Caring for the newborn tamaiti before adoption is finalisedWhen te tamaiti is born we encourage the birthmother to stay in hospital as long as she can and to care for te tamaiti before any placement happens.
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 shift
Giving the newborn time with birthparents
We want to make sure the newborn tamaiti has whatever time with their birthmother is possible. The newborn is sensitive and affected by the birth experience – to give te tamaiti time to recover from birth in a familiar sensory environment, we:
- encourage the birthmother to stay in hospital as long as possible
- encourage the birthparents to care for te tamaiti themselves or within the family/whanau, if possible
- if he’s not already, help the birthfather get involved and make sure that the birthparents are emotionally supported
- advise the selected adoptive applicants they can get involved after the first week.
Checking the health of te tamaiti
Ideally the birthmother is able to stay in hospital while her tamaiti receives post-natal care and health checks. These include standard checks by the Lead Maternity Carer (usually the midwife) immediately after the birth and a medical examination by a paediatrician before te tamaiti is discharged from hospital.
The birthmother is offered a discharge summary from the hospital – she may provide us a copy, but no report is made directly to Oranga Tamariki.
If the medical examination detects any obvious health needs that require medical follow-up, treatment may start straight away. In this case, birthparents as the guardians should consider the extent and timing of adoptive applicants' involvement with the care and any treatment of te tamaiti. The hospital would also need to agree to any applicants' involvement while te tamaiti is in hospital.
Where te tamaiti has any unexpected health needs, the adoptive applicants should take whatever professional advice they want on the future needs of te tamaiti and consider their ability to meet those needs. This is part of making an informed decision about their ability to parent this specific tamaiti. We must also be satisfied that the applicants have the ability to meet the needs of this specific tamaiti before we can issue a social worker’s placement approval. Any concerns about the applicants’ ability to meet the specific or special needs of a tamaiti should be discussed with a supervisor.
In some circumstances we may need to actively recruit adoptive applicants who are able to provide care for a tamaiti with special needs. Discuss this step with a supervisor.
Caring for te tamaiti after leaving hospital
Te tamaiti is only discharged from hospital in the care of their birthmother, legal guardian, or an Oranga Tamariki social worker where we have legal custody under a section 139 agreement. Before the birth, discuss with the birthparents the effects of both contact with and separation from te tamaiti during the time after the birth.
Advise birthparents that by caring for te tamaiti themselves after leaving hospital they:
- shouldn't see this as ‘forcing' them to keep their tamaiti
- may find it hard to be so close to their tamaiti when they're not going to care for them in the long term
- may welcome the opportunity to spend this time with te tamaiti before placing them with adoptive parents.
Where birthparents do not care for te tamaiti after leaving hospital, some separation from te tamaiti may help them to:
- clarify their thoughts and feelings about adoption
- assess their situation including how much support they have
- test whether they can separate successfully before signing the adoption consent – as they will be unable to regain custody of their tamaiti if they feel they've made a mistake once they have signed their consent.
Placing te tamaiti into temporary care
Birthparents are sometimes not able or willing to provide care for te tamaiti themselves, or within their own family/whanau. In these situations, in the time before the consent to adopt can be signed, discuss the option of placing te tamaiti into the care of the chief executive under section 139 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989. To do this, they must sign a temporary care agreement – and Oranga Tamariki will place te tamaiti with an approved caregiver for 28 days, with the possibility of one extension of another 28 days.
We advise them that:
- the birthparent/s remain the guardian of te tamaiti during this time — the birthparents (and whānau or family members with their permission) can still visit and spend time with te tamaiti
- they may break the agreement and resume care of te tamaiti themselves if they decide they no longer want to place their tamaiti for adoption.
To provide reassurance for the birthparents who are planning to use a section 139 agreement, consider taking expectant parents to meet a caregiver before the birth to help them better understand the care environment.
When a temporary care agreement expires
Birthparents shouldn’t feel forced into a decision when the first temporary care agreement expires, but it’s not in the best interests of te tamaiti to keep them in interim care indefinitely. Be aware if birthparents seem unable to make a decision and carefully explore any ambivalence.
We should give birthparents enough time to make a carefully considered decision while acting in the best interests of te tamaiti and their need to attach.
Advise them that they become responsible for the care of te tamaiti when the temporary care agreement expires. We can help by:
- talking through ways to parent te tamaiti themselves
- connecting them with whānau or family
- referring them to agencies that help new parents.
If the birthparents haven’t made a decision by the end of the second 28-day temporary care agreement, we need to consider whether there are care or protection issues involved. It is important we discuss this with our supervisor and / or team leader as appropriate.
Where a second temporary care agreement has been signed, continue liaising with the relevant Oranga Tamariki site.