New Jersey's 7th Legislative District

Senator Diane Allen

Senator Diane Allen

Christie Signs Allen Bill into Law: Balanced, Open Approach to Adoptee Birth Records in NJ

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Governor Chris Christie today signed into law bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Diane Allen that brings fundamental, responsible changes to the way adopted children and adoptive families access birth records in New Jersey.  The new law brings to an end a decades-long debate on reform by finding a sensible middle ground that eases burdensome hurdles to accessing birth records while also respecting privacy concerns and options for birth parents.

Senator Diane Allen watches as Governor Chris Christie signs into law legislation she sponsored to change the way that adopted children and adoptive families access birth records in New Jersey. ( Gallery)

“I’m proud that the day has come where adoptees in New Jersey will be treated like the rest of us and no longer discriminated against as second-class citizens,” said Allen, R-Burlington, who has worked to change the state’s adoption law for 17 years. “This legislation at last recognizes that adoptees deserve the same right to vital information that we all take for granted, such as information about their family medical histories and whether they have living parents, siblings, aunts or uncles. I want to thank Governor Christie for recognizing the injustices that New Jerseys’ closed records laws have imposed on adoptees here for so many years and thank all those who have been instrumental in helping us get to this point today.”

In April, Governor Christie offered the compromise in a conditional approval of birth record legislation that recognized the profound and delicate considerations that are the foundation of adoption decisions in New Jersey, while also addressing the need to reform a system widely considered to be prohibitively complicated for adoptive families who wished to obtain their adoption and birth records. The Legislature approved those changes that have now been signed into law today.

“Adoption is a blessing – a precious gift for those who cannot have children or who want to continue the growth of their families and a deeply personal act for birth mothers who wish for good, loving homes for their child. The issue of birth records has become more prevalent over the years as this information becomes more and more important for adoptive children themselves and their own children,” said Governor Chris Christie. “I am extremely proud today that we have worked together to find a compromise that removes the costly, prohibitive barriers for adopted children to access records of their identity, while still preserving important privacy considerations that are central in the decisions of many birth parents.”

The Governor’s conditional veto, which is now law, provided narrow revisions that maintained the goals of the original legislation by removing the lengthy, burdensome requirement of obtaining a court order for adopted children and adoptive parents to access birth records. The law now also provides for the preservations of critical privacy options for birth parents by allowing them to select a preference for contact: direct contact, contact through a confidential intermediary, or access to medical records only with continued privacy.

Adoptees will be able to obtain an original birth certificate without involvement from the courts beginning in 2017. For adoptions finalized after August 1, 2015, long-form birth certificates will be available without redaction, and birth parents are permitted to submit an information statement electing their preferred method of personal contact. For adoptions finalized before August 1, 2015, birth parents may choose to file a preference for contact with the State Registrar, selecting from options including direct interaction, contact through an intermediary, or sharing of only medical information with continued privacy. Providing this transition period will permit for appropriate educational campaigns on new open adoptions, and avoid altering the settled expectations of parents and children without notice.

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