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December 25, 2016

Deadline approaching for N.J. birth parents of adopted children to shield identity

Time is running out for birth parents who gave up a child for adoption in New Jersey to remove information from the birth certificate, the state Health Department said.

New Jersey is among 20 states that will allow adopted individuals to access their original birth certificates without a court order, beginning Jan. 1. Gov. Chris Christie signed a new state adoption bill into law in August 2015 to balance the rights of birth parents to maintain privacy and adoptees to learn more about their birth parents.

The deadline affects birth parents who were involved in adoptions that were finalized before Aug. 1, 2015. Birth parents of children adopted after that date were ineligible to shield their identities from birth certificates.

Health officials estimate that 300,000 adoptees will be eligible to request for their original birth records. Since November 1940, the state has accumulated approximately 170,000 envelopes that contain sealed records of births. Each envelope could contain documentation for multiple individuals.

Additionally, birth parents can decide if they want to be contacted by the adoptee or designate an intermediary for information. To choose those options, the birth parent must provide family history, which includes medical, cultural and social information.

State officials remind birth parents that any decisions that are made can be reversed at any time.

Only adult adoptees, adoptive parents, direct descendants, siblings or spouses of adopted persons, legal guardians or representatives of adopted persons and state or federal government agencies for official purposes can request copies of birth certificates.

For more information, visit the New Jersey Department of Health website or call (609) 292-4087.