TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — In less than four days, a seismic shift is coming to New Jersey’s adoption laws.
Most adopted children will be able to learn the names of their birth parents, but as CBS2’s Meg Baker found out, some birth parents still want to remain anonymous.
Pam Hasegawa grew up in New Jersey not knowing who her birth parents were.
“If you’re adopted it’s just a natural thing to want to know where you came from,” she said.
She leads the New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform which won the fight to open adoption records. The files were first sealed by law in 1940, which means parents of children adopted after August 1, 2015 can no longer remain anonymous. All records will be open.
“This change in the law is going to help thousands and thousands know the truth about themselves, give their own children and grandchildren the truth, medical information, family history, what part of the world you are from,” she said.
It’s crunch time for birth parents who still wish to remain anonymous.
“This is very important; by December 31, this Saturday, they need to come to the website, submit forms, or post mark, and mail forms,” New Jersey Health Department Policy Director, Anthony Welch said.
Because of the church’s century long role in honoring the confidentiality of birth parents — the Catholic church opposes opening records.
“Oh, we’ve opposed this for over 30 years,” Catholic Conference, Executive Director, Patrick Brannigan said. “It’s rather unfair, retroactively in 2014, to say you no longer have confidentiality, you must file a request by December 31.”
The new law was approved in 2014, but the agencies involved said it has been difficult getting the word out to birth parents.
The Catholic Conference has received hundreds of calls from many elderly parents who need help accessing paperwork.
The NJ Department of Health said more than 300 birth parents have asked not to have records opened, but those who were adopted disagree.
“For 65 years thinking I was a nice Russian, Jewish boy from Brooklyn, I found out I am really Irish Catholic,” Marty Frumkin said.
Frumkin, from Middletown, said finding out who his birth mother was is part of completing his story. More than 800 adoptees have requested records.
New Jersey joins 13 other states who also allow access. It’s unclear if the law change will encourage parents who want to give up their child, not to go through normal procedure.
New Jersey’s safe haven law still allows an individual to give up an unwanted infant safely, legally, and anonymously.