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NJ Lawmakers Approve Bill Giving Adoptees Access to Birth Records

2-27-14

By Brenda Flanagan
Correspondent

Marty Frumkin’s cousin spilled the long-kept family secret.

“She just blurted out, ‘You’re adopted,’” he relayed.

“I was numb,” Frumkin said.

The 67-year-old from Atlantic Highlands felt stunned. And he still can’t see his original birth certificate. It remains sealed.

“If I had stayed as a foster child I’d be able to get this information. Because I was adopted, I no longer have access,” Frumkin said.

So Frumkin’s joined activists supporting the so-called Birthright Bill that would let adoptees access their New Jersey birth records.

“I’m 67 years old and I’d like to know who I am, before I croak in a couple of years,” Frumkin said.

“I was very cautious about it. I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. I didn’t know what to expect,” explained Tom McGee, who hired a private detective to find his birth mother.

“And she was very grateful because she said she’d never forgotten me, she prayed for me every day,” McGee said. “I’ll tell you what she told me the last time I talked to her — just this week — ‘Thank you for finding me.’”

But the bill’s critics claim some birth mothers don’t want to be found, that they gave up their babies for adoption only after being promised no one would ever reveal their names who signed contracts.

“That were shoved in these 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds’ faces that said, ‘You will be kept anonymous. We will not find you. You will not have a second family and 25 years later, get a knock on the door. We promise you that,’” said Casagrande.

Republican Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande wants a compromise that would let biological parents decide. She claims it would prevent infants from being abandoned.

“Because where we can’t guarantee that mother or father’s privacy, what happens is unfortunately children get abandoned, at hospitals and police stations,” Casagrande said.

But the ayes had it. The bill passed the Assembly 44 to 24 and won Senate approval 23 to 8.

A couple of years ago a similar bill got to the governor’s desk. He conditionally vetoed it saying he wanted a buffer, an intermediary who’d reach out to birth parents and ask whether they wanted to be contacted before releasing birth records.

Across the U.S., eight states already have completely open adoption records. Supporters claim adoptees need to know their medical history, but that it’s also a civil rights issue.

“I was denied the right to find out about my ancestry, my heritage, my family,” Frumkin said.

The bill’s headed back to the governor’s desk. No word on what he’ll do this time.