Adopting a new stance on adoption access
TRENTON | Amy Lerke-Gonzalez always wondered whether she looked like her birth mother.
But the Washington Borough resident, adopted at 2 days old, never sought out her birth mother.
"I always felt like my mother who adopted me was my mother," said Lerke-Gonzalez.
At 40 years old, Lerke-Gonzalez is still unsure of whether she will ever contact her birth mother.
But Lerke-Gonzalez, herself an adoptive parent, is sure of one thing: She and other adoptees should at least have the opportunity to learn about their roots.
Now, a state proposal, which has been debated for more than 20 years, is again making its way through the Legislature and would give adoptees the ability do so.
The bill would unseal state adoption records, providing adoptees access to their original birth certificate at the age of 18. It would also allow the adoptive parents of a minor access to the information.
Advocates who have pushed for the measure say that adoptees have the right to know their cultural background as well as their medical history.
"We've done nothing to get born at a time when our parents either believed or were persuaded that they couldn't care for us, and we get punished," said Pam Hasegawa, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform and Education.
According to Hasegawa, about 150,000 adoption records remain sealed in New Jersey.
In a Monday poll at lehighvalleylive.com, 74 percent of respondents said they believe adoption records should be unsealed when an adoptee turns 18. The remaining 26 percent said the papers should remain private.