Adopting a child is a major personal and financial obligation. Before these challenges are met, however, potential parents must first comply with New Jersey’s laws governing adoption.
According to the law, prospective parent must be 18 years of age or more and at least 10 years older than the child to be adopted. Married couples may adopt jointly. A married person who lives separately from their spouse is also eligible. A child’s brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent, birth father or stepparent may also seek to adopt.
The interstate compact on the placement of children governs placement of a child outside their birth state. A child born in New Jersey will not be sent to another state for adoption until the appropriate government authorities in that state provide written notification to the New Jersey agency that the proposed adoption does not harm the child’s best interest.
The state regulates expenses paid by the adoptive parents throughout this process. They must file a detailed report disclosing all money or anything valuable given to anyone connected to the adoption. The recipients’ names and address should be submitted.
The adoptive parent may pay for medical, hospital and counseling costs for the birth mother and her baby. Other permissible expenses include food, clothing, healthcare costs, shelter, counseling services and other reasonable living expenses for the birth mother while she is pregnant.
Adoptive parents may pay for legal fees. In international adoptions, they are permitted to pay the reasonable expenses of a foreign agency or legal counsel who cares for or represents the child in the country of origin.
Payments for birth parent expenses cannot go beyond four weeks after the child’s birth or after the termination of the pregnancy.
Advertising and facilitators
A person or entity, other than an approved agency, that acts on behalf or between a birth parent and adoptive parent may not accept money or anything valuable related to the adoption.
When an intermediary is involved, the adoptive parent must receive approval for placement by an approved home study. The birth parent must be offered counseling and receive written notification. Expenses paid by the adoptive parent are not reimbursable if a birth parent decides not to place the child for adoption.
New Jersey law does not govern advertisements.
Home study conducted by a licensed child-placing agency before placement is important and determines whether prospective parents can provide a safe and nurturing home to the child. It must be current within 18 months of placement.
This process includes several in-person joint and individual interviews with married applicants, one individual interview with each member of the household, at least one home visit, a review of job references and three personal references from nonrelatives. The agency will also review criminal history and child abuse records.
The agency gathers substantial information in this process. This includes financial information, each parent’s family history, information about earlier marriages, medical reports for the applicants’ and anyone else living in their home, their emotional stability and maturity and their marital relationship. Other information involves childcare skills and experience, opinions on child-rearing, a physical description of the home and neighborhood and interests and hobbies. The parents must also agree that physical punishment and abusive language are unacceptable methods for disciplining a child.
The agency will visit the adoptive home within 14 days of placement. It will determine that the child’s background information was reviewed with the adoptive parents, an education plan exists for school age children and whether working parents have childcare arrangements.
The frequency of the visits are different for children under and over five years old. Discussion topics are also different for these children.
Additional laws also govern foreign adoptions, adopting a child in a family member’s care and foster parents. An attorney can help adoptive parents throughout this process.