New N.J. law eases privacy rules on adoptions

Thursday, December 29, 2016
VIDEO: N.J. adoption records set to be unsealed
A big change could be coming for New Jersey residents who gave up their children for adoption.

TRENTON, N.J. (WPVI) -- Imagine walking through life wondering who is my mother? Who is my father? Those are questions that nag many adoptees.

Since the 1940s adoption records in New Jersey have been sealed without a court order and locked in a room in Trenton.

Parents who gave their babies away expected privacy.

But come January 1st the records of about 300,000 adoptees will be unsealed.

Susan Merkel of West Windsor was given up for adoption in 1963, "It's an ecstatic, almost surreal feeling because this is giving back something that was essentially takenfrom us."

Merkel met her birth parents in 1987 and enjoyed a friendship with her biological mother for 10 years before she died.

But not all birth parents want a relationship with the children they gave up.

Those who wish to remain anonymous are being urged by the New Jersey Health Department to file paperwork by December 31st if they want to keep their identities secret. "You don't want people to be surprised. You want people to have the opportunity to know that they can redact the information if they so choose," said Anthony Welch of the New Jersey Health Department.

So far 884 adoptees have filed to get their original birth certificates.

341 parents have told the state they want their names redacted, 100 parents are open to having contact with their birth children.

To get the word out the health department has advertised in 23 states.

Catholic organizations have also tried to spread the word so parents have the choice about whether the children they gave up can find them.

"The bill is trying to balance those interests with the interest of adoptees who may need essential medical history," said Welch.

Merkel added, "In essence this is giving, restoring I guess, the right to our identity, to our health and to our culture because that was completely erased."

Click Here for New Jersey Adoption Information