SENATE, No. 1093

 

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

 

211th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED FEBRUARY 23, 2004

 

 

Sponsored by:

Senator JOSEPH F. VITALE

District 19 (Middlesex)

Senator BARBARA BUONO

District 18 (Middlesex)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Senators Karcher and Baer

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

    Permits adopted person and certain others access to adopted person's original birth certificate and other related information; appropriates $90,000.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

    As introduced.

 

(Sponsorship Updated As Of: 6/8/2004)


An Act concerning adoptees, amending R.S.26:8-40.1, supplementing Titles 9 and 26 of the Revised Statutes and making an appropriation.

 

    Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

    1. R.S.26:8-40.1 is amended to read as follows:

    26:8-40.1. a. When any person born in New Jersey who has been adopted pursuant to provisions of the laws of any state or country, and which adoption has been certified to the State Registrar as required by [paragraph B of section 15 of P.L.1953, c.264 (C.9:3-31)] subsection b. of section 16 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-52) or there is submitted a certification or a certified copy of the decree or judgment of the court in such adoption proceedings, the State Registrar shall establish, in lieu of the original birth record, a certificate of birth showing (a) the name of the adopted person as changed by the decree of adoption, if changed, (b) the date and place of birth, (c) the names of the adopting parents or parent including the maiden name of the female adopting parent if such name is given in the certification or certified copy of the decree or judgment of the court, and (d) the date of filing. In any instance where the child has been adopted by the spouse of the natural parent the name of such parent shall also be entered on the new certificate of birth. Such certificate shall be of the same general type as is used in making a birth certificate for a person who has not been adopted.

    [Upon application by an adopting parent or parents of any person born in the United States and adopted pursuant to the laws of this State, the court before which the adoption proceedings have been conducted, may, for good cause shown, direct and order that the place of birth shall be the residence of the adopting parent or parents at the time of said adoption; provided, however, that the adopting parent or parents were residents of this State at the time of said adoption.]

    Upon receipt of [such application,] a certification or a certified copy of the decree or judgment of a court in an adoption proceeding, the State Registrar shall make a new certificate of birth containing the information referred to in the preceding paragraph. The fee for such service shall be [$6.00] $6 which includes the issuance of a certified copy of the new certificate.

    The State Registrar may file such a new certificate for any foundling, for any child born in any state or country, and for any child for whom an original birth report cannot be located, who has been adopted in New Jersey; provided that there is attached to the decree or judgment of the court in such adoption proceeding or is submitted to the State Registrar a certified copy of the original birth record or acceptable evidence of birth. In the case of a foundling, the date and place of birth [may] shall be decided [by the adopting parent or parents if not decided by the court before which the adoption proceedings were conducted] by a court of competent jurisdiction. Such certificate for any child who is not a citizen of the United States shall bear the notation "by adoption," which shall also be shown upon any copy of the certificate issued; such notation may be removed at any subsequent date upon submission of acceptable proof that the child has become a citizen of the United States.

    When a new certificate of birth is made the State Registrar shall notify the local registrar of vital statistics of the place in which the birth occurred who shall enter the new certificate in his local record and place his copy of the original record under seal.

    b. The State Registrar shall cause to be placed under seal the original certificate of birth and all papers pertaining to the new certificate of birth. Such seal shall not be broken except by:

    (1) order of a court of competent jurisdiction; or

    (2) beginning nine months after the date of enactment of P.L. , c. (pending before the Legislature as this bill), a written request for an uncertified, long-form copy of the adopted person's original certificate of birth submitted by:

    (a) the adopted person 18 years of age or older,

    (b) a direct descendant 18 years of age or older of the adopted person if the adopted person is deceased, or

    (c) the adoptive parent or guardian of a minor adopted person.     c. Thereafter whenever a certificate of birth of such person is issued, it shall be made from the new certificate of birth except when an order of a court of competent jurisdiction shall require the issuance of a copy of the original certificate of birth, or upon a written request for an uncertified, long-form copy of the adopted person's original certificate of birth, as provided in subsection b. of this section, excluding any statistical data gathered solely for the use of the State.

(cf: P.L.1983, c.275, s.13)

 

    2. (New section) Beginning nine months after the date of enactment of this act, upon receipt of a written request pursuant to R.S.26:8-40.1, the State Registrar shall provide the adopted person 18 years of age or older, direct descendant 18 years of age or older of the deceased adopted person, or adoptive parent or guardian of a minor adopted person, as applicable, with an uncertified, long-form copy of the adopted person's original certificate of birth.


