ASSEMBLY, No. 368

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

215th LEGISLATURE

 

PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2012 SESSION

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman  DAVID W. WOLFE

District 10 (Ocean)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Allows adopted person access to his original birth certificate and other related information; appropriates $90,000.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel

  


An Act concerning adoptees, amending R.S.26:8-40.1, supplementing Title 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.  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.

     The State Registrar [shall] may 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 order of a court of competent jurisdiction, or upon a written, notarized request by the adopted person 18 years of age or older, a direct descendant 18 years of age or older of the deceased adopted person, or the parent or guardian of a minor direct descendant of the deceased adopted person for an uncertified, long form copy of the adopted person's original certificate of birth.  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, notarized request for an uncertified, long form copy of the adopted person's original certificate of birth, as provided in this paragraph, excluding any statistical data gathered solely for the use of the State.

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

 

     2.  (New section)  a.  For 12 months after the date of enactment of this act, a birth parent of a person adopted prior to the date of enactment of this act may submit to the State Registrar a written, notarized request for nondisclosure or may make such a request to the State Registrar in person.  The request for nondisclosure shall prohibit the State Registrar from providing the name of the birth parent to the adopted person 18 years of age or older, a direct descendant 18 years of age or older of the deceased adopted person, or the parent or guardian of a minor direct descendant of the deceased adopted person, upon submission of a written, notarized request for an uncertified, long form copy of the adopted person's original certificate of birth pursuant to R.S.26:8-40.1.

     b.  A birth parent who places a child for adoption following the date of enactment of this act may submit to the State Registrar a written, notarized request for nondisclosure or make such a request to the State Registrar in person, at any time during the 12-month period between the adopted child's 17th and 18th birthdays.  The request for nondisclosure shall prohibit the State Registrar from providing the name of the birth parent to the adopted person 18 years of age or older, a direct descendant 18 years of age or older of the deceased adopted person, or the parent or guardian of a minor direct descendant of the deceased adopted person, upon submission of a written, notarized request for an uncertified, long form copy of the adopted person's original certificate of birth pursuant to R.S.26:8-40.1.

     c.  The State Registrar shall acknowledge, by mail, or if the request is made in person, at the time the request is made, receipt of the request for nondisclosure and shall enclose with the receipt a family medical history form, which the State Registrar shall require the birth parent to complete to the best of the parent's knowledge and return to the State Registrar within 60 days.  The birth parent shall update the family medical history form every 10 years until the birth parent reaches the age of 40, and every five years thereafter.  Failure of a birth parent to complete the form upon requesting nondisclosure and return it within 60 days or to complete the requisite updates of the form in a timely manner as determined by the State Registrar shall nullify the birth parent's request for nondisclosure.  The State Registrar shall notify the birth parent by certified mail at least 45 days prior to nullifying the birth parent's request for nondisclosure. 

     In addition to the medical history form, the birth parent may submit a detailed summary of any available nonidentifying developmental, cultural and social history information and a written narrative of a personal nature.  Any medical, nonidentifying developmental, cultural and social history information or written narrative of a personal nature, which is submitted by the birth parent to the State Registrar, shall be disclosed to the adopted person or direct descendant or parent or guardian of a direct descendant of the deceased adopted person upon request pursuant to R.S.26:8-40.1.

     d.  At any time following the request for nondisclosure, the birth parent may rescind the request and the State Registrar shall provide the name of the birth parent to the adopted person or direct descendant or parent or guardian of a direct descendant of the deceased adopted person, upon request.

 

     3.  (New section)  Beginning 12 months after the date of enactment of this act, upon receipt of a written, notarized 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 parent or guardian of a minor direct descendant of the deceased adopted person with an uncertified, long form copy of  the adopted person's original certificate of birth.  If the birth parent of the adopted person has submitted a request for nondisclosure pursuant to subsections a. or b. of section 2 of this act, the State Registrar shall delete the name of the birth parent from the uncertified, long form copy of the original certificate of birth.

