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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/adoption/direct-adoption-applications-to-the-family-court/direct-adoption-applications-to-the-family-court/
Printed: 20/05/2024
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Last updated: 27/10/2020

Direct adoption applications to the Family Court

People who want to adopt a tamaiti who is known to them can make an adoption application directly to the New Zealand Family Court. When requested by the court, we assess adoptive applicants and provide a social worker’s report.

Upcoming changes for this guidance

This content will be strengthened so it more completely reflects our commitment to practice framed by te Tiriti o Waitangi, based on a mana-enhancing paradigm for practice, and drawing from ​Te Ao Māori principles of oranga to support mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga. We each need to consider how we can apply these principles to our practice when reading this guidance. The following resources provide support:
Practice for working effectively with Māori
Our practice approach

When people want to adopt a tamaiti who is known to them

Adoptive applicants can apply directly to the Family Court when they want to adopt a tamaiti from within their whānau or family, for step-parent adoption applications or for any other proposal to adopt an identified tamaiti.

When the court receives these applications, the court registrar asks us to provide a social worker’s report on the application.

The Adoption Act 1955 applies the same criteria and requirements to all adoption applications whether by whānau or family, non-whānau or family or step-parent.

Section 10 of the Adoption Act 1955

Providing a social worker's report on a direct adoption application to the court

1 Responding to the court

When the court asks us for a social worker’s report about adoptive applicants who have applied to adopt directly to the Family Court, we:

  • acknowledge receipt of the request within 1 week
  • review all the information provided by the court, including:
    • applicants’ affidavits
    • consent documents from the birthparents
    • legal identity documents
    • request more information about the application, if necessary
    • provide a court report or an interim update on progress a week prior to any case review date set by the court registrar.

2 Contacting the adoptive applicants

We contact the adoptive applicants as soon as possible and:

  • send them application forms and advise them they must be assessed
  • advise them that we have been asked to complete a social worker's report on their application
  • arrange a meeting with the applicants where we:
    • explain our role and responsibility in the adoption process, the applicants’ assessment process, including the documentary suitability checks
    • confirm their current circumstances including names, dates of birth, addresses and citizenship and the immigration status of all parties
    • explain that an adoption must always promote the welfare and interests of te tamaiti.

If there’s no response to our first contact, we should ask the solicitor handling the application to help us engage with the applicants.

Use an interpreter and cultural advisor if there are language difficulties and to explain the purpose and procedures of the assessment and report.

3 Gathering information for the social worker's report

We gather the following information for writing the social worker's report to the Family Court.

Adoptive applicants' assessment

We follow the caregiver and adoptive applicants' assessment and approval process to assess whether the adoptive applicants meet the ‘fit and proper’ criteria to adopt te tamaiti. The information gathered should be summarised in the assessment document – which should address the applicants’ ability to meet the 6 core needs of te tamaiti.

Policy: Caregiver and adoptive applicant assessment and approval

Caregiver and adoption assessment framework: The 6 core attributes

Assessment of the applicants’ ability to meet the 6 core needs of te tamaiti means we:

  • assess information from the applicants' suitability checks — police, medical information, residential history, immigration status, references and CYRAS checks. Discuss with the applicants the facts about any offences or medical conditions and the implications of this information for te tamaiti. Balance these factors with the existing attachment te tamaiti has to the applicants and other whānau or family members
  • evaluate the applicants’ home environment and support networks in the community
  • assess the applicants’ ability, skills, resources, financial means and resilience to meet any emotional, psychological, cultural or religious needs te tamaiti may have. This includes the applicants’ understanding of the needs of the adopted tamaiti, and their ability to deal with trauma and loss that te tamaiti may have experienced
  • given that there will usually be an existing parenting/caregiving relationship between the applicants and te tamaiti, we:
    • evaluate the nature and quality of the relationship between te tamaiti and the applicants.
    • explore the applicants’ interactions and relationship with the birthparents and current caregivers of te tamaiti.
    • explore the applicants’ motivation for the application, in order to understand how tamaiti-focused it is. This includes considering the applicants’ commitment to maintain the links of te tamaiti to their birth whānau or family and birth culture after any adoption
  • where adoption applications involve Māori tamariki, we should assess how prospective adoptive parents plan to maintain whānau and cultural connections and whanaungatanga responsibilities with whānau, hapū and iwi as part of considering whether the adoption will promote the welfare and interests of te tamaiti
  • consider any relevant cultural customs, practices and traditions which may be drivers for the adoption. Use cultural advisors to understand the cultural and social context of the adoption proposal
    Cultural resources
     (staff resource)
  • explore the reasons why the applicants want to adopt te tamaiti and discuss:
    • whether adoption is the best way to secure the place of te tamaiti in the whānau or family
    • alternatives to adoption — for example, a guardianship order may achieve the same purpose as adoption, but it doesn’t change the original whānau or family relationships of te tamaiti; while changing the surname of a tamaiti to the adoptive applicant’s surname may strengthen their family unit without changing the original family relationships
    • the adoptive applicants’ view about te tamaiti knowing about the adoption — and any issues or concerns they have about this. Where applicants are unwilling for te tamaiti to know about the adoption, advise that we are required to include this fact in the report, and will recommend that the matter be postponed until this issue has been resolved.
    • that an adoption order will legally exclude not only the birthparent(s), but all other relationships associated with the consenting parent(s) of te tamaiti and their whānau or family.

