Weinberg Bill Would Require Background Checks For Adoption Agency Employees

Senators Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, and Nicholas P. Scutari, D-Union, listen to testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg which would require employees of adoption agencies to undergo criminal history background and Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) child abuse record checks as a condition of employment was unanimously approved today by the full Senate.

“Too often, when a child is put up for adoption, he or she is moved from foster home to foster home before a ‘forever family’ is found,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “As a mother and a grandmother, I can attest to how important stability is to the development of children, and a lack thereof can prove to be very harmful. When a child is adopted that lack of stability is intensified. Any adult that these children come in contact with must have their best interest at heart, and by mandating these checks as a condition of employment, we would be fighting to keep our children safe.”

Senator Weinberg’s bill, S-111, would require that all employees of adoption agencies that have been, or are seeking approval by DYFS, to undergo criminal background and child abuse background checks. The offenses that would bar applicants and current employees from working at the agencies include endangering the welfare of a child, abuse, abandonment or neglect and domestic violence

According to the bill, adoption agencies established before the bill’s effective date would have 60 days after the bill’s enactment to submit employee background checks to the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Agencies established after the bill’s effective date would have to submit employee background checks to the DCF prior to opening. New hires would have to undergo a background check within two weeks of beginning employment. They would not be permitted to be left alone with children until the background check has been approved by the DCF.

Any agency found to be in violation of the bill’s provisions would be suspended and would run the risk of having its license revoked. New agencies seeking licensure from DYFS would have their application refused. Staff members who refuse to undergo the checks would have their employment terminated, Senator Weinberg said.

The bill also addresses out of state and international adoptions.

Administrators of agencies located outside of New Jersey would be asked to ensure that all staff members meet all laws in their home states pertaining to background and child abuse history checks.

In the case of overseas adoptions, agencies would be expected to comply with the provisions of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children, a 1993 treaty which established a universal set of rules for international adoptions aimed at protecting the interests of children, birth and adoptive parents, and preventing illegal child trafficking, said Senator Weinberg.

“The goal of any adoption is to find a safe, stable home for a child. In the case of international adoptions, social workers are called upon to bridge the gap between parents and the overseas orphanage,” said Senator Weinberg.

This bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee on March 6. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

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