TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which would give adult adoptees and certain others access to the adoptee’s birth certificate was approved by the Senate on March 3 by a vote of 30-7.
“For New Jersey’s adopted residents, this bill is about a matter of fairness, giving them the same opportunity to know where they came from as non-adopted people,” said Vitale, D-Middlesex. “I think too many of us take for granted family history, but the struggles and triumphs of our ancestors contribute greatly to the people we are today. This bill would pull back the veil on history that so many adopted individuals run into in their quest to learn more about their identities.”
The bill, S-611, would permit access to the original birth certificates for adult adoptees, direct descendants of deceased adoptees, or the parents or guardians of minor adopted children without prior consent of the birth parent. The bill would give birth parents who wish to retain their anonymity an option for non-disclosure, and provide them with one year from when the regulations take place to opt-out. Instead of identifying themselves, non-disclosing parents would fill out a family history form containing medical, cultural and social history, to be provided to adoptees upon request.
The birth parent would also be given the option to submit a document of contact preference, allowing them to select if and how they would like to be contacted by their adopted child.
“Through this legislation, we’ve taken pains to balance the needs of adopted individuals to know with the needs of certain birth parents to maintain their anonymity,” said Vitale. “This bill has been around in the State Legislature for a long time, and I believe we’ve been successful in crafting a measure which gives birth parents ample protection, should they desire it. However adoption in New Jersey, as it was first implemented, never provided a guarantee of anonymity to birth parents, and ultimately, our goal with this legislation is to give adoptees access to basic identifying information.”
Vitale added that a family history would be useful for a number of practical purposes, including helping to shape decisions about medical care.
“Doctors often rely on family medical history to chart the best course of medical care for their patients,” said Vitale. “By opening up access to birth records, we can better equip adoptees to make the best decisions possible for their continued health and well-being.”
Vitale has been working to advance similar legislation for the last two legislative sessions. He said, “It is the right thing to do for adopted people in New Jersey wondering where they came from.
“This is a matter of social justice for people who’ve been locked out of their own past by the bureaucracy,” added Vitale. “Many adopted individuals spend decades trying to find out where they came from and often have to spend huge amounts of money on private investigators to get any real answers. This bill would finally give hope to the hundreds of adopted state residents who’ve sought answers about their birth records, and is too important to let linger for one more legislative session.”
The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.
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