IAC Center Responds to Change in NJ Adoption Law

IAC Center Responds to Change in NJ Adoption Law

With gratitude to the adoption rights advocates at NJ-CARE IAC Center responds to the change in the NJ Adoption Law.

A New Jersey law signed in 2014 went into effect on January 1, 2017, and NJ adoptees may now access their original birth certificates and other adoption records.  NJ has unsealed the records, original birth certificates  (OBCs), for individuals adopted in that state. The law, which was the culmination of more than 30 years of work by adoptees’ rights advocates, also did away with the sealing of new records, as of August 1, 2015.

Opponents to open records laws contend that they violate the confidentiality of women who placed children for adoption, but New Jersey’s law, like laws in other states, allows birth parents to request to remain anonymous. Far fewer birth parents file such requests than adoptees who request access.

Champions of such laws see gaining access to such information about oneself as a basic human right. “I see access to my birth certificate as a civil right issue,” says Susan Merkel, LSW, a counselor at IAC Center and board member of American Adoption Congress. “Why should any state hide a document that is available to every other citizen? For many adoptees just possessing their birth certificates is enough validation and information. People outside the adoption constellation may not understand that OBC access and the desire to search for birth family are two separate issues.”

“The ceremony for the Restoration of Adoptee Rights was powerful,” says Joni Mantell, LCSW, director of the IAC Center and a mother through domestic adoption. “The adoptees spoke of gaining access to information about their medical history, nationality, and genetic connections, but also finally being able to thank a birth parent, to ask a nagging question, to express or explore a feeling. Adoptive families today, with semi-open and open adoptions, may take this civil right for granted.”

She also notes that “obtaining the OBC is an exciting first step, a ticket to a long-awaited journey. The next step is integrating this information into one’s real life. Time to digest the information, and support to help make sense of the overwhelming emotions and navigate the intricate relationship expectations, are key as all parties move on to a reunion.”

  • Find out about IAC Center’s response to the change in this law. In addition to  Open Adoption Consultants we are now offering Search and Reunion Counseling and will be initiating an IAC Adoption Talking Circle, an open forum in which all adoption constellation members are invited to share their stories and learn by listening to stories others tell.


You can participate by:
  • Reading our NEW IAC Adoption Connections Program Blog, in which we will discuss and share stories of open adoptions, search and reunions.
  • Being interviewed to tell your story. Contact IAC Center Counselor Susan Merkel, LSW at  smerkelmsw@iaccenter.comto arrange an interview.
  • Attending our first LIVE Talking Circle at the Pennington NJ office. Contact Joni Mantell at jmantellmsw@iaccenter.com and I will send the start date soon.
  • Getting counseling and support. IAC Center Counselors have extensive experience specific to search and reunion; open adoption, pre-adoption and family building options. We provide a warm, empathetic and safe environment.
  • Please follow us on Facebook! See our page here and don’t forget to “like” it for future updates


This promises to be an exciting and complex new chapter in adoption. Let’s join together to share our stories and to learn from each other,

Based in Pennington, NJ