An article today from Child Welfare in the News discussed the issue of considering religion in adoptive placements in Israel. Currently in Israel, parents and adopted children must be of the same religion, meaning that non-Jewish children who are adopted by Jews must be converted to Judaism:
"Those adopting non-Jewish children must convert them through a special Orthodox rabbinical court that deals with converting minors...The process not only includes an order to send the child to a religious school, but also attempts to change the parents' way of life: They are asked to start observing Shabbat and kashrut, and to go to synagogue." source: Haaretz
A bill in the Knesset (Israel's legislative body) that would void this section of Israel's Adoption Law was recently debated, with a decision to not decide.
Religion-in-Adoption Policy in the U.S.
The U.S., unlike Israel, has explicitly stated that its government shall remain separate from religion (First Amendment of the Bill of Rights). However, because the U.S. is also charged with ensuring fair and equal treatment of its citizens, including each person's right to religious freedom, several states have enacted or considered laws to require consideration of a child's (or birth parents') religious background in making foster or preadoptive/adoptive placements.
Pending Legislation: New Jersey
The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a bill that would require matching of religious backgrounds as a placement factor. This bill was introduced in response to the story of a Muslim father whose son was placed with a Christian family, who changed the boy's name to a Christian name and began taking him to church, eventually adopting him. Those in favor of this bill state that this will help children transition better and alleviate some of their pre-existing trauma. Critics are concerned that it will reduce the number of potential foster and adoptive families. They also point out that foster and adoptive agencies do consider religion, among other factors, in placing a child, and that foster parents are told to allow their foster children to practice their birth religion.
Enacted Law: New York & Minnesota
Social services agencies in New York state are legally obligated to consider the "religious designation" of a child when making foster and adoptive placements. Parents must be given the option of choosing whether or not they want religion to be a factor in placing their child(ren). If they opt out, agencies must document their decision. Agencies must also document the reason for not adhering to parents' religious preferences.
Minnesota statutes require the courts to allow birth parents to express a religious preference in foster and adoptive placements of their child(ren) (260C.193 Subd. 3 (c) and 259.29 Subd. 2). Additionally, a child's religious needs are the sixth placement factor in determining foster care placements (260C.212 Subd. 2 (a)), and new statutory language from S.F. 1675 also states that for adoption of children under guardianship of the commissioner, the agency shall ensure that
"the diversity of Minnesota's population and diverse needs including culture, religion, and language of persons affected by adoption are recognized and respected." (260C.601 Subd. 2)
Now the question comes to you, our readers. What do you think about requiring (or even just allowing) a placing agency to match religious backgrounds of children and foster/adoptive parents? Leave a comment below!