Birthright law to go into effect Jan. 1 granting adoptees access to birth certificates

A new law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2017 in New Jersey that will unseal the birth records of hundreds of thousands of adoptees.

Adoption records have been sealed in Trenton since the 1940s, making it difficult for adopted children to learn about their family history. More than 900 people have already signed up to get their birth certificates opened.

Susan Merkel adopted her daughter Maia 10 years ago. Merkel was adopted herself and says she was able to find her birth mother with the help of an agency when she was 23.

"In a way, for the very first time in my life, I felt relaxed in who I was, because it all kind of then made sense," she says.

Merkel says that this new law is important even for adoptees who do not wish to meet their birth parents, because they are still able to get valuable medical information.

"It's something that essentially was taken from a baby who had really nothing to say about it at the time but the document belongs to the child, to the person," Merkel says. "It really shouldn't belong to the state of New Jersey."

A birth parent can file to redact their name from the birth certificate, and more than 300 already have in advance of the new law. But even without the name there are other details adoptees may only find there. Merkel says she is looking forward to seeing hers for the first time.

"I'd like to know what time I was born. I have no idea how much I weighed or what time or what hospital," she says.

The records of 300,000 adoptees will be unsealed when the law goes into effect.

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