Vitale Bill To Give Adoptees Access To Birth Records Advances

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 unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

“I think that most of us take for granted the fact that we can trace our family’s journey through preceding generations, and have a sense of self which includes what our parents and grandparents went through to deliver us to this moment in time,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Senate health panel. “However, for many adopted New Jerseyans, there’s a missing piece to the puzzle, and so many unanswered questions about who they are and how they came to be. Through this legislation, we have a chance to give a brief glimpse of history to those adopted State residents who for so long were left in the dark regarding their birth parents.”

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 provide that birth parents could submit a request for non-disclosure, prohibiting the State Registrar from providing the birth parent’s name and home address when receiving a request for an adopted person’s birth certificate, and would give parents of children born before the enactment of this bill a 12-month period from the date that regulations are adopted in order to opt-out. In place of their name and address, birth parents who choose the non-disclosure option would fill out a family history form containing medical, cultural and social history, and return it to the State Registrar within 60 days.

The birth parent would also be given the option to submit a document of contact preference, indicating the birth parent’s preference regarding contact with the adopted person.

“I understand there are some birth parents who might not want to be contacted, just as some adopted people might not want to find out about their birth parents,” said Senator Vitale. “While we want to give these parents the option to remain anonymous, we want to give adopted New Jerseyans something in terms of a family history. At the very least, these folks will have some idea where they came from.”

Senator Vitale added that a family history would be useful for a number of practical purposes, including helping to shape decisions about medical care.

“If doctors know someone’s genetically predisposed to certain kinds of reactions or disorders, that goes a long way in helping to provide effective health care,” said Senator Vitale. “Something as basic as a family medical history is often taken for granted by people who know their birth parents, but it can be so very important in ensuring proper medical care for adopted people.”

Senator Vitale has been working to advance similar legislation for the last two legislative sessions. He said he will continue to fight for this measure, because “it is the right thing to do for adopted people in New Jersey wondering where they came from.”

“This a matter of basic fairness for people who spend much of their life always searching for that missing piece of the puzzle,” said Senator Vitale. “The fact of the matter is, without this law, there are people in this State who will track down their birth parents, by hiring expensive private investigators and pouring for months, if not years, over currently available vital statistics. That process is long and costly, and out of the reach of many adopted individuals seeking answers.

“By implementing this bill into law, we will be offering answers to some of the most basic questions of identity for thousands of New Jerseyans,” added Senator Vitale. “We can give these people a glimpse into their past, access to important medical information, and possibly reunite families. This bill is too important to let lapse without action for another legislative session.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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