Adoption records bill flawed

By The NJ Coalition to Protect Privacy in Adoption

We are a diverse coalition of advocates who want a fair compromise on the issue of opening adoption records. The bill sitting on the Governor’s desk, S799, is flawed legislation. We urge the Governor to veto it.

For more than half a century, birth parents who place children for adoption in New Jersey have had the right to keep their identities private, both prospectively and retroactively. This long-standing right must not be ripped out from under birth parents without their consent. While many birth parents are open to contact with the child they gave to adoption, others want no contact and need their privacy respected. To release the identity of a birth parent without his or her consent is wrong and unfair.

We must remember that countless birth mothers placed their children for adoption through the New Jersey courts in reliance on the assurance of privacy. New Jersey should not now strip their desire for privacy away after they relied on it to “rebuild after what must be a traumatic and emotionally tormenting moment in their lives,” as Judge Gruccio wrote in the 1977 case of Mills vs. Atlantic City Department of Vital Statistics.

New Jersey’s adoption law protects all of the parties involved in an adoption: the child, the birth parents and the adopting parents. The legislation (Bill S799) being advanced does not balance these competing interests of all three parties. Instead, it starts a one-year clock ticking on birth parent privacy and includes no provision to even notify birth parents that their names will be released if they do not opt out within a year. It will also eliminate the option of privacy in future adoptions.

Our coalition supports sensible and compassionate legislation that would take into consideration the interests of all parties, both retroactively and prospectively.   The foundation of such a system is an effective confidential intermediary system to provide adoptees with access to their birth parents’ medical history, seek consent for release of the names of birth parents and help link birth parents and adult adopted persons when mutually desired.

This system would use qualified individuals and agencies to function as intermediaries to locate and verify the identity of adopted persons and birth parents. In the case in which a birth parent is unwilling to rescind her right to privacy, the intermediary would attempt to obtain family and medical history for the adoptee.

While the members of our coalition disagree on many public policy issues, we join together in hopes of avoiding the negative consequences that removing the privacy of adoptions will bring.

It is our hope that Governor Christie will veto S799 in its current form. 

The NJ Coalition to Protect Privacy in Adoption is made up of the  ACLU-NJ, NJ Bar Association, NJ Right to Life, NJ Catholic Conference and the National Council for Adoption.

Adoption records bill flawed