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Conditional Veto Agreement Would Allow Many New Jersey Adoptees Access to Birth Certificates

TRENTON Senator Joseph F. Vitale, Senator Diane Allen and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg announced today that they have come to an agreement with the Governor’s office regarding changes to legislation that would provide adoptees in New Jersey with their family medical history and birth records.

“For 34 years, adoptees throughout the state have been fighting for the right to access their birth records and family histories – important documents that not only supply a core identity of who they are and where they come from, but also important medical information,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Today, we have come to an agreement with the Administration that will open up these records to many New Jerseyans; a huge victory for the state’s adoptee community, that could help facilitate reunions between adoptees and birth parents throughout the state.”

“I thank the Governor for recognizing the injustices that New Jerseys’ closed records laws have imposed on adoptees here for far too long,” said Allen, R-Burlington, who has worked to change the state’s law for 17 years. “By reaching this compromise, adopted adults will at long last be able to choose for themselves whether or not they want to find out basic information the rest of us take for granted, like whether they have siblings or their family’s medical history. It has taken the efforts of many people to get to this point today and I especially want to thank Senator Jimmy Cafiero for the decades he spent working on this legislation before his retirement. His efforts were instrumental in bringing about this change.”

“Most New Jerseyans take for granted their ability to ask their parents, grandparents or family elders for information regarding their family medical history, but New Jersey’s adoptees are often left in the dark about genetic illnesses and health concerns,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “This has been especially troublesome as the state has access to information that could provide an important link between adoptees and their birth families.  With this agreement, we are that much closer to providing adoptees with this vital information, all while maintaining the privacy of birth parents.”

The Governor returned to the Legislature a negotiated conditional veto to S-873, which would provide important information such as family history to adoptees while still maintaining the privacy of the birth parents. Under the changed legislation, birth parents would have until December 31, 2016 to have their names redacted from their biological child’s birth records, and could rescind their request for redaction at any time. Adoptees would therefore be allowed to start accessing the original birth records on January 1, 2017. Starting on August 1, 2015, names of birth parents would no longer be redacted from birth records.

Under the bill 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 would be able to access an uncertified, long-form copy of the adoptee’s original birth certificate through the New Jersey State Registrar. Additionally, the adoptive person would receive any available information regarding contact preferences with their biological parent and family history information.

The bill would provide 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. The birth parent would be permitted to change this preference at any time through the state registrar.

The bill would require 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 would be 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 would be required, under the bill, to supply adopted persons with any updated information as it is added to the file.

The bill now heads back to the Senate for concurrence with the Governor’s recommendations.

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