Recent Developments In New Jersey Adoption Law

nj-virtual-law-officeNew Jersey is commonly referred to as an “adoption friendly” state when looked at from the prospective adoptive parent perspective. The 72 hour surrender of parental rights time frame shortens wait times for adoptive parents and minimizes their legal risk during the adoption process. With that said, it is important for birth parents to recognize their own rights and obligations when utilizing New Jersey adoption law to surrender their parental rights.

While the state’s public policy (the principles, often unwritten, upon which laws are based) favors adoption as a loving, beneficial option for many children, some may say its statutes(written law), specifically the 72 hours surrender of parental rights, lean towards adoptive parents. It is important for all parties involved in the adoption process to be made aware of their specific rights under the law.

The Basis Of New Jersey Adoption Law: A Child’s Best Interests

All adoption decisions made in New Jersey courts are ultimately decided in the “best interests of the child.” And while these “best interests” are certainly debatable, this is generally interpreted to imply that the physical and emotional welfare of the child, or children, involved is of the utmost importance.

As It Stands: Current New Jersey Adoption Law

Laws Defining The Rights Of Birth Mothers And Birth Fathers

Birth mothers in New Jersey are allowed to begin both option counseling and adoption-specific counseling as soon as they become aware of their pregnancy. The law prevents birth parents from signing their Surrender of Parental Rights until at least 72 hours after the birth of their child. However, once signed, the surrender of rights is irrevocable.

Some states do not allow birth mothers to choose adoptive parents for their biological child. While it isn’t explicitly addressed by New Jersey statute, it’s common practice in New Jersey to allow biological mothers this right.

Birth mothers in New Jersey are not legally obligated to identify their child’s birth father by name. Nonetheless, adoption agencies are required to make what is known as a “diligent inquiry” into identifying the birth father. This is an attempt to make the birth father aware of his biological child’s adoption, and enable him to establish his paternity if he so chooses. Obviously, this can become difficult if the birth mother herself refuses to identify him, which she has every legal right to do.

If the biological father cannot be found, for whatever reason, to assert his paternal rights over the child, he has 120 days in which to file a complaint through the New Jersey Surrogate’s Office. If he fails to do so, he won’t receive any further updates on the adoption proceedings.

That being said, New Jersey treats both biological parents equally in regards to parental rights. According to Title 9:17-40: “the parent and child relationship extends equally to every child and to every parent regardless of the marital status of the parents. If one or both of the parents have not had their right terminated voluntarily or involuntarily the child is not available for adoption.”

Laws Defining The Rights Of Prospective Adoptive Parents

Because New Jersey’s adoption law is based on the concept of a child’s “best interests,” many of its legal statutes are designed to encourage a “finality of family arrangements.”  These statutes are meant to eliminate any potential gaps in a child’s proper care.  For example, if after 72 hours a birth mother signs a surrender of her parental rights through a state-approved adoption agency, the consent to adoption is irrevocable. At that point, a birth mother’s only legal recourse in contesting the surrender would be to prove that she was coerced, or the options were misrepresented to her.

New Jersey does not discriminate against those who wish to adopt a child based on marital status or sexual orientation. Gay and lesbian couples, as well as single parents, have every right to adopt children within the state.

In what is known as a “cooperative adoption,” birth parents relinquish their parental rights over their biological child, but retain the right to visitation. Although this model is not formally addressed by New Jersey adoption statutes, adoptive parents and birth parents can agree among themselves upon a contact plan. This communication is at the adoptive parent’s discretion. If, at any time, they feel that contact between birth parents and their biological children is not in the child’s best interests, adoptive parents have the right to alter the communication agreement as they see fit.

Recent Developments In New Jersey Adoption Law

New Jersey’s state Senate has a national reputation for supporting adoption rights. In early January, 2014, New Jersey’s state Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee approved a bill (S873) that would allow adoptees to access their original birth certificates  (OBC) and learn their biological parents’ names, contact information (if available), and family history.  The bill also defines a procedure whereby birth parents would be able to formally indicate whether they would like to be contacted directly, through an intermediary, or not at all.

The bill now awaits a hearing before the full Senate.

Helping school age children handle racism

racism21. Admit that race will be a factor in the way a child of color is treated. Give examples in history and daily life. Examples of racism are plentiful throughout the news, by admitting it and confronting it with your child you are giving them the tools they need to fight it.

2. Agree that racism is unfair, and promise that you will not tolerate such behavior in your presence. Practice different responses to racist remarks and let your child practice their responses too so that they can handle racism when it comes up.

