers common questions about the New Jersey home study process.
What is included in the New Jersey home study process?
The home study process must include at least three in-person joint and individual interviews with the married applicants, one in-person joint and one individual interview with each member of the applicants’ household, at least one home visit, a review of current job references and three personal references from the applicants’ nonrelatives.
In addition, the home study will evaluate fingerprint-based criminal history checks and child abuse records checks for the adoptive parents and each adult residing in the home.
Throughout the home study process, the following information will be collected:
- Interests, hobbies, strengths and weaknesses
- Child care skills and opinions on child rearing, discipline, parental roles and experience with children
- Emotional stability and maturity, as well as the state of the marital relationship, if applicable
- Each parent’s family history
- Each parent’s agreement that hitting, shaking, abusive language and ridicule are unacceptable means of discipline
- Medical reports for each applicant and everyone else living in the home
- Information about previous marriages
- Physical description of the home and neighborhood
- Financial information
Who is included in the home study process?
The prospective parents and all adult members of their household will be included in the New Jersey home study.
Who will conduct the home study?
The home study must be conducted by a licensed child-placing agency. The division will provide home study services only for the adoption of a special needs child.
On what grounds will the home study not be approved in New Jersey?
The agency will examine the nature and dates of any criminal convictions revealed by the criminal records check and consider whether the convicted individual has been rehabilitated in deciding whether to approve the adoption application.
If any adult residing in the home has a record of a substantiated incident of child abuse, the agency will examine the nature and seriousness of the abuse and determine whether the perpetrator can provide an appropriate home for the child.
When should the home study be completed? When must the home study be renewed?
The home study must be completed before a child is placed in the home. The agency must ensure that the home study is current within 18 months of placement. Home study updates will include one or more interviews with all members of the adoptive applicants’ household, medical reports within the past year for all household members, a home visit and updated financial information.
What is a post-placement study in the adoption process? What are the post-placement study requirements for New Jersey?
Within 14 days of an adoptive placement, the agency will visit the adoptive home to document that the child’s background information was reviewed with the adoptive parents, school-aged children have an educational plan in place and working parents have made child care arrangements. During this visit, the agency will also reassure the adoptive parents’ that their feelings, worries and joys are natural and understandable.
For children younger than age 5, the agency will conduct bimonthly home visits for at least six months, interview all members of the household and document that the following issues were discussed:
- The child’s presence’s effect on family relationships
- The role each family member has assumed regarding child care and discipline
- The parents’ reactions and ability to cope with the challenges of raising the child
For children 5 years or older, the agency will conduct monthly home visits during the first six months, followed by bimonthly visits until the adoption is finalized. The agency will document that the child was interviewed privately about his or her feelings toward the adoption during each visit, and that the following issues were discussed:
- The child’s presence’s effect on family relationships
- The role each family member plays in child care and discipline
- How the child “tests” the placement and the family’s reactions to these behaviors
- The family’s perception of the child’s sense of identity and any need to fill in gaps in the child’s history
- The child’s adjustment to the school environment
What are the home study requirements for stepparent or relative adoptions in New Jersey?
In a stepparent adoption, criminal history checks will not be required for adult household members who are related to the child’s birth parent.
What are the home study requirements to adopt a child from another state?
Any placement of a child outside of his or her birth state is subject to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). A child born in New Jersey will not be sent to the adoptive parents’ state until the appropriate public authorities in that state notify the New Jersey agency, in writing, that the proposed placement does not appear to be contrary to the child’s best interest.
What are the requirements to adopt a child that is currently in my care?
Information about the foster-to-adopt process in New Jersey is available through the Department of Children and Families.
To start the home study process, contact one of these trusted New Jersey home study providers:
- Adoptions from the Heart
Adoptions from the Heart is a private, licensed, nonprofit, non-sectarian adoption agency providing home study services for all types of adoptions and adoption education.
- Family Options
Family Options is a licensed, nonprofit adoption agency providing education, support and services throughout the home study process.
New Jersey Adoption Professionals
For more information about adoption in New Jersey or to begin the adoption process, contact one of these local adoption professionals:
- American Adoptions
- Golden Cradle Adoption Services
- A Loving Choice Adoption Associates
- Better Living Adoption Services
For more information about foster care in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.
Things to do in New Jersey
Whether you find yourself in the Garden State for visits with prospective birth parents or you’re waiting for ICPC approval, here are a few fun places for adoptive families to visit in New Jersey:
- Cape May County Park and Zoo (Cape May Court House)
- Grounds for Sculpture (Hamilton)
- Princeton University (Princeton)
- Ocean City Boardwalk (Ocean City)
- Silverball Pinball Museum (Asbury Park)
- Long Beach Island (Beach Haven)
- Storybook Land (Egg Harbor Township)
- Barnegat Lighthouse State Park (Barnegat Light)
More information about traveling to New Jersey is available at http://www.visitnj.org/.