SENATE, No. 2263

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

213th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED OCTOBER 20, 2008

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator LORETTA WEINBERG

District 37 (Bergen)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Allows adoptees access to nonidentifying family medical history information.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning adoption and amending and supplementing P.L.1977, c.367.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.  Section 12 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-48) is amended to read as follows:

     12.  a.  When the child to be adopted has not been received from an approved agency, the prospective parent shall file with the court a complaint for adoption.  Upon receipt of the complaint, the court shall by its order:

     (1) Declare the child to be a ward of the court and declare that the plaintiff shall have custody of the child subject to further order of the court;

     (2) Appoint an approved agency to make an investigation and submit a written report to the court which shall include:

     (a) the facts and circumstances surrounding the surrender of custody by the child's parents and the placement of the child in the home of the plaintiff, including the identity of any intermediary who participated in the placement of the child;

     (b) an evaluation of the child and of the plaintiff and the spouse of the plaintiff if not the child's parent and any other person residing in the prospective home; [and]

     (c) any fees, expenses or costs paid by or on behalf of the adopting parent in connection with the adoption; and

     (d) family medical history information as required pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1979, c.292 (C.9:3-41.1).

     The agency conducting the investigation shall, if it is able to, contact the birth parent and confirm that counseling, if required by section 18 of P.L.1993, c.345 (C.9:3-39.1), has either been provided or waived by the birth parent.  If not previously provided, the agency shall advise the parent of the availability of such counseling through the agency and shall provide such counseling if requested by the birth parent or if the birth parent resides out of State or out of the country, such counseling should be made available by or through an agency approved to provide such counseling in the birth parent's state or country of domicile.  The agency shall further confirm that the birth parent has been advised that the decision of the birth parent not to place the child for adoption or the return of the child to the birth parent can not be conditioned upon the repayment of expenses by the birth parent to the adoptive parent.

     All expenses and fees for the investigation and any counseling provided shall be the responsibility of the plaintiff;

     (3) Direct the plaintiff to cooperate with the approved agency making the investigation and report;

     (4) Fix a day for a preliminary hearing not less than two or more than three months from the date of the filing of the complaint; except that the hearing may be accelerated upon the application of the approved agency and upon notice to the plaintiff if the agency determines that removal of the child from the plaintiff's home is required, in which case the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child at all future proceedings regarding the adoption.

     Whenever the plaintiff is a stepparent of the child, the court, in its discretion, may dispense with the agency investigation and report and take direct evidence at the preliminary hearing of the facts and circumstances surrounding the filing of the complaint for adoption.

     Whenever a plaintiff is a brother, sister, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or birth father of the child, the order may limit the investigation to an inquiry concerning the status of the parents of the child and an evaluation of the plaintiff.  At least 10 days prior to the day fixed for the preliminary hearing the approved agency shall file its report with the court and serve a copy on the plaintiff; and

     (5) Conduct a search of the records of the central registry established pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1999, c.421 (C.2C:25-34), upon the request of a surrogate and not more than 30 days prior to the preliminary hearing, to determine whether a prospective adoptive parent or any member of the parent's household has:

     (a) had a domestic violence restraining order entered against them; or

     (b) been charged with a violation of a court order involving domestic violence.

     The court shall provide the results of the search to the surrogate for inclusion in the court's adoption file.  If the results of the search contain any material findings or recommendations adverse to the plaintiff, the surrogate shall provide the material findings or recommendations to the approved agency.

     In a case in which the plaintiff is a stepparent of the child and the court dispenses with the agency investigation and report pursuant to paragraph (4) of this subsection and the results of the court's search contain any material findings or recommendations adverse to the plaintiff, the surrogate shall serve a copy of that part of the results of the search upon the plaintiff at least five days prior to the preliminary hearing.

     b.  The preliminary hearing shall be in camera and shall have for its purpose the determination of the circumstances under which the child was relinquished by his parents and received into the home of the plaintiff, the status of the parental rights of the parents, the fitness of the child for adoption and the fitness of the plaintiff to adopt the child and to provide a suitable home.  If the report of the approved agency pursuant to subsection a. of this section contains or the results of the search of the central registry contain material findings or recommendations adverse to the plaintiff, the presence of a representative of the approved agency who has personal knowledge of the investigation shall be required at the preliminary hearing.  If in the course of the preliminary hearing the court determines that there is lack of jurisdiction, lack of qualification on the part of the plaintiff or that the best interests of the child would not be promoted by the adoption, the court shall deny the adoption and make such further order concerning the custody and guardianship of the child as may be deemed proper in the circumstances.

     c.  If upon completion of the preliminary hearing the court finds that:

     (1) The parents of the child do not have rights as to custody of the child by reason of their rights previously having been terminated by court order; or, the parents' objection has been contravened pursuant to subsection a. of section 10 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-46);

     (2) The guardian, if any, should have no further control or authority over the child;

