NJ health department begins mailing adoptee birth records

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Editor’s note: As MorristownGreen.com reported, New Jersey’s revised law on adoptee birth records–a law that owes much to Morristown resident Pam Hasegawa— took effect on Jan. 1, 2017. But the state only started sending birth certificates to adoptees today, Jan. 6, because more time was needed to properly process the requests after holiday mail delays, according to this statement from the state Department of Health:

Department of Health Begins Mailing Adoptee Birth Records After Holiday Mail Delay
More than 1,200 adoptees filed applications

Today, the Department of Health has begun mailing copies of birth certificates to adoptees who requested records under New Jersey’s new adoption law.

The new law allowed birth parents to submit redaction requests and omit personal identifying information such as their names and addresses from birth certificates of child(ren) they placed for adoption up until Dec. 31, 2016.

Until Jan. 1, 2017, a court order was required to receive these documents.

nj department of health logoThere are approximately 300,000 sealed records in a secure room at the Department in Trenton of children who were placed for adoption as far back as 1940.

More than 1,200 adult adoptees have filed applications with the Department’s Office of Vital Statistics and Registry to obtain copies of their original birth records, and the Department has received more than 500 requests from birth parents for redactions.

A careful analysis is involved in searching the sealed birth records and checking them against adoption decrees and redaction requests to ensure the Department provides accurate records while honoring privacy requests of birth parents. Records are being processed in the order applications were received. 

“Given the Dec. 31, 2016, deadline and where it fell in relation to two holiday weekends, mailed applications postmarked by midnight on Dec. 31, 2016, were still arriving earlier this week,” Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett said. “That catchup period has now ended.” 

In August 2015, the Department began implementing the new adoption law signed by Governor Chris Christie in 2014. The law balanced the rights of adoptees to learn more about their birth parents with the interests of birth parents to maintain their privacy. 

There is no deadline for adult adoptees who would like to request copies of their original birth certificates. Birth parents who choose to have their names redacted can reverse that decision at any time and make their identities known.

Those who may request copies of birth certificates are adult adoptees; direct descendants, siblings or spouses of adopted persons; adoptive parents, legal guardians or other legal representatives of adopted persons; or state or federal government agencies for official purposes. Individuals can apply for birth records by filling out this form. The fee is $25 and then $2 for each additional copy.

For more information on the new adoption law, call 609-292-4087 or visit the Department’s Frequently Asked Questions.

Follow the New Jersey Department of Health on Twitter at twitter.com/NJDeptofHealth and on Facebook at facebook.com/NJDeptofHealth.

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  1. To Patti and anyone else who is disappointed about the limited information they receive, I strongly recommend you get your DNA done through a very popular website. Using such information, I have helped friends find five different birth families.

    While the birth parents can ask for redaction, they can’t hide from DNA.

    Also, for those who have received their envelope from NJ, when did you mail in your request? Someone I know sent theirs in mid-December and is still awaiting the information.

  2. While I understand birth parents wanting to maintain their privacy, I cannot fathom why adoptees are not being treated equally under the law. I received a redacted birth certificate and feel frustrated by not legally having access to my heredity information. I do not wish to have contact and would certainly respect a birth mother’s request to not be contacted; however, I do feel that I deserve to have access to my own birth records. Since my birth father’s name was left off of the birth certificate as well (blank) along with the redacted information for birth mother…..how is this legally opening up adoption/birth records? I believe granting access to birth records is a moral obligation and should be a legal one. The medical records I received with the redacted birth certificate were very scant which disappoints me greatly. What, if any, recourse/options do I have? I would always respect a “no contact” request but being able to anonymously research and obtain biological familial information would provide a lot of answers and satisfy a considerable amount of curiosity.

  3. Long overdue, thank you Pam Hasegawa for dedicating so much time and effort and not giving up your fight.