    3. (New section) a. Beginning 90 days after the date of enactment of this act, a birth parent of an adopted person may submit a document of contact preference to the State Registrar indicating the birth parent's preference regarding contact with the adopted person. The birth parent may change his preference at any time by submitting a revised document of contact preference to the State Registrar.

    b. The document of contact preference shall be established by the State Registrar, who shall provide a copy of the document, upon request, to a birth parent. The State Registrar shall also make an electronic copy of the document available on the official website of the Department of Health and Senior Services.

    c. The State Registrar shall request a birth parent who submits a document of contact preference pursuant to subsection a. of this section to complete a form providing updated family history information, which includes medical, cultural and social history information regarding the birth parent.

    d. The document of contact preference shall provide the birth parent with the following options from which the parent may select one:

    (1) "I would like to be contacted directly. I have completed a document of contact preference and an updated family history form and am submitting them to the State Registrar as set forth in this document";

    (2) "I would prefer to be contacted only through an intermediary. I have completed a document of contact preference and an updated family history form and am submitting them to the State Registrar as set forth in this document. I would like the following named individual to act as an intermediary";

    (3) "I would prefer not to be contacted at this time. I have completed a document of contact preference and an updated family history form and am submitting them to the State Registrar as set forth in this document."

    e. The State Registrar shall request a birth parent who indicates a preference for no contact by the adopted person to update the family history information every 10 years until the birth parent reaches the age of 40, and every five years thereafter.

    f. The State Registrar shall match the completed document of contact preference and family history form with the adopted person's original birth certificate and retain the documents in the adopted person's original certificate of birth file.

    g. Beginning nine months after the date of enactment of this act, upon written request for an uncertified long-form copy of an adopted person's original certificate of birth pursuant to R.S.26:8-40.1, the State Registrar shall also provide the adopted person 18 years of age or older, the direct descendant 18 years of age or older of the adopted person if the adopted person is deceased, or the adoptive parent or guardian of a minor adopted person, as applicable, with a copy of the birth parent's document of contact preference and the updated family history information, if such a document or updated information has been submitted to the State Registrar pursuant to this section.

 

    4. (New section) An adopted person 18 years of age or older, a direct descendant 18 years of age or older of the adopted person if the adopted person is deceased, or the adoptive parent or guardian of a minor adopted person may obtain from an approved agency or the attorney who facilitated the adoption any family history information concerning the adopted person that is contained in that person's adoption file, upon submission of a written request to the approved agency or attorney who facilitated the adoption.

    Family history information includes medical, cultural and social history information provided by the adopted person's birth parent and maintained by an approved adoption agency or attorney.

 

    5. (New section) Beginning 90 days after the date of enactment of P.L. , c. (C. )(pending before the Legislature as this bill), an approved agency or attorney who facilitates an adoption in this State shall provide the birth parent with a copy of the document of contact preference and information about the procedure for submitting the document to the State Registrar, as provided in section 3 of P.L. , c. (C. )(pending before the Legislature as this bill).

 

    6. (New section) a. The State Registrar, through the Department of Health and Senior Services, shall prepare information regarding counseling resources and the use of an intermediary for the purpose of enabling an adopted person to make contact with a birth parent.

    b. The State Registrar shall provide the information prepared pursuant to subsection a. of this section to an adopted person 18 years of age or older, direct descendant 18 years of age or older of the deceased adopted person, adoptive parent or guardian of a minor adopted person, who requests a copy of the long-form birth certificate pursuant to R.S.26:8-40.1 or a copy of the birth parent's document of contact preference or the form to update family history information, pursuant to section 3 of this act.

 

    7. (New section) A person, firm, partnership, corporation, association or agency that placed a child for adoption shall not be liable in any civil or criminal action for damages resulting from information provided by the State Registrar pursuant to this act.

 

    8. (New section) Within two years after the date of enactment of this act, the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, in consultation with the Commissioner of Human Services, shall provide to the Legislature, and make available to the public, a report on the development and administration of the initiatives established pursuant to sections 2 through 6 of this act. The report shall include, but not be limited to, statistical, non-identifying data regarding:

    a. the number of uncertified, long-form copies of original birth certificates that were provided to adopted persons, the direct descendants of deceased adopted persons and the adoptive parents or guardians of minor adopted persons;

    b. the number of requests submitted by birth parents, through the document of contact preference, for direct contact, contact by an intermediary and no contact; and

    c. the number of family history forms submitted by birth parents.

    The report shall also make recommendations for any needed changes in the requirements, regulations or State policy concerning the initiatives established by this act.

 

    9. (New section) The Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, in consultation with the Commissioner of Human Services, shall adopt rules and regulations pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), which shall:

    a. establish required information and procedures for the document of contact preference;

    b. establish required information and procedures for the family history form and the form to update family history; and

    c. establish a nominal fee for services provided under this act, to meet the costs of implementing this act.