3. Kids develop new problem- solving skills in middle childhood. When your child says she has been teased or excluded because of race, encourage them to use the skills you developed together. Help them to express their feelings and explore the short and long term consequences of their responses and what they would do if it happened again.

4. Ask whether you should do anything. Its important for kids to feel empowered and be capable of handling their own problems. If possible, help them feel able to handle it without adult protection but make sure they understand that you are fully prepared to take their side and be their ally.

5. Elementary school kids are information gatherers. This is an ideal time to provide children with opportunities to gather realistic images and history of their racial heritage. Otherwise, they might be defenseless against stereotyped images of their race and feel bad about themselves.

6. Your child’s growing ability to categorize and understand abstract concepts can help her to integrate seemingly contradictory ideas.  Help you child to learn that all racial groups have both good and bad historical figures, and have both made positive and negative contributions to the world.

7. Make sure that your child is able to talk with other people of color who have had similar experiences and can provide new ideas on how to react.  Without this exposure the only role models for children adopted trans-racially will be the narrow, generally negative stereotypical characters in television shows and movies.

8. Notice the messages you send in real-life situations. When a fundraiser rings your doorbell or when a person with physical differences serves you. Since none of us is bias-free, its useful to discuss with our kids the responses that may have been inappropriate or confusing.

9. If your child resists getting to know other people of color because they haven’t had enough experience outside an all -white group to feel comfortable, insist that they participate anyway. To develop skills to cope with racism they will need to feel comfortable around people of color.

10. Demonstrate your acceptance of diversity of all kinds – religious, economic, political, and social and make fighting racism and other injustice a personal matter for you, not just for your child

March Book Reviews 2014

Eight-Books-To-Read-In-2014

All books purchased by clicking the link in our review will give AFTH a small donation from Amazon.com.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the books in our review please consider buying it through our link to amazon.com.

one-perfect-dayOne Perfect Day: A Mother and Son’s Story of Adoption and Reunion by Diane Burke -Diane placed her son for adoption when she was teenager.  She didn’t have a choice as many women didn’t back then.  She was shipped off to a home for unwed mothers and told she just needed to act like nothing happened after she delivered.  Of course that wasn’t as easy as it sounds.  Years later she gets a phone call from someone asking if she placed a baby several years ago and after the initial shock she found her heart wasn’t missing a piece anymore.

While Diane’s story is tragic and difficult, Steve her now grown son had a very different life.  In fact he had a very good life and didn’t decide to search until later in life. Steve’s story really touches on the need to feel connected and have closure.  Meeting his birth mother helped him with that. . amazon.com price $18.60 kindle price $11.99

12439950Me, Him, Them, and It by Caela Carter -  I love the pacing of the novel — the main character Evie really considers her options, which cause so much of the early tension in the novel, and after she’s made it, the tension ramps up about what she’s going to do about it. The second part of the novel is wonderful and diverse. I love Caela’s treatment of race and family and making your own family. This is not just a story about pregnancy, but about family, and how that doesn’t mean just one thing. I had some issues with the adoption being closed since in most cases adoption is open or semi-open but all in all, this is a great teen read.  amazon.com price : Hardcover $12.67 kindle price $9.99  Paperback $8.99

Ladybug-Love-Kat-LaMons-Trish-DigginsLadybug Love: 100 Chinese Adoption Match Day Stories by Kat Lamons & Trish Diggins - For everyone who has waited years and months for their match from China this book gives you hope.  Filled with 100 match stories from families who have waited some of them up to 5 years or more for their match.  The record of their initial reaction feels like you are reliving the moment with them.  Whether you are waiting, have already adopted from China or just need a smile and that warm fuzzy feeling in your stomach this book helps you achieve it.  amazon  price $12.89 Kindle edition $5.99 

Embryo Donation

frozen-human-eggWhy do families choose to donate embryos?

Many families who created embryos for their own IVF use never dreamed of having remaining embryos once their family was complete.  Now faced with ongoing storage costs embryo donation is one of several option open to families.

  •  Donating families can often identify with the struggles of infertility that other families are experiencing and hope to give another family the joy of becoming parents.
  • Donating embryos to science, destruction, or keeping them in stasis forever may not appeal to families.
  • It may be against religious or moral beliefs to destroy or donate embryos to science and by donating remaining embryos to another family they are given the potential for life.

What types of contact between donor and recipient families are available?

Embryo donation should be tailored to each donor family’s needs and desires, what works for one family might not be right or another.  It also depends on what organization you work with.  Some clinics don’t allow any contact or identifying information and then there are some agencies out there that give donor families more options. Some options are:

On-going contact with the recipient family either through letters and photos or more open contact.

