To access closed adoption birth records or to not access closed adoption birth records. That has certainly been a question for many decades among those it affects the most – adoptees, the families that have adopted them and birth parents. There has been a divide of opinion on this topic to say the least. On one hand, birth parents that have decided they want to keep their identity a secret have most likely done so because they wanted protection.
On the other hand, many adoptees feel it’s their right to have access to their records of birth and that it’s unfair that the state where they were born knows more about their birth histories than they do. No matter what side of the coin opinions land on, there is no question this topic will most likely be a nationwide debate for decades to come. The storing of adoption records, though similar, varies state by state. In New Jersey, state adoption records had been sealed for the protection of and anonymity for those who desired not to share their identities – though recently, these records have been voted to be unsealed. The Division of Child Protection & Permanency (DCP&P) Adoption Registry, a unit within the Department of Children and Families, has been there for decades assisting adoptees and birth parents who have expressed a desire to maintain contact after adoption.
The DCP&P Adoption Registry – The Sealing of State Adoption Records in New Jersey
According to an article by the NJ Coalition for Adoption Reform & Education, adoption records were initially sealed to protect the adoptee and his family from any kind of public scrutiny from the “stigma” of adoption as well as possible confrontations and harassments from birth parents. In New Jersey, adoption records were first sealed and brought into law on November 19, 1940. The Division of Child Protection & Permanency (DCP&P) Adoption Registry was not yet in effect, as it is a unit within the Department of Children and Families (DCF) – the child welfare system did not exist in the 1940s. Because of the non- existence of a state-governed system for children in care, there was no easy way to access birth records. Until the implementation of the Adoption Registry, there was no possibility of having access to sealed birth records without a court order.
The DCP&P Adoption Registry – Keeping Birth Families Connected
In Chapter C of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families Policy Manual, it describes the role of the DCP&P Adoption Registry. The registry serves those who were adopted through the state child welfare system – currently known as the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P). The DCP&P Adoption Registry stores information about birth parents and other members of the family and gives the adult adoptee or adoptive parents of a minor adoptee information (non-identifying) about the birth family as well as the circumstances surrounding the adoption. It also acts as a liaison between the adoptees and birth family members and serves as a place where birth parents can contact the adoptees should they choose to do so.
For a full scope of services provided by the Adoption Registry today, please click here.
The DCP&P Adoption Registry – New Policy on Adoption Records
In May of 2014, New Jersey joined the ranks of states that allow adoptees to have access to previously sealed birth records. It no doubt took a lot of consideration in passing this bill into law, as there are many factors that contributed to the final decision, namely that of protection of identity. The Open Adoptions Records Bill has been signed into law, allowing birth parents of adoptees before August 1, 2015 a full year to request that their names be expunged from the child’s birth records. For children that are adopted after this date, birth parents will not have the option of having their names removed, but they will have a say in whether they want to be contacted. When Governor Chris Christie signed the bill into law he expressed, “I want them to have that opportunity,” referring to adoptees. He continued, “…I also want the young woman who makes the decision to give up her child to be protected as well.”
For more information on the passing of the new adoption records law, read about it in FAFS’ foster care newsletter.
The DCP&P Adoption Registry – A Cloud of Mystery Lifted
The cloud of mystery that once loomed over state adoption birth records is finally beginning to lift. Now more than ever, there is an opportunity for adoptees who have not experienced open adoption to shed a little more light onto their biological family’s history. It’s easy to imagine, if you are adopted, wanting to know who your birth parents and/or siblings are – if nothing more than to have an understanding of your biological family’s medical history. The DCP&P Adoption Registry is a free service that plays a pivotal role in connecting families that have made the decision to receive contact. Biological parents have found biological children, siblings have been reunited and families have connected once again. There are still many searching for that biological connection, but with agencies like the DCP&P Adoption Registry available there is still hope.