Legislators were joined today at the Statehouse by New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett, New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform and Education (NJ CARE), NJ adoptees, and other advocates to recognize a law that took effect this month allowing New Jersey adoptees to obtain their original birth records and medical history. The original bill amending the Vital Statistics Act, which was sponsored by Senators Vitale, Weinberg and Allen, was signed into law in May 2014.  Adoptees have long fought for the right to access their birth records and family histories, not only to know who they are and where they came from but also to access important medical information that can have major implications on their health and well-being, 

      The law provides important information such as family history to adoptees while still maintaining the privacy of the birth parents. Under the legislation, birth parents were given the opportunity until December 31, 2016 to have their names redacted from their biological child’s birth records, with the option to rescind their request for redaction at any time. As of January 1, 2017, adoptees can now start accessing the original birth records.

“Many people take for granted that they can ask parents or family elders about their past and medical history, but New Jersey’s adoptees have been left in the dark for far too long,” said Senator Weinberg. “Now, they can find answers and access vital information that will bring them closer to their true identity and help them address any health concerns while maintaining the privacy of birth parents who choose to remain anonymous. I am proud to be a part of the effort that brought us here today.”

Under the law which just took effect, an adopted person over the age of 18, their direct descendant, sibling or spouse, an adoptive parent or guardian, or a state or federal agency now have access to an uncertified, long-form copy of the adoptee’s original birth certificate through the New Jersey State Registrar. Additionally, the adoptive person can receive any available information regarding contact preferences with their biological parent and family history information.

“I’m glad to celebrate that New Jersey’s adoptees finally have the ability to learn their personal histories, something that many of us take for granted,” said Senator Allen (R-Burlington). “I first started working to change our state’s adoption records laws nearly 20 years ago. It’s been an extremely long fight, but it’s one that we believed was worth the effort. I’d like to thank everyone who worked with us to get us to today.”

The law provided birth parents the opportunity to supply to the state registrar their preference for contact with their biological child – whether it be direct contact, contact through an intermediary or no contact. It further permits them to change this preference at any time through the state registrar.

The law requires that when a birth parent submits a document of contact preference to the state registrar that they also submit family history information. A birth parent whose preference is to have no contact with the adoptive person is encouraged to update their family history once every ten years until they reach the age of 40, and once every five years thereafter. The state registrar will be required, under the law, to supply adopted persons with any updated information as it is added to the file.