Unsealing (Adoption) Records

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mother and Son Mother and Son (Amy Palko/flickr)

Andrew Kitchenman, healthcare writer for the New Jersey Spotlight, discusses a bill that just passed the New Jersey Legislature that would give adoptees much more information about their birth families, including family medical history and access to their own birth records.



Andrew Kitchenman

Comments [16]

No - the bill (now law) does NOT give "adopted children" their parents' medical records. First off - it does not affect "children", it affects adults. Second - the only way for an adoptee to get the medical information is if the parent SUPPLIES IT. In this case, if they want their names redacted or they prefer No Contact, they must provide it.

Now - what's this about "birth parents who have the records sealed" nonsense? The records do not seal upon request, they seal in ALL ADOPTIONS by an operation of law. No relinquishing parent, or adoptive parent for that matter, can request that the records be sealed or not sealed. It has nothing whatsoever to do with what they want or don't want. It is an operation of law. Period.

But what about "open adoptions"? Information is exchanged but the adoption court files and the original birth certificate are still SEALED by state law.

Step parent adoptions - SEALED. Adoptions of orphans - SEALED. Adoptions by relatives - SEALED. Get the picture?

And that "abortion issue"? Currently there are annually about 47,000 abortions in New Jersey - even though the records are sealed. There are some 22,000 domestic infant adoptions nationwide. New Jersey's share is probably something like 660 (based on population) - and 95% of those are "open" adoptions. Five percent of 660 is 33. That's the maximum number of POTENTIAL additional abortions. Maybe Marie Tasy should pay attention to the 47,000 ACTUAL abortions.

May. 29 2014 04:34 PM

There were some questions about medical history. No one can force a family member to reveal medical history. That goes for those being raised by biological family and for those who were adopted. All adoptees are looking for is the right to ASK. The same as the non-adopted. You can't ask if you don't know WHO to ask.

Medical history is important, but as you can see from some of the comments, it is not the only reason. Some of us just want to know whose DNA we carry. Others already know that but still are not legally entitled to that Simple Piece of Paper. I'm one of those. My mother would like nothing more than for me to obtain my original birth certificate. Right now, under New York law, we would need to show "good cause" in court. My "good cause" is simply "it's mine and my mother wants me to have it". Not good enough.

Time to change the law.

May. 29 2014 03:28 PM
TMPL from Alexandria, VA

@Deb - Washington state is going to give most adult adoptees access to a copy of their original birth certificate starting 7/1/2014. Check out the Facebook page or website for WA-CARE for more info and links to the forms to submit to the state. I believe CARE stands for Coalition for Adoption Reform and Education. Good luck to your mom!

May. 29 2014 03:11 PM
Roberta MacDonald from North Carolina

It consistently bothers me when people like this refer to us as adopted 'children' Until such time as we can get the media, legislators, and the general public refer to those of us who were adopted and are over 18 as either adopted adults or adult adoptees, I can see we will have problems in every other state in which we attempt this. It is up to the people who are being interviewd to kindly let the person interviewing them know this.

On another note. I am an adoptee from NJ. I am very glad that this bill has passed, however I fall in another class. I have had a reunion with my birthmother, she is now passed, so therefore will NEVER be able send in any preference form, but I still have to wait 2 years in order to be able to get a copy of my OBC.

My reasons for wanting my OBC, is that it rightfully belongs to me. It is the record of MY birth, it has virtually nothing to do with my birthmother other than the fact she gave birth to me.

She told me very strongly that she was NEVER promised anonymity, confidentiality, or any such language.

It is time for ALL state to follow suite of the states that already have access.

May. 29 2014 01:51 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Jake S

I think I'm quite consistent. EIther children belong to their flesh & blood parents, or they shouldn't belong to anyone at all. I just don't believe anyone has the right to lay claim to someone else's flesh and blood. We punish people for stealing property, but not for stealing flesh and blood. I never understood that and never will. So eithe we respect blood relationships, or we just give up on the concept of "family" altogether and just let everyone be hatched as an individual with no ties to anyone but himself or herself.

