About 1,000 children are adopted each year through the state Department of Children and Families, according to Assistant Director Betty Berzin. That number has remained consistent over the last few years.

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"The majority of the adoptions that are handled through DCF are in fact adoptions of children who have been placed in out-of-home placements in foster care. The majority of our children do in fact get reunited with their birth family. However, there is a percentage of children that are unable to be reunited and adoption becomes a viable option for them," said Berzin.

Children enter the out-of-home placement for a variety reasons, such as parents' financial struggles, substance abuse or mental health issues.

"Our primary focus is to reunify children with their birth parents, and we do with the vast majority of children that become involved with our system. However, there are situations where, unfortunately, parents are not able to get it together for children to be safely returned home and those are the children that we are committed to finding permanent and stable families for through adoption," said Berzin.

Federal law requires DCF to work with families for at least 12 to 15 months, depending on the court process, to determine parental rights.

"It also depends on the type of child. We, unfortunately, have a lack of homes for some of our older youth and some of our sibling groups and some children that have medical challenges," said Berzin.

Nov. 18 is National Adoption Day. Families considering adoption through DCF must apply to become a licensed resource home, which Berzin noted involves training and a background check.

"Depending on the length of time, it's difficult to say how long a family would wait for a child to be adopted," Berzin said.

Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, says statewide about 1,800 kids are adopted each year.

"People do adopt from other places. Some go out of the country and some adopt privately. But the adoption of children from foster care is the largest percentage," she said.

Aside from adoptions through foster care, Zalkind noted that sometimes family members make private arrangements through a private agency.

Zalkind pointed out that since her nonprofit agency was incorporated in 1978, members have been advocates of children in foster care to have permanency.

"If it's not possible for them to return home to families, we're strong advocates to make sure they are placed for adoption as quickly as possible so they can make ties to a new family," she said.

Zalkind complimented DCF for doing "a much better job at recruiting resource families who are willing to take a child as foster parents temporarily and to adopt should that child become available for adoption."

Learn more about adoption by visiting www.dcf.state.nj.us or by calling 1-800-222-0047.

Contact reporter Dianne DeOliveira at Dianne.DeOliveira@townsquaremedia.com.

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