Assembly panel approves bill regulating home-schooling of foster children despite outcry

Date: 2012-05-15

An Assembly panel approved two bills Monday intended to protect the rights of foster children to receive an education and to practice their religion. At the same time, parents who home-school their children expressed concern about the state intruding on their privacy.
The more controversial of the two bills (A2881) would require foster parents to obtain approval from the state Division of Youth and Family Services to home-school any child placed in their home.
More than 50 parents and their children urged the Assembly Women and Children Committee to delay the vote until the bill could be rewritten to more clearly state that only children removed from their homes because of suspected abuse or neglect would be affected.
New Jersey is one of 11 states that does not regulate home-schooling.
"We don’t like giving DYFS any more power than they already have," said Rabbi Andrew Dinnerman of Fairview, who was accompanied by his 15-year-old son, Tristan, who is home-schooled. "I want you to pause — to slow down and not make any rash decisions."
But Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden), the committee chairwoman, insisted the bill be put to a vote, and assured parents they were not the focus of her attention.
The measure was inspired by a case nine years ago of four brothers who were adopted by a Collingswood foster family. The family removed the boys from public school and deprived them of food and medical care until their growth was stunted.
"This has everything to do with making sure children in DYFS care have another set of eyes," Lampitt said moments before the bill was approved by a vote of 5 to 2.
The committee also approved a measure by a 6-1 vote that would requires DYFS "to the maximum extent possible" place children in a foster or adoptive home with families willing to maintain their religious identity and instruction.
Sponsored by Lampitt and Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), the bill (2448) comes at the request of a Muslim man whose son was placed with a family that changed the boy’s name and converted him to Christianity before his parental rights was severed.
"They told him his name was not good enough for him," said Aref Assaf, president of the American Arab Forum. "This was done under the watchful eye of DYFS."


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