May. 28 2014 11:27 AM
Jo from Westchester

Our children were adopted in Hong Kong. We have contact with our birth children's families - both mothers and fathers - initiated by us when the children were very young( the birth families did not realize they could request open adoption). It has been a positive experience for everyone.

May. 28 2014 11:26 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Mr. Bad

If it were up to me, children would be produced in factories without parents at all, but that's a few decades into the future. And if parents throw their children into the street, or deliver them to the foot of the church, then they can be raised in orphanages. Nothing wrong with well-regulated orphanages if the birth parents do not want to, or simply cannot raise them.

May. 28 2014 11:24 AM
fred alex blumberg from nj

Be careful and be prepared I searche and searched and finall found out and had a nice person at DYFS verify and tell me that there was a letter saying its okay to reveal... it turns out and I did a doubletake and had to verify and reverify... I was shocked and terrified.. MMy sister was Bonnie Lee Bakley... All I could do was read and reread how horrible this family was in the news etc... finally after 4 years I get a call from Margerry and well I got to meet the mom and well they arent so bad just a rel big difference in status, education proper manners and homelife, Im glad I was adopted cause id probably be dead if I wasnt, and it was surprising how much Mom had saved from day 1 and how much she cared and longed for my contact!

May. 28 2014 11:23 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Can't birth parents have the option of making their medical histories available but not (unless they want to) their identities? Of course, that leaves the issue of updating the medical info when new medical conditions arise.

May. 28 2014 11:23 AM
Jake S

JGarbuz, you have some weird, weird opinions. Seems strange that you'd be against adoption when you want to abolish marriage and have children be born in "hatcheries."

May. 28 2014 11:22 AM

I spent the better part of this last year helping my mother who was progressing through the stages of dementia. One recurring conversation, always ending in tears, was her inability to find out who her birth mother was. She always had limited resources, but the one time she went to the county clerks office to try to find her records (this was in Seattle), she was told the records were sealed and she'd need a lawyer if she wanted to find out anything. She never had the money to do that. It was so sad to me to witness this suffering of my mom.

I was also adopted by a step father. My birth certificate was changed and I happened upon some records when I was a teenager. It wasn't till I was 30 that I asked my mother about it. Long story short, I got in touch with my real father. The richness that ensued is beyond description, I so profoundly believe that children should be able to find their birth parents info.

May. 28 2014 11:18 AM
Amy from Manhattan

The current caller is addressing part of what I wanted to ask, about parents who change their minds about letting the children they let be adopted be able to find them, or at least find info about them. But I'd still like to know if laws in various states allow or prevent parents from making their info available later?

May. 28 2014 11:14 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ jgarbuz from Queens

I don't would you force people to raise children? Do you think forcing people to raise children they don't want to raise would be good for a child's welfare? Durrrr....

May. 28 2014 11:13 AM

Once an adopted child finds her parent(s), how does she get access to private health records, which are also protected? (I'm assuming here that some birth parents do not want to be found and therefore do not want their health records examined either.)

May. 28 2014 11:13 AM
Jack from Brooklyn

The big lie with sealing records and keeping birth parents identities secret is that it is actually far more important to adopting parents than ever discussed. Adoptive parents often are happy to hide behind the institutionalization of the process.

And what about adult adoptee's rights? How many 50 year old "children" are not allowed to see ANY of their health history?

May. 28 2014 11:13 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I've always been against adoption except for true orphans who have no living parents, or where incest and other severe abuses of children occur, such as teaching them to be suicide bombers, for example. Otherwise, if a child has a living parent they should not be allowed to be adopted. However, if the living parent gives consent for wealthier people to raise the child I'd have no problem with that, but not adoption. Just raising someone else's child because the poor parent wants their child to have a better chance in life.

May. 28 2014 11:05 AM

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