  • Anonymous donation. No contact except for an exchange of medical information.
  • Something in-between – notification of a live birth and/or the option for future contact with the recipient family.

Is there specific criteria regarding who can donate?

This would depend on the clinic, or agencies you are using.  Contact them to see what their criteria is.

Are there legal issues associated with embryo donation and placement?

  • At this time there are no federal laws regarding embryo donation and placement.
  • Some states have state laws regarding assisted reproductive technology.
  • In general, embryo placement is governed by contract law respecting the laws and regulations set forth by the FDA regarding human tissue donation.

What are the costs of donating our embryos?

  • There is usually no cost for donating families.
  • Recipient families will assume the cost of storage and transportation once the contracts have been signed legally releasing the embryos for donation.

How do we get started?

If you would like to learn more about donating embryo’s to an other family please contact the clinic where your embryo’s are stored.  There are also several agencies out there that will help you click here for a list of agencies that help families with embryo adoption.

2nd Annual Find Her Footing 5K

In just 11 days, the staff at Adoptions From The Heart will be getting up bright and early to prepare for what will be a family fun-filled day at Delaware County Community College in Media Pennsylvania. Adoptions From The Heart will be hosting our 2nd Annual Find Her Footing 5K on April 6th from 9:00am-12:00pm.
Find Her Footing started last year as a way to raise money for AFTH’s Birthmother Fund. AFTH has worked with thousands of pregnant women considering adoption and The Birthmother Fund is a way to keep our work going. The Birthmother Fund supports women, both during and after their pregnancy, who have worked with our agency. Many of these women are in need of extra financial assistance for food, housing, transportation, and medical care; they are often parenting other children at home. With the help from our Birthmother Fund, AFTH offers lifetime support and guidance for the women we work with. The Birthmother Fund is used to help a woman “Find Her Footing” before and after making an adoption plan.
Last year, over 100 supports of all ages walked and ran our course with parents pushing strollers and carrying their children on their back the entire length of the course! With the support of the community, we were able to raise over $2,000 for Adoptions From The Heart’s Birthmother Fund.
Supporters do not have to run, or even show up to the event! You can support our mission simply by registering for the race, sponsoring a runner or walker, or making a “No Sweat” donation. Recruit your family, friends, and coworkers for join in the fun and support AFTH’s Birthmother Fund!

We’re getting ready for a morning of fun for the whole family. Boing! Bounce Rentals has donated a moon bounce for the kids. There will be other activities for the families from our many sponsors. Awards will be given for the top finishers (all ages), Kid’s Dash participants, top individual fund raiser, top team fundraiser, and more. For every $25 participants raise, they will receive an entry for a chance to win a Samsung Galaxy Tablet. There will also be other raffle prizes available! There will be bagels and refreshments from local shops. XTU radio station will also be at the race to provide music and will have some giveaways to a few lucky participants!
The race will be taking place starting at 9:00am with the start of the Kid’s Dash! Registration for the day of begins at 8:15am but you can register online at this link. If you would like to donate please do so by going to our AFTH store here.

If you have any questions you can email Jessica at JessicaA@afth.org!

Scroll down to check out some pictures from last years event!

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Pregnant? What to Expect at the Hospital if you are making an adoption plan

Know_Your_Rights_ImageLabor and delivery and the hospital stay are probably the biggest causes of worry among some expectant mothers who are making adoption plans. They worry if they will have time with the baby, how they will feel, how they will be treated by the hospital staff, if they should include the adoptive parents, and many other things.

Thinking about and preparing for the hospital stay before it happens can help reduce anxiety and calm some of the fears that you may be experiencing. Think about how you would like to handle things before it occurs. Let your wishes be known to all those involved.

Questions to Ask Yourself Regarding Your Hospital Experience

  • Who do you want to visit you? Who do you want to visit the baby?
  • Do you want the prospective adoptive parents at the hospital? Do you want them in the actual delivery room or just in the waiting area?*
  • How much time do you want to spend with your baby? Do you want to hold or feed your baby? Do you want your baby to be in the room with you?
  • Will you name your baby or will you just give your baby the name the adoptive parents intend to use? You will be asked to give the baby a name.  You may already have a name selected or you may know the name that the adoptive parents have chosen and give that name for the original birth certificate.  Sometimes now in the more open adoptions, moms who intend to place and the adoptive families may choose a name together.+
  • What mementos from the hospital do you wish to bring home with you and what do you wish to pass on to the adoptive family? Many birthmothers treasure their baby’s hospital bracelets, the cards that were on the crib, and the tiny caps placed on their heads minutes after birth. It is your choice to keep these or pass them on to the adoptive parents.  Many hospitals are more than willing to accommodate adoption situations by providing 2 sets of these keepsake items if asked.
  • How do you wish to leave the hospital? Many birthmoms have later commented how hard it was to leave their baby behind in the hospital and wish their baby had left first. Others may want to actually place their baby in the adoptive parent’s arms.
  • When would you like to sign relinquishment papers? This is something to think about so it doesn’t sneak up on you.  The laws vary in each state, so you should ask your adoption agency or attorney for more specifics.

