Birth certificates of adoptees have been sealed in New Jersey since 1940, accessible only by court order. However, beginning in January 2017, adoptees will gain access to their full original birth certificates, due to a law signed by Gov. Chris Christie in May 2014. Adoptees will be able to receive, by request, information on their original birth certificates, like their birth parents’ names and their medical history.
Proponents of the bill had been fighting for the legislation for 30 years as an issue of adoptee’s rights. However, the New Jersey Catholic Conference (NJCC), while supporting the concerns of adoptees, also worked on behalf of birth parents to ensure the privacy they were promised when they completed the adoption process.
“Thousands of birth mothers placed their children for adoption through the New Jersey courts in reliance on that statutory assurance of privacy,” said Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the NJCC, in a 2010 statement.
The law that was signed ultimately was a compromise. Birth mothers who placed their children for adoption in New Jersey before Aug. 1, 2015 have until Dec. 31, 2016 to file a redaction form if they want their names removed from their children’s birth certificates and any other documents being released to the adoptee or relative who is searching.
Birth parents also have the option of filling out a contact preference form, where they can indicate if and how they wish to be contacted by an adoptee. There are three options: direct contact, contact through an intermediary (which can be a relative, friend or agency appointed by the birth parent), or no contact.
Those who submit a contact preference form must also submit a medical, social and cultural history form. The birth parent must update this form every 10 years until they are 40 years old and every five years thereafter. Birth parents who choose to redact their names from their children’s birth certificates can still submit this form so that the adoptees have access to their medical history.
Redaction request, contact preference, and social/cultural/medical history forms can be submitted via mail or electronically. They are available online at AdoptionRecords.nj.gov. The New Jersey Catholic Conference has instituted a helpline that anyone can call to get more information about the changes to the law: 609-989-4809. More information is also available on the group’s website: www.njcathconf.com.