New Jersey foster and adoption guidelines
Families adopt children from the child welfare system in one of two ways, either through resource home adoption (foster homes or relative homes) or “selected home” adoption. Foster and adoptive placements made by the Department of Children and Families, Division of Youth and Family Services are made with licensed New Jersey “Resource Families.” In New Jersey, families are dually licensed to provide both foster and adoptive care, and thus the study and licensing process is the same for all resource families. Families can also work with a licensed nonprofit or private agency to adopt. If a New Jersey family works with a licensed private adoption agency, their home would need to be licensed in order to adopt a child from the New Jersey child welfare system.
Foster parents are expected to work with the division toward the reunification of their foster child with birth parents or other relatives, when that is appropriate. If reunification with a family member is not possible, resource families receive the first consideration to adopt their foster child. Many children, especially younger children, who are adopted from resource care in New Jersey are adopted by their foster parents or relatives. Currently, resource families adopt more than 90 percent of the children who are available for adoption through the child welfare system. The division continues to have a great need for foster parents for all ages and types of children.
There is also a great need for adoptive parents for children who are not reunified with their birth family or adopted by their resource families. This is the situation with children who are placed through “selected home adoption.” Of the children available for selected home adoption, the greatest need for adoptive parents is for children older than 8, siblings, and children with severe medical, emotional, or behavioral challenges. Some of New Jersey’s children who are in need of Selected Adoptive Home are featured on AdoptUsKids and other websites. However, there are other children for whom this type of recruitment is not necessary, because licensed New Jersey adoptive families are more readily available.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent or a selected home adoptive parent, you will need to complete the home study and training process first. While a particular child may be of interest to you, it is not possible to be considered until your home study has been completed and licensed (unless you share a kinship relationship with the child).
For residents of other states or New Jersey residents with home studies from private adoption agencies, the children typically placed are the waiting children who are displayed on the the AdoptUSKids photolisting or New Jersey Department of Children and Families website. In order to be considered for one of these children, it is necessary for families to have current, approved and licensed adoption home studies.
Things you should know
- Foster and adoption licensing requirements
- Costs to foster and adopt
- Agency contact and orientation information
- Parent support groups
Becoming a foster or adoptive parent is easier than you think. You must be at least 18 years old and at least 10 years older than any of the children who will be placed with you, able to support yourself and in good physical and emotional health. You can:
- Be married or single
- Be childless or have children
- Work outside the home or stay at home
- Rent or own your house or apartment
During the home study process, 27 hours of PRIDE training is also required to prepare families to become foster or adoptive parents. New Jersey uses the SAFE adoption home study format.
If you adopt or foster through the division, the only cost incurred during a foster or adoptive home study is the cost of medical examinations for each family member.
If you would like to adopt through a licensed private adoption agency serving New Jersey, fees vary. Please ask each agency what their requirements and fees are, and if their home studies are licensed. Many people have completed adoption home studies, but are unable to adopt a child from New Jersey if their home has not been licensed. In situations such as this, it is often necessary to have a second home study completed by the division if they should become interested in adopting a child from New Jersey. Here is a list of approved licensed adoption agencies in New Jersey (64KB PDF).
If you are an adoptive parent, or if you are interested in becoming an adoptive parent for a special need child, the child you adopt may be eligible for financial assistance through the Adoption Subsidy Program. Children may be eligible if they:
- Are older, or of a race or ethnic group for which adoptive homes are not readily available
- Have a significant physical, intellectual, or emotional disability
- Need, and may continue to need, extensive medical treatment or special services, equipment, or training
- Are part of a group of brothers and sisters who should be kept together
- Are more than 5 years old, living with a foster family for at least one year and would benefit by being adopted by their present foster family
Federal adoption tax credit
Beginning in tax year 2003, families adopting a child with special needs from foster care could claim the adoption tax credit without needing to incur or document expenses. This tax credit has increased from $10,000 per child in tax year 2003 to $12,150 in tax year 2009. Adoptive families have the year the adoption was finalized and up to the next five additional years in which to use the tax credit. There will be a cost of living adjustment each year, so the amount may change again for tax year 2010. Form 8839 is used to apply for this tax credit.
For families interested in providing foster care or who are interested in the type of children available for selected home adoption through the division, the first step in the process would be to contact 800-99-ADOPT (1-800-992-3678). Foster and Adoptive Family Services employees answer these calls, send information to the family, and route the inquiry to the appropriate division local offices resource family unit. The resource family units arrange engagements with perspective adoptive and foster families as soon as possible. During the home study process, 27 hours of PRIDE training is also required to prepare families to become foster and adoptive parents. Here is a list of division offices.
Families who are interested in adoption only may be referred to licensed private adoption agencies if they are not interested in the children New Jersey typically places in selected home adoption placements.
Children’s Aid and Family Services/New Jersey Adoption Resource Clearing House (NJARCH)
En Español: firstname.lastname@example.org
NJ Department of Children and Families
Division of Youth & Family Services
Mailing Address: PO Box 717, Trenton, NJ 98625-0717
As of March 2010, there are 7,805 children in placement in New Jersey; 2,814 of these children have the goal of adoption, and approximately 90 percent of the 2,814 children will be adopted by resource parents.
While parenting at any age is challenging, there is nothing more rewarding than knowing that you have been the critical factor in a child becoming a successful adult. What all children need, but especially those adopted from foster care, is a family who will make an unconditional commitment to them, accepting them, working with them, advocating for them and most of all, sticking by them no matter what.
Even teenagers need families. Have you ever thought about what age an individual no longer needs a person to call to:
- Talk about their concerns and plans for the future
- Get a recipe
- Comfort them
- Get an invitation to come home for a holiday meal
- Work through a relationship problem
- Share achievements
- Invite to their graduation or wedding
These are just some of the examples showing how relationships are needed and last well into adulthood for most people. Now think about a child “aging out” of the child welfare system without anyone in their life. This is why the division has made a concerted effort to find permanent homes and lifelong connections for teenagers who remain in the child welfare system. If you enjoy teens and think you might be able to offer a permanent home to a teen, we would be delighted to hear from you.