Adult Adoptees Legislation Would Give Access to Original Birth Records

Filed under: Adoption, In The News

adoptees original birth certificate request

Proposed legislation in New Jersey could give adult adoptees direct access to their original birth certificates. Credit: New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services

If you're an adoptive parent, you probably grapple with questions of when, how and what to tell your child about his or her birth parents. And, if you're an adult adoptee in search of your biological parents, you may have difficulty finding them.

In New Jersey, two competing bills are pending in the state legislature that would give adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates and family medical information, removing a major impediment for those who wish to explore their birth families, the Asbury Park Press reports.

Currently, when a child is adopted in New Jersey, the original birth certificate is modified to contain only the adoptive parents' information, the newspaper reports. The state files away the original birth certificate -- which contains birth parents' names, ages, ethnicity and other identifying information.

However, if New Jersey resident Carol Barbieri gets her way, adult adoptees may soon be able to access their original birth certificates for the first time since about the 1940s, according to the Press.

Barbieri, of Atlantic Highlands, N.J., has been fighting for adoptee rights for about 20 years, since she began a quest to locate her own birth family, seeking critical medical information to help doctors treat her son, who had Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, an electrical imbalance in the heart, the newspaper reports.

When the cardiologist asked Barbieri if the condition ran in the family, it was all the motivation she needed to find out all she could about her biological family -- turning into a decades-long fight to get a state law passed to allow adult adoptees to obtain their original birth certificates.

However, though passage of bill A-1406 is close, another roadblock recently popped up, in the form of competing bill A-3672, introduced in January, the Press reports.

The original bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, provides adoptees with direct access to their original long-form birth certificate, with the option of having an intermediary go-between them and their biological parents, the newspaper reports. The new bill requires an intermediary and gives biological parents the right to deny their access to the original birth certificate.

Those who favor the new bill say it's the only fair way to protect both the rights of adoptees and birth parents who may not wish to reveal their identities. However, proponents of the original bill, A-1406, say their bill already accomplishes those objectives and, at this point, is much closer to actually being passed into law, the Press reports.

"It's taken us 30 years to get the bill to where it is now," Barbieri tells the Press. "It's a fair bill."

If the original bill passes, birth parents would have one year from the date of passage to notify the state in writing that they want their identifying information removed from the original birth certificate. They will also be able to choose whether they prefer direct contact or contact through an intermediary.

In addition, the law would require birth families to update their health information with the state every 10 years.

Under the new bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Joan Quigley, if the birth parents deny the adoptee's request for their original birth certificate, they would be asked to provide family medical information, which would then be given to the adoptee, the Press reports.

Quigley says the original bill will provide adoptees only with the names of their alleged parents and addresses that are 20 or 30 years old, and therefore no actual useful information for tracking down birth parents at the time of the request, according to the newspaper.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.