The New Jersey Child Adoption Process
Child adoption in New Jersey is a detailed and thorough process. Before a child can be legally adopted, many steps are taken to ensure that this placement is in the best interest of the child as well as the prospective parents. The child adoption process through an adoption agency can be summarized in five phases:
1. Phase I – Inquiry
- The prospective parent begins by making an inquiry to an adoption agency, typically by phone or on the internet. Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) answers this inquiry, providing basic information and answering any questions. NJ law requires that the prospective parent be:
- At least eighteen years old
- At least ten years older than the child they mean to adopt
- Able to financially support the child
- In good physical and emotional health
- The prospective parents are then contacted by Child Protection and Permanency (CP&P) to arrange a meeting, where they will provide more detailed information such as eligibility requirements.
- The prospective parents then complete their adoption application, which is reviewed by a resource family supervisor, who runs a preliminary background check on the prospective parents.
- A resource family worker will then contact the prospective parents to begin the Home Study process.
2. Phase II – Home Study
- The Home Study process gives the adoption agency an opportunity to learn about the prospective parents.
- CP&P provides 27 hours of preservice training to the prospective parents to educate and prepare them for the responsibilities of adoption.
- The adoption agency interviews each family member individually and visits the prospective home, assessing it to make sure it meets safety standards.
- Personal, medical, employment, childcare, and school references and a criminal history and child abuse background check of the prospective parents are obtained.
- Prospective families must then be licensed by the Office of Licensing, who will inspect the home. Once this inspection is completed, the family is approved to adopt.
- The prospective parents must then wait until an eligible child is available.
3. Phase III – Selection and Preplacement
- Approved families are put on a nationwide match system. When a family is selected for a child, CP&P meets with the family to give them full information about the child’s background, personal history, hobbies, and more.
- The child, if old enough, is then given the opportunity to voice their opinion about moving into the prospective home.
- Regular visits between the child, the child’s caseworker, and the family then begin. Once all parties are comfortable with the placement, arrangements are made for the child to officially join the family.
4. Phase IV – Placement and Supervision
- Within five days of the child moving in with the family, a caseworker will visit to provide any help or support the family or child may need. These visits will continue at least once a month for at least six months.
- If the child is school-aged, the child and family usually meet with a professional therapist specializing in adoption during this period.
5. Phase V – Finalization
- As long as there are no specific issues to be addressed, the CP&P will issue the consent to adoption to the parents, which is then given to the parent’s attorney, who will file a legal petition to adopt, setting a final court hearing.
- The CP&P caseworker completes the final court report and typically attends the hearing, where the judge will make the parents the legal parents of the child.
- An amended birth certificate is issued with the child’s name as given by the adoptive parents. The original birth certificate is sealed and filed by the Office of Vital Statistics.
In a private adoption, also called an independent adoption, the birth mother (and birth father if he is known and involved in the adoption plan) surrenders her child directly to the prospective adoptive parent.
For help getting started with the child adoption process, contact us today.