Teri Baxter

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Rutgers University Law Review


The Supreme Court has a long history of recognizing parents’ fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children. While courts have recognized that this right requires deference to parents’ decisions regarding education, religion, and medical decisions, little attention has been paid to parents’ fundamental rights in the adoption process. Specifically, relatively few courts or scholars have addressed parents’ right to choose adoptive parents if the biological parents voluntarily agree to terminate their rights and place the child for adoption. Because choosing adoptive parents for their child is an exercise of the right to control the care and custody of the child, it falls within the scope of fundamental constitutional rights acknowledged by the Supreme Court. Consequently, states must recognize and respect the parents’ choice of adoptive parents even if the choice is inconsistent with state or federal statutory priorities for adoptive placements. This Article discusses the fundamental rights of parents under the United States Constitution as recognized by the United States Supreme Court, addresses how state and federal laws either vindicate or violate those rights in the context of voluntary adoption placements, and discusses how various state laws and the federal Indian Child Welfare Act should be amended, interpreted, and applied to respect the right of parents to choose adoptive parents in voluntary adoptive placements.

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