Birth Mom Buds has a fill in the blank hospital action plan so your wishes can be in writing.  Email birthmombuds@gmail.com to request a hospital action plan form.

*Adoptive Parents

Some women feel they have to go out of their way to please the adoptive parents during the hospital stay.  This is not true.  This is a highly emotional time for you and you have to do what feels right for you.

Many adoptive parents would like to be there during the labor and delivery since this is something some of them have not experienced before and the only way they will experience it is second-hand. That being said , it is your choice,  if you don’t feel comfortable you have a right to say no.

+Hospital Staff

You have every right to name your baby even if you are placing him/her for adoption.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.  The adoptive family may not keep the name your chose or you can have that conversation with them before the birth.

Many birthmoms have reported being mistreated by hospital staff. A woman who is going to place her child for adoption should not be treated any differently than any other new mother unless she requests it. Some birthmoms have reported that nurses and doctors have treated them rudely or tried to talk them out of adoption. This is unacceptable! It is your decision to place and you should not have to justify that to hospital staff.

If you feel you are not being treated right tell someone! Tell your social worker or attorney who can then speak with the hospital administrators and advocate on your behalf.  If you feel comfortable doing this yourself you are also welcome to advocate on your own behalf.

 

March Book Reviews 2014

Eight-Books-To-Read-In-2014

All books purchased by clicking the link in our review will give AFTH a small donation from Amazon.com.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the books in our review please consider buying it through our link to amazon.com.

hoping-adopt-how-create-ideal-adoption-profile-russell-elkins-paperback-cover-artHoping to Adopt: How to Create the Ideal Adoption Profile (Preparing to Adopt) by Russell Elkins - Not sure I would call this a book, its more like a longer article for sale.  But given its low price and good advice I’d say it was worth the read.  Writing a profile for adoption is a daunting task but this book gives you some great tips.  If you don’t have the time to read one of the longer books that are out there on this subject this short 30 page one might be just right.  Learn about what your picture says about you, how to introduce yourselves in your letter, how certain wording portrays you, and how to end your letter.  There is an example at the end of the book and a shameless plug for the author’s other books in the text regarding open adoption. All in all Russell Elkins has some good advice in a short book that should help any family get started.  amazon.com price $4.22  kindle price $.99

chosenChosen with Purpose: A Story of Adoption and Identity by Mark Molzen - Mark Molzen is a black man who was adopted at birth by a white family.  His family also adopted several other children of color in a time when that was rare.  Mark has a very positive and interesting perspective on adoption that was instilled in him by his parents.  Mark believes adoption is part of God’s plan and once he accepted this and stopped worrying about what he didn’t know about his past his life fell into place.  Through bible quotes and a glass half full outlook Mark explains his family’s philosophy on adoption.

Mark has also done extensive research on adoption and includes many statistics on foster children, international adoption and the race of families adopting children of a different race.   He touches on how his family instilled in their children a sense of culture and how they dealt with racism (this was the late 70′s), and also delved into the relatively new concept of openness in adoption.  While he doesn’t seem to particularly agree with open adoption he does feel that it can sometimes be a good thing.

There is an interview with his parents in the back of the book explaining their philosophy on adoption and why and how they chose to adopt outside of their race.  And while I’m not a religious person I found Mark’s take on adoption interesting and thought provoking. kindle price:$4.99 Paperback $11.66

Two Mothers and Their 60-Year Secret (Web Front)Two Mothers and Their 60-Year Secret: Opening the Doors to a Private Adoption by Nita B. Rogers - Nita Rogers was adopted through a private adoption.  Her mother held the adoption close to her heart and didn’t reveal many details.  After her mother died she pursued a search for her roots, discovering not only a mother, but a sister and a mystery surrounding her who her father was. Nita, her parents and her birth mother were very religious and God plays a large role in her life and in this story.    amazon  price $12.72 Kindle edition $4.89