How to Adopt a Child in New Jersey

By John Costa
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Public or state adoptions in New Jersey are arranged through the Division of Youth and Family Services. According to the department, the majority of the longest waiting children in the state system are African American children, teens and sibling groups. Many children available for adoption have special needs, such as physical or emotional disabilities or exposure to drugs or alcohol, and state subsidies and supports are available for families who adopt these children. The process to become an adoptive parents is a long one, but the addition of a new child to a family can be a rewarding experience.

Contact Foster and Adoptive Family Services. Prospective adoptive parents can contact Foster and Adoptive Family Services within the Division of Youth and Family Services in the New Jersey Department of Children and Families by phone or by using the agency's website inquiry from. Staff can provide you with information about adoption and can answer questions you might have about the process.

Request an information packet and application form from the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). After receiving the information packet and application, a DYFS Local Office resource family recruiter will contact you to arrange an engagement meeting.

Attend a meeting with a DYFS Local Office resource family recruiter. During this engagement meeting, the family recruiter will provide you with detailed information about adoption, including eligibility criteria and the types of children in need of adoptive families.

Complete an application form. Once completed, applications are reviewed and preliminary background checks are completed. Before submitting your application, you should ensure that you are eligible to become an adoptive parent. In order to adopt in New Jersey, you must be able to financially support your family, be a legal resident of the United States, be 18 years of age before the adoption is finalized, and be at least 10 years older than the child you wish to adopt.

Complete the home study program. If your application is approved, a resource family worker will contact you to begin the home study process. Prospective adoptive parents must complete 27 hours of training as part of the home study process to help applicants determine if adoption is right for them. Resource family workers also meet with prospective adoptive parents and visit their home to assess whether the home meets required safety standards. Case workers may also interviews family members. The home study process also includes a criminal history background check, a child abuse record information check for every individual over 18 living in the home, and the provision of personal, employment, school, child care and medical references.

Receive a license from the Office of Licensing. All adoptive families must be licensed by the Office of Licensing after successfully completing the home study process. A resource family worker will forward documents related to the home study to the Office of Licensing and a licensing inspector will inspect the home.

Wait to hear about the availability of a child for adoption. Prospective adoptive parents can identify a "waiting child" available for adoption by DYFS or wait until the Division assigns a child for adoption.

Complete a pre-placement interview. Once a child is selected, DYFS staff will meet with you to provide information about the child, including his or her family background, legal status, personality, hobbies, special interests, developmental history, medical and psychological information and any problems that the child may have experienced.

Meet with your adoptive child. After the pre-placement interview, the child may be told about you and will be given an opportunity to express his or her feelings about the process. If the caseworker and the child are ready to proceed, you will be able to meet the child and begin regular visits. Once you, the child and DYFS are comfortable about the placement, the child will be placed officially with you.

Finalize the adoption. Once a child is placed in your home, a caseworker will visit within two weeks of the placement and continue to visit for at least six months before the legal consent for adoption is issued. Once the consent is issued by DYFS, your attorney must then file a legal petition to adopt the child. A DYFS caseworker will complete a court report and will usually attend the final hearing in court where a judge will make you the legal parent or parents of the child.

Obtain a new birth certificate for your adoptive child. After a judge issues a ruling declaring you as the legal parent or parents of the adoptive child, your attorney must obtain an amended birth certificate for the child with the name or names of the adoptive parents.