Weinberg/Huttle Bill To Require Background Checks For Adoption Agency Employees Is Now Law

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, which requires employees of adoption agencies to undergo criminal history background checks and Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) child abuse record checks, has been signed into law by Governor Corzine.

“For children, stability and structure are important to positive growth and development,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “When children are put up for adoption, and must move from foster home to foster home in the process, they come in contact with many different people. Through the requirement of these necessary background checks, this new law ensures that all adults that these children come in contact with have their best interest at heart.”

“It is vital that we preserve the integrity and safety of our adoption process and our children,” said Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood. “Background verification will provide a more secure program which will encourage more people to participate in the adoption process. That will be a welcome result.”

The bill, S-111, requires 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 will 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 (six months after its signing), will have 60 days to submit employee background checks to the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Agencies established after the bill’s effective date will have to submit employee background checks to the DCF prior to opening. New hires will have to undergo a background check within two weeks of beginning employment, and will not be allowed 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 will be suspended and will run the risk of having its license revoked. New agencies seeking licensure from DYFS will have their application refused. Staff members who refuse to undergo the checks will have their employment terminated, the Legislators said.

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