About te tamaiti

Te tamaiti does not have to consent to the adoption but section 11b of the Adoption Act 1955 requires that the court considers the wishes of te tamaiti depending on their age and understanding.

If they are old enough and with the applicants’ agreement, speak with te tamaiti to find out about:

  • what they understand of the adoption proposal
  • what adoption means to them
  • what their relationship is with the applicants and with individual members of their birth whānau or family.

If te tamaiti is too young for a structured interview, drawings of their whānau or family can be helpful along with the names they use for people.

Whenever possible, we should observe how a young tamaiti interacts with the applicants, birthparents and other whānau or family members.

The understanding of te tamaiti of the adoption

Where parents are unwilling for tamariki to know about the adoption, explore their concerns and provide appropriate information about the right to know about adoption, checking whether other resources can help – such as videos, talking with other adoptive parents, life books, and so on.

Article 8 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRoC) requires states to "respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations". The identity of te tamaiti in part depends on knowledge of and information about their birthparents.

Where applicants remain unable or unwilling to share the facts of the adoption application with te tamaiti, explain that we should address this in the report, and will recommend that a decision on the application be postponed until this issue can be resolved.

Section 11 of the Adoption Act 1955

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRoC)

About the birthparents

As the adoption application is before the court, the birthparents have already consented to the adoption and don’t have to provide any more information.

However, we should include their point of view in the court report if possible and if they agree. It may add to understanding reasons for the adoption and help the court decide whether the proposed adoption promotes the welfare and interests of te tamaiti. It is particularly relevant to explore the birthparents’ availability for future contact and information sharing with te tamaiti and their whānau or family.

4 Writing the social worker's report to the Family Court

Once we’ve gathered all the information about the adoption proposal, we write our report to the Family Court. Our report must have a sound evidence base and should:

  • record fully and fairly the facts about the parties to adoption and their circumstances
  • make observations drawn from assessment interviews and inquiries
  • include the views of te tamaiti (if old enough) and their understanding of adoption and their whānau or family relationships
  • describe how the principles of whakapapa and whanaungatanga are reflected (or not) in the applicants' approach to parenting and the adoption
  • advise about any factors that might significantly impair the ability of the applicants to meet the needs of te tamaiti or jeopardise the safety of te tamaiti
  • give due weight to the cultural and social values of the people involved
  • outline the information that is relevant for the court to determine if the applicants are ‘fit and proper’ people, and whether the adoption promotes the welfare and interests of te tamaiti
  • give any opinions we may want to express and how we formed these opinions
  • make a recommendation on the application that is consistent with the social work assessment about whether the court should make the adoption order.

The social worker's court report on the adoption application

Make sure that the applicants are aware of any concerns held about their application and that they understand the reasons for the recommendation in the report.

When te tamaiti and the applicants are Māori, Oranga Tamariki is required to provide a social worker's report completed by a Māori Adoption court report writer.

Section 2, social worker—(a)(i) & (ii) of the Adoption Act 1955

We provide the social worker’s report to the court under section 10 of the Adoption Act. We do not release a copy of the court report to the applicants. It is for the court to provide a copy of the social worker’s report to the applicants through their lawyer, if they want this information.