December 30, 2016
The New Jersey Adoptees’ Birthright law that goes into place Sunday is a long time coming. The law gives adoptees access to their birth records, including their birth parents’ names.
Gov. Chris Christie had vetoed a related version of the law in 2011. He approved a revised version in 2014.
However, the law going in place contains a loophole allowing birth parents to still have their names removed from records. Birth parents may only have their names removed, though, if the child was born prior to July 31, 2015.
And birth parents must fill out and mail the New Jersey Department of Health privacy form. It must be postmarked with Saturday's date – Dec. 31, 2016. Hours vary, so check locally before mailing.
Birth parents of children adopted since Aug. 1, 2015, are not allowed to have their names removed from birth records.
“This law has taken a long time to go into effect, and I believe there are individuals that have not followed the evolution of this bill that could be adversely affected by it,” Camden County Surrogate Michelle Gentek-Mayer said this week.
“This is your last chance to get this form filled out prior to all personal information becomes available,” she added.
Pennsylvania is opening birth records next fall, but the law in the Keystone state allows birth parents to have their names redacted, though they must in turn provide health records to do so.
Adoptee Thomas Peele, an investigative reporter who spent years working in New Jersey, said Friday he’d like to see more states open up birth records.
About 20 states do so now, but not New York, where Peele was born and then adopted through a private agency.
Despite the research skills Peele developed through his work, it took “25 years off and on” to track down his birth mother’s death certificate via scraps of information. “It was very incremental.”
Through his mother’s death record, he was able to locate his half-brother, who ironically lives just a few miles from him in California.
Peele has never learned the identity of his birth father.
Open records could provide “an adoptee’s peace of mind and medical records,” Peele added.
“This sound fabulous for people in New Jersey,” he added. “You need to understand the biological roots of who you are.”