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New Legislation for Adoptees

Currently, in New Jersey adoptees who want to find out more about their biological lineage can access only “non-identifying information” about their births without first getting a court order. That is because we’ve had a sealed adoption records policy since 1940. Unfortunately, there are cases where adoptees with genetic or other medical problems need to immediately know their biological family’s medical history but cannot easily obtain it. Being able to obtain that history more easily before a medical crisis arises would makes sense, rather than having to take the time to pursue distant family members and court orders. However, according to staff write Keith Heumiller with the Examiner, with pending new legislation adoptees would be allowed unrestricted access to their birth records. If the legislation is approved by our Legislature and signed by the Governor, adoptees could now obtain copies of long-form birth certificates without redactions. It would allow adoptees to retrieve information regarding their ethnicity and biological family medical history, and at the same time allow the birth parents to elect the manner in which they would want to be contacted. Yet there are opponents and critics to the legislation as well, citing privacy concerns of birth parents and a potential chilling effect on future adoptions. Still, the hope is that the legislation would mitigate the stigma associated with the adoptions, which Heumiller said led to the creation of closed adoption laws in the first place.

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