A law passed after 34 years of relentless lobbying that will allow adopted people to obtain their original birth certificates containing information about their parents, their medical history and identity will take effect in January.
New Jersey Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett released an announcement late Friday as a reminder that birth parents who wish to have these documents redacted of their name must make that request by no later than Dec. 31, 2016.
So far, 166 birth parents have filed a request to hide their name and identifying information, 77 have requested direct contact, and six have requested to be contacted through an intermediary, such as an adoption agency.
The department has received 476 applications from adopted people seeking their birth certificates. That’s out of a pool of 170,000 envelopes containing birth records from adoption from 1940 to 2015, some of which contain information about more than one child.
In 2014, Gov. Chris Christie signed the law allowing the disclosures, with the idea that there would be enough time before it took effect to publicize the change and to let parents request their anonymity.
The final bill was a compromise with adoption advocates who fought for the law citing a civil right to know their identity, and New Jersey Right to Life, the New Jersey Catholic Conference, the ACLU of New Jersey and the N.J. Bar Association which argued birth parents expected anonymity.
Birth parents don’t have to do anything if they do not wish to redact the birth record. However, if a birth parent has not requested any information be redacted, an adoptee will receive a copy of their original birth certificate with all information recorded at the time of their birth. Redaction requests will not be accepted after Dec. 31.
In order for the contact preference form to be accepted, the birth parent must also submit a completed family history form, which includes medical, cultural and social history information about the birth parent, according to Bennett’s announcement.
“Birth parents who choose to have their names redacted can reverse that decision at any time and make their identities known,” according to Bennett’s announcement.