 

     4.  (New section)  a.  An adopted person 18 years of age or older may submit to the State Registrar a notice of that person's current name or address in addition to other pertinent identifying information.  The State Registrar shall maintain the information as part of the original certificate of birth file of the adopted person.

     b.  Upon receipt of a written, notarized request from a member of an adopted person's immediate birth family, the State Registrar shall provide the family member with the adopted person's current name and address.

     c.  Any member of the adopted person's birth family may submit to the State Registrar a notice of that member's name and current address, family medical information, nonidentifying developmental, cultural and social history information, and a written narrative of a personal nature.  This information shall be disclosed to the adopted person or direct descendant or parent or guardian of a direct descendant of the deceased adopted person, upon submission of a written, notarized request for such information to the State Registrar.

     d.  The Department of Health and Senior Services shall make counseling available for a fee for all persons providing information to or requesting information from the State Registrar pursuant to sections 2 through 4 of this act and shall inform all those persons of the availability of the counseling.

 

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

 

     6.  (New section)  a.  There is established a mutual consent voluntary adoption registry in the Department of Health and Senior Services.

     Beginning on the 60th day after the date of enactment of this act, the department shall maintain a registry with the last known names and addresses of an adoptive parent or guardian of a minor adopted person or an adopted person 18 years of age or older and the adopted person's birth parents and any other identifying information which the adoptive parent or guardian of a minor adopted person, adopted person 18 years of age or older or birth parents desire to include in the registry.  The registry shall be open with respect to all adoptions in the State, regardless of when they took place.  All information in the registry shall be confidential, and shall not be released to the individual registrants without specific written authorization under penalty of law.

     b.  The registry shall be available for those persons choosing to enter information, but no one shall be required to do so.  No one shall be solicited, sought out, contacted or required to provide adoption related information to the registry.  The department may release identifying information only when it receives requests from both the adoptive parent or guardian of a minor adopted person or adopted person 18 years of age or older and a birth parent and a match is made.

     c.  The department shall make counseling available for a fee for all persons seeking to use the registry and shall inform all affected persons of the availability of the counseling.

     d.  All costs for establishing and maintaining the registry shall be obtained through user fees charged to all persons who register.

 

     7.  (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 4 of this act.  The report shall include statistical, non-identifying data regarding:

     a.  the number of requests for nondisclosure submitted by birth parents;

     b.  the number of uncertified, long form copies of original birth certificates, which include the names of the birth parents, that were provided to adopted persons or the direct descendant or parent or guardian of the direct descendant of deceased adopted persons;

     c.  the number of uncertified, long form copies of original birth certificates, from which the names of the birth parents have been deleted, that were provided to adopted persons or the direct descendant or parent or guardian of the direct descendant of deceased adopted persons;

     d.  the number of adopted persons and birth family members who submitted current names and addresses, family medical information, nonidentifying developmental, cultural and social history information, or written narratives of a personal nature; and

     e.  the number of adopted persons or the direct descendant or the parent or guardian of the direct descendant of deceased adopted persons and birth family members with whom such information was shared.

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

 

     8.  (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 procedures for periodic updates of the family medical history form required of a birth parent who requests nondisclosure pursuant to section 2 of this act;

     b.  ensure the accuracy and safeguard the confidentiality of the information provided to and by the State Registrar pursuant to sections 2 and 4 of this act; and

     c.  establish a nominal service fee to meet the costs of implementing the provisions of sections 2 through 4 of this act.

 

     9.  (New section)  The Commissioner of Health  and Senior Services shall adopt rules and regulations pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.) to effectuate the purposes of section 6 of this act.

 

     10.  (New section)  The Department of Health and Senior Services shall contract with television and radio 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 a birth parent is required to follow in order to request nondisclosure pursuant to section 2 of this act and the time limit imposed on a birth parent for requesting nondisclosure. 

 

     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 descendants access to an adopted person's original birth certificate and other related information, and establishes a mutual consent voluntary adoption registry.

     The bill amends N.J.S.A.26:8-40.1 to:  eliminate the requirement that the State Registrar must place the adopted person's original birth certificate and all papers pertaining to the new certificate of birth under seal; and allow 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 parent or guardian of a minor direct descendant of a deceased adopted person to obtain an uncertified, long form copy of the adopted person's original birth certificate, upon submission of a written notarized request to the State Registrar.

