The Path to Adoption in NJ
Foster and Adoptive Family Services will respond to inquiries from prospective adoptive parents. They provide the caller with basic information about foster care and adoption and answers any questions they might have. The Local Office Resource Family Recruiter then contacts the prospective parent to arrange an engagement meeting, where more detailed information about foster care and adoption is provided, which includes the eligibility criteria and the types of children needing foster or adoptive homes. Adoption home studies are completed only for families interested in the types of children placed for adoption by CP&P. Families who are interested in children who are not typically available for adoption by CP&P are asked to consider becoming a foster parent or contacting a licensed private adoption agency.
Those interested in proceeding are encouraged to complete their application which is then reviewed by the Resource Family Supervisor and preliminary background checks are completed before accepting the application. A Resource Family Worker will then contact the prospective parent to assist them in beginning the home study process.
The Home Study
The home study process is an opportunity for the agency to learn about prospective adoptive families and for the families to learn about the role of CP&P and adoption. There are several steps to this process:
- Pre-service training: CP&P provides 27 hours of training to the prospective adoptive parents, as a required part of the home study process.
- Individual interviews at the home: A home study is a mutual assessment consisting of sharing your family’s story through joint and individual interviews with all family members.
- References: References are obtained as part of the home study so that a thorough assessment can be made to determine the applicant’s ability to adequately and appropriately care for a child.
- Approval Process/Licensing: Since July 2005, it is necessary for all Resource Families (including Adoptive Families) to be licensed by the Office of Licensing (OOL). Upon the successful completion of the home study, the Resource Family Worker forwards the home study to OOL.
- Waiting to hear about the availability of a child: This is the most exciting part of the adoption process, but can also be the most difficult for prospective adoptive parents.
Selection / Pre-placement
Approved home studies are kept on file in a statewide match system which allows for the preliminary matching of adoptive children and their prospective parents.
When a family is selected for a child, CP&P staff meet with them, usually in their home, to present comprehensive information about the child. This includes the child’s family background, developmental history, personality, hobbies, special interests, interpretation of medical and psychological findings and any problems that the child may have experienced in his or her foster home or school. The family is also advised of the child’s legal status and eligibility for adoption subsidy.
After the pre-placement interview, if both the family and CP&P are comfortable with the match, the child, if old enough, is told of the prospective family and given an opportunity to express their feelings and anxieties about living in the proposed home. If the caseworker and the child are willing and ready to proceed, arrangements are made for the family to meet and begin visiting regularly with the child. These visits are scheduled according to the individual needs of the child and of the adoptive family, so that the experience is as comfortable as possible for everyone involved.
Most adoptive children require a series of visits to minimize any separation trauma that they may experience. Prior to and during the visits, the child’s caseworker is responsible for helping the child understand the adoption plan. As soon as the agency, the family and the child feel comfortable about the placement, arrangements are made for the child to officially join the adoptive family in their home.
Placement and Supervision
Once the child is in the home, he or she becomes part of the adoptive family. It is important for the family to understand that there may be some early fear and discomfort on both of their parts. A caseworker will visit the home within five days of the placement, and at least monthly, thereafter. The worker will discuss what adoptive parents can expect during the period of time preceding the adoption finalization, and will make every effort to offer support and to link the family with community resources that will facilitate the child’s acceptance into his or her new family and community.
Because adopted children may require special emotional support at any time in their lives, there will be an expectation that the school aged child and the family attend counseling with a professional therapist specializing in adoption specific therapy during the supervision period. The worker will make arrangements for that therapy. The worker also will be available to assist with issues that may arise for the child and the family at this transitional time.
CP&P must supervise the adoptive home for at least six months before the legal consent for adoption can be issued.
Unless there are specific issues which must be addressed prior to the finalization, the consent to adoption is usually issued by CP&P, six months after placement. The consent is forwarded to the adoptive parent’s attorney, who files a legal petition to adopt and secures a date for the final hearing. The CP&P caseworker completes the court report and, in most cases, attends the final hearing, during which the judge makes the adoptive parents the legal parents of the child. Subsequent to this, the attorney obtains an amended birth certificate for the child, with the name as given by the adoptive parents. The original birth certificate is placed under seal by the Bureau of Vital Statistics.
As adopted children grow, it might become necessary for the adoptive parents to obtain professional help to assist the child with questions of their background and adoptionin. Although CP&P does not directly provide post adoption services, the child’s Adoption Worker can assist in locating a professional who will work with them.
The path to adoption in New Jersey has many steps and challenges along the way. However, when you’ve reached the end, the reward in opening your heart and your home to a child is enormous.
If you are looking for legal guidance in this process, please visit our NJ Adoption lawyers directory.
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