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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Religious background as a placement factor in adoption & foster care

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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!

1 Comment

I am a foster parent for the last 5 years, i have taken in 25 kids over these years and I have adopted 2 of them. I can only say that this bill will cause a verybig problem for children in care. There are thousands of children up for adoption in state of Nj and there are not enough foster and adoptive families to take careof these kids. This will only put another barrier for them to not get adopted. We as a society need to do anything we can to get these kids out of the system and into loving permanent homes. I also have a concern with the fact that in this bill it states an adoptive family cannot change the religion of the child. This is an outrage the adoptive child has the right to be part of a loving family and share in thier religious beliefs. The adoptive family is the childs real family and has the right to make decisions for thier children.

When taking the classes to get licensed as a fosterparent we are told we must allow the children to practice thier religion or we can lose our license. So I truly believe this will only be a deterant for adoptive parents to pursue adoption.


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