Open Adoption Records Law in NJ Seeks to Protect Both Adopted Children and Birth Parents
In the United States, adoption is looked at very differently today than it was in previous years. Instead of being veiled in secrecy, more and more adoptions now take place as open adoptions. Childwelfare.gov defines open adoptions as a form of adoption that allows birth parents to know and have contact with the adoptive parents and the adopted child.For those adopted prior to this trend, a court order is needed in order to see one’s own birth certificate in most states.
On May 27, 2014, New Jersey joined the list of states that allows adoptees unrestricted access to their birth records. As reported by the Associated Press, open adoption records are also allowed in Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island and Tennessee.
Laws regarding open adoption records are often difficult to pass since the interests of all parties involved must be considered. We’ve all heard the heartwarming stories of children who were given up for adoption being reunited with their birth parents. In many cases, both had been searching for each other for years. However, in other cases, birth parents and children who were adopted don’t want to be reunited. Birth mothers who were raped, birth parents who gave up their children because they were nearly children themselves and birth parents who were promised they could remain anonymous often prefer to have no contact. While some adoptees may not want to know their birth parents, knowing their birth parents’ medical histories could be the key to securing healthy futures for themselves and their own children.
Open Adoption Records Law in NJ
Adoption is an issue that is close to the heart of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. It is also an issue championed by Senator Joseph Vitale, a sponsor of the bill who worked closely with Christie to secure a compromise that would allow birth parents of children adopted prior to August 1, 2015 one year to request that their names be removed from the child’s birth records. Birth parents whose children are adopted after that date will not have the option of having their names removed, but they will have the choice to express their preference of no contact or of contact only through a liaison.
“My parents decided to adopt because they wanted to add to our family, and it gave me the ability to have a sister in my life for now the last 39 years, and it’s important that we don’t diminish the joy felt by families experiencing adoption,” said Christie.
“I want them to have that opportunity,” he continued, “and I also want the young woman who makes the decision to give up her child to be protected as well.”
Glenda Y. Elie, President of Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) in New Jersey, expressed satisfaction that the Open Adoption Records Bill was passed with these protections in place.
“FAFS has had a position statement since 2007 in support of this bill,” said Elie. “We are pleased that the governor and legislature were able to come to a compromise that addressed some of our concerns. “
When asked for her thoughts on the new law, FAFS Founder Sue Dondiego added, “When this legislation was first introduced, FAFS did a survey of foster parents for their thoughts on the bill. There were many pros and cons, but the vast majority of those responding agreed with the intent of the legislation.”
Dondiego went on to caution, “The success of this legislation will be in how it is implemented and if careful oversight is a priority.”