Effective January 1, 2017, any adult in New Jersey who was adopted as a child will have the right to learn who their birth parents were, unless those birth parents request that their names be removed from their child’s original birth certificate. Parents who put children up for adoption after August 1, 2015, however, may not request anonymity.
Authorities say that there are more than 300,000 adults in the state who were adopted as children. As of late December, only 244 birth parents had asked that their identities not be disclosed, and nearly three times as many adoptees had requested their original birth certificates.
The change did not come easily, as opponents have battled for decades. Proponents to the prior rule, which allowed birth records to be closed without a court order, cited privacy as the primary reason for maintaining the practice. However, advocates for adopted children, including the New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform and Education, contended that adults had a right to know the truth about their family histories, especially as it related to medical issues and hereditary and genetic issues.
Under the new approach, a birth parent who is willing to be contacted may request a direct contact or can ask for an intermediary. The request must be accompanied by a complete family history, addressing medical, cultural and social issues. Thus far, about 200 birth parents have provided medical histories.
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