 

    10. (New section) The Department of Health and Senior Services shall contract with media outlets throughout the country to produce and distribute national public service messages to increase public awareness of and encourage participation in the initiatives established pursuant to this act. The public service messages shall inform the public of the procedures for: obtaining a long-form copy of an adopted person's birth certificate; submitting a document of contact preference; and submitting family history information.

 

    11. There is appropriated $90,000 from the General Fund to the Department of Health and Senior Services for the purpose of providing public service messages pursuant to section 10 of this act.

 

    12. This act shall take effect immediately.

 

STATEMENT

 

    This bill provides adult adopted persons and their adult descendants and adoptive parents and guardians of minors access to an adopted person's original birth certificate and other related information.

    The bill amends N.J.S.A.26:8-40.1 to permit an adopted person 18 years of age or older, a direct descendant 18 years of age or older of a deceased adopted person, or the adoptive parent or guardian of a minor adopted person to obtain an uncertified, long-form copy of the adopted person's original birth certificate, upon submission of a written request to the State Registrar. Under current law, the State Registrar is required to place the adopted person's original birth certificate and all papers pertaining to the new certificate of birth under seal.

    The bill also provides an opportunity for a birth parent to indicate his preference concerning contact with the adopted person, by filing a document with the State Registrar that states whether the parent would prefer direct contact with the adopted person, prefer contact through the use of an intermediary, or prefer no contact. Following implementation of this bill, adoption agencies and attorneys who facilitate adoptions also would be required to provide a copy of the document of contact preference to all birth parents.

    The bill recognizes that family history information, which includes medical, cultural and social history information about an adopted person's birth parent, is important for an adopted person's medical concerns and emotional health. Therefore, the bill provides that an adopted person 18 years of age or older, a direct descendant 18 years of age or older of the adopted person if the adopted person is deceased, or the adoptive parent or guardian of a minor adopted person may, upon submission of a written request to the adoption agency or attorney who facilitated the adoption, obtain any existing family history information concerning the adopted person.

    Further, the bill provides that when a birth parent submits a document of contact preference to the State Registrar, the birth parent shall be requested to also submit family history information. The birth parent whose preference is no contact will be encouraged to update the family history information every 10 years until the birth parent reaches the age of 40, and every five years thereafter. In order to ensure that an adopted person gains access to this family history information, the State Registrar, upon receiving a request for a long-form birth certificate, would provide the requestor with information regarding the birth parent's preference for contact, as well as any family history information that has been submitted to the Registrar by the birth parent.

    The bill directs the State Registrar, through the Department of Health and Senior Services, to prepare information regarding counseling resources and the use of an intermediary for the purpose of enabling an adopted person to make contact with a birth parent, and to provide this information to any person requesting the long-form birth certificate, document of contact preference or family history information.

    Under the provisions of the bill, a person, firm, partnership, corporation, association or agency that placed a child for adoption shall not be liable in any civil or criminal action for damages resulting from information provided by the State Registrar pursuant to this bill.

    The bill also amends N.J.S.A.26:8-40.1 to eliminate language that allows the court, before which an adoption proceeding has taken place, to order that the residence of the adopting parents replace the place of birth on the birth certificate of an adopted child. In the case of a foundling, the bill requires a court of competent jurisdiction to designate the date and place of birth recorded on the original birth certificate.

    The bill requires the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, in consultation with the Commissioner of Human Services, to provide to the Legislature, and make available to the public, a report on the development and administration of the adoption-related initiatives established pursuant to the bill. The report shall include statistical, nonidentifying data regarding:

    -- the number of uncertified, long-form copies of original birth certificates that were provided to adopted persons, the direct descendants of adopted persons and the parents or guardians of minor adopted persons;

    -- the number of requests submitted by birth parents, through the document of contact preference, for direct contact, contact by an intermediary and no contact; and

    -- the number of family history forms submitted by birth parents.     The bill also directs the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, in consultation with the Commissioner of Human Services, to adopt rules and regulations, which shall: establish required information and procedures for the document of contact preference; establish required information and procedures for the family history form and the form to update family history; and establish a nominal fee for services provided under this bill, to meet the costs of its implementation.

    The bill also directs the Department of Health and Senior Services to contract with media outlets throughout the country to produce and distribute national public service messages to increase public awareness of and encourage participation in the initiatives established pursuant to this bill. The public service messages shall inform the public of the procedures for: obtaining a long-form copy of an adopted person's birth certificate; submitting a document of contact preference; and submitting family history information. The bill appropriates $90,000 to the department for the purpose of providing the public service messages.