TRENTON – The Senate approved legislation today sponsored by Senators Ellen Karcher and Joseph Vitale that would authorize the Division of Youth and Family Services (DFYS) to conduct more extensive background checks on resource families before placing a child with that family.
“The safety and well-being of New Jersey’s foster children must be DFYS’s top priority,” said Senator Karcher, D-Mercer and Monmouth. “Before any child is placed with a resource family, the most thorough background check possible must be conducted on every adult living in the home of that family. We cannot afford to cut corners on these checks.”
The bill, S-2835, would expand the ability of DFYS to conduct background checks on potential resource families. Under the bill, any adults living with the potential resource family would be subject to the same background check as the resource parents seeking approval. Additionally, the bill states that all background checks would be required to include a child abuse record information check in each state in which the individual has lived in the past five years.
“Resource families may be far too rare, but we cannot afford to allow unqualified applicants into the system,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “As we saw in the death of Xavier Jones in 2006, it is essential that we ensure that all adults living with a foster child are safe and responsible, not just the resource parents. Thorough background checks need to be conducted on all of the adults.”
Xavier Jones was a 21-month-old in the foster care system who died on June 7, 2006 after ingesting methadone prescribed to an adult child of the resource parent. The Office of Child Advocate determined in its review of the death that DFYS did not know that another adult was living in the home or that they were prescribed methadone and that the death could have been prevented.
Additionally, the bill would amend current law to give resource families the right to be heard at hearings involving children under their care.
The bill was approved by a vote of 36-0 and now goes to the Assembly for consideration.