Birth Parents Can Opt To Remain Anonymous
Before Adult Adoptees Gain Access to Birth, Medical Records
AUGUST 3, 2015--Starting today, the New Jersey Health Department will begin implementing a law signed by Governor Christie in May 2014 that is aimed at easing burdensome hurdles for adult adoptees to access their original birth records while also respecting privacy concerns for birth parents.
During the first phase of implementation, birth parents of an adopted person can notify the State regarding their preference for contact with the adopted individual by submitting a contact preference form. Contact preference forms offer options of direct contact, contact through an intermediary, or no contact at this time. In order for contact preference forms to be accepted by the State Registrar, all birth parents must submit completed Family History Information forms, including medical, cultural and social histories. And, for adoptions finalized before August 1, 2015, the birth parents may also submit a request to the State to have their names redacted from their biological children's birth certificates before adult adoptees gain access to the records on January 1, 2017.
"As a result of a historic compromise between Governor Christie and state legislators last year, thousands of previously sealed records will be made available, making the often burdensome and costly process of obtaining a court order no longer necessary," said Acting New Jersey Health Commissioner Cathleen D. Bennett. "Recognizing the need for a balanced path forward, the Governor noted in signing the law that family history and medical information is more important now for adoptees and their families than ever, and must be addressed ‘while still preserving important privacy considerations that are central in the decisions of many birth parents.' We are implementing this law with those two critical considerations constantly in mind."
In preparing for the implementation of the new law, the Department continually met and communicated with advocates and stakeholders on both sides of the issue, including: NJ Catholic Conference, New Jersey Right to Life, The Children's Home Society of New Jersey, Children's Aid and Family Services, Inc., New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform & Education, Family Options and NY Adoption Equality.
"This marks a milestone in New Jersey's efforts to provide adoptees with information about their lineage and family medical histories while respecting birth parents' expectations of privacy," added Acting Commissioner Bennett.
The Department of Health has posted forms to allow birth parents to make these requests on its website. Birth parents that choose to maintain their privacy by having identifying information redacted must submit this request by December 31, 2016 to ensure their privacy is maintained. Preferences can be changed at any time.
Those who may request copies of birth certificates beginning January 1, 2017 are adult adoptees; direct descendants, siblings or spouses of adopted persons; adoptive parents, legal guardians or other legal representatives of adopted persons; or state or federal government agencies for official purposes. Applicants will receive uncertified copies of birth certificates on file with the Department's Office of Vital Statistics and Registry. Copies are for informational purposes only and cannot be used for legal proof of identity or citizenship.
The new changes underscore the Department's commitment to serving populations seeking to uncover aspects of their genetic makeup and offer options to remove sensitive information associated with adoption decisions.
New Jersey joins approximately a dozen states around the country in loosening restrictions on birth records to educate adoptees about their origins and secure birth parents' privacy with anonymity options.
The forms are available on the Department's website at http://www.state.nj.us/health/vital/record.shtml