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Vitale: Any Policy Decisions Involving Sibling Visitation Should Be ‘Child Centered’

WOODBRIDGE – Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vitale has vowed to introduce legislation and hold a hearing to discuss this week’s State Supreme Court decision not to rule on a case regarding the required continuation of sibling visitation after adoption.

“Removing children from their parents’ custody is an extremely traumatic experience – an experience that can be made easier on the children knowing that their siblings are with them,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Children need the support of their siblings to help maintain a sense of self and of continuity. Unfortunately, not all siblings can be adopted by the same family, which is where the importance of legislation addressing sibling visitation comes into play.”

In the case, a young girl entered the child welfare system after her siblings and was placed in a different foster home. While in foster care, the children are permitted to visit every other week. Once the girl’s adoption is finalized, the State cannot require her adoptive parents to continue with the visitation, which is why a court-appointed attorney for the child challenged her adoption. The Court ruled that the resolution of the issue should be left up to the Legislature.

“This is a particularly delicate issue and any policy decisions should be “child centered” and based on what is in the best interest of the siblings. In order to do right by these children, I will hold a hearing to allow legislators sit down with representatives of the Department of Children and Families, other child welfare groups and adult adoptees when the Senate reconvenes this fall,” Senator Vitale noted.

“Today is a new day in New Jersey. We are working to reform a flawed child welfare system that failed so many of our young people in the past. We have no choice but to do right by them now; we have to get it right this time,” said Senator Vitale.

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