     (3) The child is fit for adoption; and

     (4) The plaintiff is fit to adopt the child, the court shall:  (a) issue an order stating its findings, declaring that no parent or guardian of the child has a right to custody or guardianship of the child; (b) terminate the parental rights of that person, which order shall be a final order; (c) fix a date for final hearing not less than six nor more than nine months from the date of the preliminary hearing; and (d) appoint an approved agency to supervise and evaluate the continuing placement in accordance with subsection d. of this section.  If the plaintiff is a brother, sister, grandparent, aunt, uncle, birth father, stepparent or resource family parent of the child, or if the child has been in the home of the plaintiff for at least two years immediately preceding the commencement of the adoption action, and if the court is satisfied that the best interests of the child would be promoted by the adoption, the court may dispense with this evaluation and final hearing and enter a judgment of adoption immediately upon completion of the preliminary hearing.

     d.  The approved agency appointed pursuant to subsection c. of this section shall from time to time visit the home of the plaintiff and make such further inquiry as may be necessary to observe and evaluate the care being received by the child and the adjustment of the child and the plaintiff as members of a family.  At least 15 days prior to the final hearing the approved agency shall file with the court a written report of its findings, including a recommendation concerning the adoption, and shall mail a copy of the report to the plaintiff.

     If at any time following the preliminary hearing the approved agency concludes that the best interests of the child would not be promoted by the adoption, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for the child and after a hearing held upon the application of the approved agency and upon notice to the plaintiff, may modify or revoke any order entered in the action and make such further order concerning the custody and guardianship of the child as may be deemed proper in the circumstances.

     e.  At the final hearing the court shall proceed in camera; except that if the approved agency in its report pursuant to subsection d. of this section has recommended that the adoption be granted, the final hearing may be dispensed with and, if the court is satisfied that the best interests of the child would be promoted by the adoption, a judgment of adoption may be entered immediately.

     The appearance of the approved agency at the final hearing shall not be required unless its recommendations are adverse to the plaintiff or unless ordered by the court.  If its appearance is required, the approved agency shall be entitled to present testimony and to cross-examine witnesses and shall be subject to cross-examination with respect to its report and recommendations in the matter.

     f.  If, based upon the report and the evidence presented, the court is satisfied that the best interests of the child would be promoted by the adoption, the court shall enter a judgment of adoption.  If, based upon the evidence, the court is not satisfied that the best interests of the child would be promoted by the adoption, the court shall deny the adoption and make such further order concerning the custody and guardianship of the child as may be deemed proper in the circumstances.

(c.f: P.L. 2004, c.130, s.18)

 

     2.  (New section)  a.  A birth parent who surrenders a child to an approved agency for the purpose of adoption or places a child for adoption through an intermediary shall provide the agency or intermediary, as applicable, with any available nonidentifying family medical history information about the birth parent at the time the surrender is executed or the child is placed for adoption.

     b.  An adopted person 18 years of age or older, a direct descendant 18 years of age or older of the adopted person if the adopted person is deceased, or the adoptive parent or guardian of a minor adopted person, may request the approved agency that placed the child for adoption or conducted an investigation pursuant to section 12 of P.L. 1977, c.367 (C.9:3-48) to provide any available nonidentifying family medical history information concerning the adopted person contained in that person's adoption file.

     c.  Upon receipt of a request pursuant to subsection b. of this section, the approved agency shall provide the requester with a detailed summary of any available nonidentifying family medical history information concerning the adopted person contained in the person's adoption file.

     d.  A person who is denied access to the nonidentifying family medical history information pursuant to this section, may petition the court that granted the adoption to order that any available nonidentifying family medical history information contained in the adoption file of the approved agency, be provided.  Pursuant to the court order, the requester shall be provided with a detailed summary of any available nonidentifying family medical history information contained in the file of the approved agency. 

 

     3.  (New section)  The Commissioner of Children and Families shall adopt rules and regulations pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.) to establish a uniform form on which an approved agency shall provide the required nonidentifying family medical history information pursuant to the provisions of section 2 of this act.

 

     4.  This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill requires a birth parent who surrenders a child to an approved agency for the purpose of adoption or places a child for adoption through an intermediary to provide the agency or intermediary with any available family medical history information about the birth parent at the time the surrender is executed or the child is placed for adoption.

     The bill also allows an adopted person 18 years of age or older, a direct descendant 18 years of age or older of the adopted person if the adopted person is deceased, or the adoptive parent or guardian of a minor adopted person, to request the approved agency that placed the child for adoption or conducted an investigation pursuant section 12 of P.L. 1977, c.367 (C.9:3-48), to provide any available nonidentifying family medical history information concerning the adopted person contained in that person's adoption file.  Upon receipt of the request, the person requesting information from the approved agency would be provided with a detailed summary of any available nonidentifying family medical history information.

     A person who is denied access to the nonidentifying family medical history information contained in the adoption file may petition the court that granted the adoption to order that any available nonidentifying family medical history information contained in the adoption file of the approved agency, be provided.  Pursuant to the order, the person requesting information would be provided with a detailed summary of any available nonidentifying family medical history information.

     Finally, the bill also requires the Commissioner of Children and Families to develop a uniform form on which an approved agency shall record the required nonidentifying family medical history information that the agency provides pursuant to the provisions of the bill.