SENATE HEALTH, HUMAN SERVICES AND SENIOR CITIZENS COMMITTEE

 

STATEMENT TO

 

SENATE, No. 873

 

with committee amendments

 

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

 

DATED: †JANUARY 27, 2014

 

††††† The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee reports favorably and with amendments Senate Bill No. 873.

††††† As amended by the committee, this bill provides adult adopted persons and certain other individuals with the opportunity to obtain an adopted person's original birth certificate and other related documents, with certain restrictions to protect birth parentsí privacy.

††††† Specifically, the bill amends current law to allow the following persons, 18 years of age or older, to obtain access to an uncertified, long-form copy of an adopted person's original birth certificate, upon request to the State Registrar:† 1) the adopted person; 2) a direct descendant, sibling, or spouse of the adopted person; 3) the adoptive parent, legal guardian, or other legal representative of the adopted person; or 4) a State or federal agency.† Under current law, the only way to obtain an adopted personís original birth certificate is by court order.

††††† The amended bill eliminates language in existing law that previously authorized a court to replace the adopteeís place of birth on the birth certificate with that of the adopting parentsí residence.† As amended, therefore, the bill generally requires the birth certificate to identify the adopteeís actual place of birth.† However, in the case of a foundling, the bill requires the court to designate the date and place of birth.† The bill, as amended, also updates references to birth certificates involving foreign adoptions, and directs local registrars of vital statistics to forward the original certificate of birth to the State Registrar when a new one is made.

††††† The bill provides an opportunity for the birth parent of an adopted person to indicate a preference concerning contact with the adopted person, by filing with the State Registrar a document indicating whether the parent prefers direct contact with the adopted person, contact through the use of an intermediary, or no contact. The birth parent may change this preference at any time by submitting a revised document of contact preference to the State Registrar.

††††† Pursuant to the amended billís provisions, a birth parent who submits a document of contact preference to the State Registrar must additionally submit family history information, including medical, cultural, and social history.† A birth parent who prefers no contact will be encouraged to update their 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 an uncertified, long-form copy of the original birth certificate, will provide the requester with information regarding the birth parent's preference for contact, as well as any family history information document that has been submitted to the State Registrar by the birth parent, including any updated information submitted.† The bill authorizes the State Registrar to establish a system to inform authorized requesters in the event that new information is added to an adopteeís certificate of birth file.†

††††† An adoptee who is 18 years of age or older, upon submission of a written, notarized request to the adoption agency or intermediary who facilitated the adoption, may obtain any available medical or family history information concerning the adoptee, which is contained in the person's adoption file.† If the requester is unable to obtain this information because the agency or intermediary is unknown, the requester may petition the court that granted the adoption to identify the agency or intermediary, if possible. †As amended, the bill also authorizes an adoptee who was under the custody of the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) at the time of adoption, to request from the director of DCP&P a statement, based on DCP&P's case file, which summarizes the circumstances under which parental rights for the child were terminated.

††††† The bill directs the State Registrar, through the Department of Health (DOH), to prepare information regarding counseling resources and the use of an intermediary for the purpose of enabling an adoptee to make contact with a birth parent, and to make this information available on the DOH website.† The registrar is also required to provide this information to any person requesting the original long-form birth certificate or a copy of the contact preference document.

††††† As specified in the amended bill, rules and regulations implementing the billís provisions are to be adopted by the Commissioner of Health, in consultation with the Commissioner of Children and Families, and the rulemaking process may be expedited through the immediate adoption of emergency regulations upon their filing with the Office of Administrative Law.†

††††† Within two years after the billís enactment, the Commissioner of Health and Commissioner of Children and Families must submit a report to the Legislature and the public on the development and administration of these initiatives.† The report must include statistical data identifying the number of birth certificates provided, the number and type of contact preference documents submitted, and the number of family history documents received.†

††††† DOH is required by the bill, as amended, to contract with media outlets to produce and distribute national public service messages designed to increase public awareness of, and encourage participation in, the initiatives established under this bill.† DOH is additionally required to provide public service message information on its departmental website, as well as on the website that is operated by the State of New Jersey.†

††††† This bill was pre-filed for introduction in the 2014-2015 session pending technical review.† As reported, the bill includes the changes required by technical review, which has been performed.

††††† The committee amended the bill to clarify that the existing law and the billís new provisions are equally applicable to adoptees who are born in New Jersey, and adoptees who are born in other states or foreign nations, so long as the State Registrar has received certification of the adoption proceeding or associated judicial decree or judgment.†