Friday, February 5, 2016

Don't let Christie veto end adoption-law effort

In the best of situations, when a mother decides to give up her baby, she meets with the adoptive parents and they agree to retain at least enough contact to resolve health issues and leave the door open for a day when a child may want to meet his birth parent.

Don't let Christie veto end adoption-law effort

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Gov. Christie says he´s concerned about the privacy rights of birth parents who give up a baby for adoption.
Gov. Christie says he's concerned about the privacy rights of birth parents who give up a baby for adoption.

In the best of situations, when a mother decides to give up her baby, she meets with the adoptive parents and they agree to retain at least enough contact to resolve health issues and leave the door open for a day when a child may want to meet his birth parent.

Unfortunately, most adoptions don’t occur in an open process in which children are given future access to birth records and important medical and cultural information.

For decades, there has been an effort in New Jersey to change that and help adults adopted as infants find closure in their often years-long searches to reveal the links to their hidden identities.

That effort was dealt a severe setback, however, by Gov. Christie, who conditionally vetoed a measure last week that would have given adult adoptees limited access to their birth records.

While disappointing, the veto should not mean the end to a fight that has lasted more than 30 years. There is room for compromise that can still save the measure passed earlier this year.

It was uncertain what action Christie, who has an adopted sister and is a practicing Catholic, would take on the bill. The New Jersey Catholic Conference, along with New Jersey Right to Life, and the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, had opposed the legislation.

The bill included privacy safeguards and supporters withdrew their demand for unconditional access to adoption records. But Christie says he’s still concerned about the privacy rights of birth parents. So, he and the Legislature need to work that out.

At least Christie admits that New Jersey needs a different approach to its laws on the books since 1940, which require adoptees to obtain a court order to have their birth records unsealed. That costly, timely process isn’t a viable option for many.

The governor needs to back up his words that he won’t stand in the way of reform if his reservations are addressed. But he also needs to back away from ideas that would only protect the status quo, including setting up an unnecessary administrative process requiring adoptees to use an intermediary to locate birth parents.

If the parents are found but want no contact, they would be requested, but not mandated, to provide a medical history. But what’s the logic, since medical information could be provided without identifying the source?

There is no perfect way to resolve cases where people want to know who gave birth to them and the birth parents don’t want to be known. But too much effort has been expended to find a workable compromise to give up now.

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