Private adoption agencies, the courts, and the state would have to maintain a child's religious upbringing when placing a child with a guardian, into foster care, or into an adoptive home under a bill approved by an Assembly panel. The legislation is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Pamela Lampitt and Upendra Chivukula.

The measure would permit agencies and courts to place a child in a setting of a different religion only with a written statement from the child's birth parent or legal guardian. In the case that such a placement is not feasible or not in the child's best interest, a written statement will be required explaining the placement decision.

“A child's religious and cultural backgrounds are significant aspects of determining the best interests of the child,” says Schaer. “That's why it's so important that the placement of a child into foster care or adoption should be consistent with their religious and cultural backgrounds, unless it's proven by convincing evidence that such placement is not in the best interests of the child.”

In cases where a court or an agency places a child into a resource family home of a different religion than the child, the bill requires that provisions be made for the child to continue religious observance, education, and training in the new setting. Such provisions are not required when placing a child into an adoptive home.

Lampitt says, “For many children, religion is a guiding force in their life and a strong part of their inherent identity. This would preserve and protect that identity, which is important, particularly during times of enormous transition such as adoption or foster care.”

The measure was approved by the Assembly Women and Children Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.