An Orthodox Jewish member of the New Jersey State Assembly introduced a bill that would require adoptees to be placed in homes that would “maintain a child’s religious upbringing.”What do you think? Religious matching was extremely common at one time, and some states have statutes that require matching if the birth parents request it even today. We've discussed it before in the context of international adoption, asking if maintaining culture includes maintaining religion.
Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Dist. 36), who represents portions of Bergen and Passaic counties, said he introduced the bill out of concern that an adoptee or foster child could be “put in a home where the parents practiced a religion other than that of the child.”
Within a day of the bill’s introduction, Schaer said, it has already received support from David Mandel, the chief executive officer of the Orthodox Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services in Brooklyn and from Aref Assaf, president of the American Arab Forum and an advisory board member of the New Jersey Council on American Islamic Relations.
“Not only Jews and Muslims, but many smaller Protestant sects, and even some people in the Catholic community” are supporting the measure, Schaer said.
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The bill also requires that, in cases where a child is placed with a family of a different religious faith, provisions be made so that the child could attend services conducted in his or her own religious faith.
UPDATE: Dr. Aref Assaf posted a link in the comments (thank you!) to his column, An interfaith effort to protect foster care children, about some of the problems in the foster care system that this bill is design to address:
Can the State force the change of a child’s religion? An opinion piece I wrote on the relevance of the religious dimension of foster care children has formed the foundation for an important legislation in New Jersey. The columnwas the result of a painful interview I had with the parent of a Muslim child who tearfully related the details of how his son, after being placed with a Christian family, had his faith changed and his name was no longer ‘Abdulrahman”but “Joshua.” Even before the father lost his parental rights, the conversion process was fully underway despite the stern objection of the birth parents.
That such a conversion of child’s faith would occur under the watchful eyes of the state is a case of deliberate negligence at minimum. Delving further, I discovered that our current laws give no credence to the pivotal role of religion in a child self-identification and sense of self worth. The State has in effect become complicit in furthering the trauma and anxiety of children under its care.
Does this change your mind about the bill? Does foster care v. adoption make a difference?