By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — New Jersey parents who gave their children up for adoption are being advised to act this week, if they want their identities to remain confidential. A change in state law will open up birth records for adoptees beginning January 1.

The new law reverses a decades old guarantee of privacy for birth parents and Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, thinks more should have been done to alert them that the law was changing.

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“If someone’s promised something legally and you’re changing it, that’s a huge step and the legislature should have included funding to provide educational outreach to people,” Brannigan said.

The Conference has been doing the best it can, but there were some 300,000 adoptions in New Jersey under the old law and the Conference is still fielding phone calls from distraught parents. Jim King has fielded most of them.

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“Just the idea has caused them a great deal of stress,” King said, “because this event occurred decades ago when they were very, very young.”

Brannigan understands adoptees’ need for information and the disappearing stigma of out-of-wedlock births but he thinks those who want to keep the privacy they were promised should have the chance to — so he’s urging them to go to the state website and submit a form that will redact their name and contact information from birth records.

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Assistance is also available through the state helpline (866) 649-8726 and the Catholic Conference helpline (609) 989-4809.