     The bill allows a birth parent, who placed a child for adoption prior to the date of enactment of the bill, a 12-month period from that date to submit a written, notarized request for nondisclosure of the birth parent's name or to make such a request in person.  A birth parent, who places a child for adoption after the date of enactment of the bill, may submit a request for nondisclosure at any time during the 12-month period between the adopted child's 17th and 18th birthdays.  The request for nondisclosure prohibits the State Registrar from providing the name of the birth parent on the uncertified, long form birth certificate copy provided upon request to the adopted person or direct descendant or parent or guardian of a minor direct descendant of the deceased adopted person. 

     If nondisclosure is requested, the State Registrar shall acknowledge the request by mail, or if the request is made in person, at the time the request is made, and shall require the birth parent to complete a family medical history form to the best of the parent's knowledge and return the form to the State Registrar within 60 days.  The birth parent shall update the family medical history form every 10 years until the birth parent reaches the age of 40, and every five years thereafter.  Failure of a birth parent to complete the form upon requesting nondisclosure and return it within 60 days or to complete the requisite updates of the form in a timely manner as determined by the State Registrar shall nullify the birth parent's request for nondisclosure.  The State Registrar shall notify the birth parent by certified mail at least 45 days prior to nullifying the birth parent's request for nondisclosure.  This information, along with any nonidentifying developmental, cultural and social history information and a written narrative of a personal nature, which the birth parent may want to submit, shall be disclosed to the adopted person or a direct descendant or the parent or guardian of a minor direct descendant of the deceased adopted person, upon request.

     The bill also establishes a voluntary information exchange mechanism to permit adopted adults and members of their birth families to record and share their current names, addresses, family medical information, nonidentifying developmental, cultural and social history information, as well as written narratives of a personal nature.

     The bill requires the Department of Health and Senior Services to make counseling available for a fee for all persons providing information to or requesting information or documents from the State Registrar pursuant to this bill and to inform all those persons of the availability of the counseling.

     Under the provisions of the bill, any person, firm, partnership, corporation, association or agency that places a child for adoption shall not be liable for any damages incurred as a result of the exchange of information pursuant to the provisions of the bill.

     The bill 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 also establishes a mutual consent voluntary adoption registry in the Department of Health and Senior Services.  The registry shall include the last known names and addresses of an adoptive parent or guardian of a minor adopted person or an adopted person 18 years of age or older and the adopted person's birth parents and any other identifying information that the adoptive parent or guardian of a minor adopted person, adopted person 18 years of age or older or birth parents desire to include in the registry.  The registry shall be open with respect to all adoptions in the State, regardless of when they took place.

     The registry shall be available for those persons choosing to enter information, but no one shall be required to do so.  The department may release identifying information only when it receives requests from both the adoptive parent or guardian of a minor adopted person or adopted person 18 years of age or older and a birth parent and a match is made.

     The department shall make counseling available for a fee for all persons seeking to use the registry and shall inform all affected persons of the availability of the counseling.  All costs for establishing and maintaining the registry shall be obtained through user fees charged to all persons who register.

     The bill requires the Commissioners of Health and Senior Services and 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 requests for nondisclosure submitted by birth parents;

*   the number of uncertified, long form copies of original birth certificates, which include the names of the birth parents, that were provided to adopted persons or the direct descendant or parent or guardian of the direct descendant of deceased adopted persons;

*   the number of uncertified, long form copies of original birth certificates, from which the names of the birth parents have been

     deleted, that were provided to adopted persons or the direct descendant or parent or guardian of the direct descendant of deceased adopted persons;

*   the number of adopted persons and birth family members who submitted current names and addresses, family medical information, nonidentifying developmental, cultural and social history information, or written narratives of a personal nature; and

*   the number of adopted persons or the direct descendant or the parent or guardian of the direct descendant of deceased adopted persons and birth family members with whom such information was shared.

     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 procedures for periodic updates of the family medical history form required of a birth parent who requests nondisclosure;

*   ensure the accuracy and confidentiality of the information provided to and by the State Registrar; and

*   establish a nominal service fee to meet the costs of the services provided by the State Registrar pursuant to the provisions of this bill.

     The Commissioner of Health and Senior Services shall also adopt rules and regulations to establish and operate the mutual consent voluntary adoption registry.

     The bill requires the Department of Health and Senior Services to contract with television and radio 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 the bill, and appropriates $90,000 to the department for this purpose.  The public service messages shall inform the public of the procedures a birth parent must follow in order to request nondisclosure and the time limit imposed on a birth parent for requesting nondisclosure.