TRENTON - Adopted children often have little information about family medical history or even their true ethnicity, but a bill signed by Gov. Chris Christie Tuesday is aimed at easing that struggle.
Pam Hasegawa and dozens of other advocates for adopted children got closer to a glimpse of their past.
Currently under state law, adopted kids and their families need a court order to see their own birth certificates.
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The new bill signed by the governor, whose sister is adopted, lifts that restriction.
"New Jersey is bringing a new, open approach to adoption and birth records, by removing the lengthy and burdensome requirements of obtaining a court order in order for adopted children and adoptive parents to access those birth records," Christie says. "This is one of those issues that I not only understand as a governor, but that I understand as a brother."
The new law takes effect in 2017. Birth parents of children adopted before August 2015 can choose to remain anonymous, but must provide a medical history.
Birth parents of children adopted after August 2015 won't be anonymous, but can choose to be contacted through a third party.
"Bottom line is birth mothers are not hiding," says Peter Franklin, of Adoptees Without Liberty. "For many of them, their babies were taken from them simply because they were not married and these women are dying to say, 'Wow, my son turned out OK,' you know? I think that's a beautiful thing, I'm proud of my state, I really am."
"I think I'm still in shock because it happened so quickly," says Hasegawa. "After 34 years of labor, we entered the delivery room just a few weeks ago and here we are!"
Under the bill, parents who choose to remain anonymous will be encouraged to update their family medical information every few years.