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New Jersey Set to Completely Open Adoption Records, Giving Over 300,000 Children Access to Original Birth Certificates

Adoption lettersWhile over 90% of adopted children over the age of five have positive feelings about their adoption, older adoptees haven’t always had the same experience. Considering the fact that the average age of retirement is 63, the majority of adopted retirees in New Jersey have had to go through the whole of their adult lives not knowing their family backgrounds due to stringent New Jersey laws.
But now, that is set to change. In a unprecedented new law, New Jersey has decided to open all previously sealed adoption records as a way to allow older adoptees to know a little bit more about their past.
For children who were adopted back 50, even 60 years ago, life hasn’t been easy. With their original birth certificates sealed, at the most simple level they were unable to gain access to medical health records, and they had to forget about trying to find out information about their birth parents. Add that to the fact that adoption was a considered by many adoptive parents to be a social taboo, and these children have been left in the dark for decades.
Come January 1, everything is set to change. As many as 300,000 adoptees will be able to access their original birth certificates in hopes to answer burning questions they have about the past.
New Jersey is the 14th state in the nation to completely open its adoption records, but it hasn’t been a easy process. Grassroots adoption organizations have been pushing to open records since 1980, but have struggled with security hurdles. Opponents of the bill question if birth parents have the right to privacy from the children they placed up for adoption, something they have continuously had in the years since their child’s birth.
While this point is still up for contention with lawmakers, legislators in New Jersey have decided that they will unseal the records if and only if birth parents are allowed to redact certain information such as their names, address, and birth dates from their files.
So how does the process work, exactly? This law, approved back in 2014, gives biological parents up until December 31, 2016 to redact their personal information from their files. However, only parents who placed their children for adoption between November 1940 and August 1, 2015 are eligible, as that is the period the files were sealed.
Additionally, as a part of the new bill the birth parents can request that their children contact them directly or through an agency.
But, as a measure of safety for the adopted children, the parents who redact their personal information must add information to their file about their family’s medical, social, and cultural history.
This law looks promising as a way to connect adopted children to their biological families. So far, only 166 birth parents have requested redactions, and only six have restricted access through an agency. As of Christmas Eve, a full 476 adoptees have filed an application to gain a copy of their birth certificate.
New Jersey joins 20 other states which have opened or partially opened their adoption records for adopted children.