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Vitale Bill To Give Adoptees Access To Birth Certificates Approved

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which would give adoptees and certain others access to the adoptee’s original birth certificate and other related family information was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today by a vote of 9-0, with one abstention.

“Questions like ‘Where did I come from?’ cut to the very core of identity,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “For some adopted individuals, that question can lead to a lifelong search for birth parents, costing hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, and months, if not years, of their time. In New Jersey, we should give adoptees the support and resources needed to answer some of the most fundamental questions of identity, by allowing them access to their original birth certificates.”

The bill, S-1087, would allow adoptees and, if the adopted person is deceased, direct descendants of adoptees who are 18 years of age or older, as well as adoptive parents of an adopted minor to contact the State Registrar to receive the adoptee’s original birth certificate, as well as other family history information. The bill provides that birth certificate seals would not be broken except through court order or through a written, notarized request for an uncertified copy of a birth certificate. Birth parents who choose not to be identified through this bill would have 12 months to submit to the State registrar a request for non-disclosure, which would retain their anonymity if they so wished, or could submit a preference on how to contact them in the event that their adopted child wished to get in contact with them.

“Through the non-disclosure clause and the parental preference of contact, we are striking a balance between the birth parents’ expectation of anonymity, and an adoptee’s right to know,” said Senator Vitale. “Many parents have built lives and families after giving up a child for adoption, and in some cases, it might be too painful to relive the past. But for those parents who do want to reconnect, this gives them a mechanism to do so.”

Senator Vitale added that by offering birth certificates to adoptees, the State would be addressing a practical need as well. Having access to birth certificates would allow adoptees to consider family history when making decisions concerning health care and treatment, and address potentially inherited preexisting health conditions.

“Some things that non-adopted people take for granted can mean the difference between life and death for adoptees,” said Senator Vitale. “Through this bill, adopted individuals will be able to compile family medical histories, to learn of any genetic diseases or risks of diseases they may carry. With that knowledge, they’ll be able to take steps to ensure better health.”

The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration of the $90,000 appropriated for the program. Identical legislation was approved by the Senate last session by a vote of 23-14 in December of 2004.

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