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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/adoption/working-with-expectant-parents/other-options-for-expectant-parents-considering-adoption/
Printed: 18/07/2024
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Last updated: 11/09/2020

Other options for expectant parents considering adoption

We support expectant parents to make a fully informed decision about adoption by exploring other options and encouraging expectant parents to consider the long-term needs of te tamaiti.

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


We don't provide counselling about abortion but let expectant parents know that all New Zealand residents can get free professional counselling, including pre-decision counselling, from their GP or from all abortion clinics. A referral from their doctor or family planning clinic may be required.

If a woman is less than 20 weeks pregnant, advise them that abortion is an option. It's important to advise them early because between 9 and 14 weeks pregnant abortion is a minor surgical procedure and between 14 and 19 weeks the surgical procedure is under general anaesthetic.

Family Planning

Abortion Services NZ

Women of any age can consent to or refuse an abortion. Young women don’t need the consent of their parents or guardians. Support women who are considering this option to explore all options and consequences of this decision. Discuss with your supervisor if:

  • the expectant mother is very young, or
  • there are reasons to believe their pregnancy resulted from an abusive relationship.

Family violence

Responding to underage sexual relationships – Reports of concern about sexualised behaviour


Parenting te tamaiti themselves

We can help expectant parents identify their strengths and abilities to parent and care for te tamaiti themselves.

Explore how caring for te tamaiti will affect their relationships and plans for the future such as for study and their career.

Encourage them to explore:

  • the reasons for considering adoption — could they work on these and parent te tamaiti themselves
  • the need for all tamariki to have a primary attachment with a parent figure — if they place te tamaiti in the care of others those people will have that primary attachment rather than the expectant parents
  • the level of support they’ll get from whānau or family, friends, hapū and iwi
  • whether to parent alone or with their partner — if expectant parents don’t live together and one of them raises the child, the other parent will need to pay child support
  • their rights and duties as guardians.

When expectant parents assess their financial situation make sure they have information about benefits they can get through Work and Income and other assistance from the community, for example, through Plunket, mothers’ groups, pre- and post-natal support, and in particular any specific support options relevant for Māori – especially Māori non-governmental organisation (NGO) agencies who provide support to expectant/new parents.

When an expectant parent decides to parent their tamaiti, consider what services or supports they could benefit from. If we think expectant parents would benefit from extra support to parent effectively, explore a referral to Family Start, Māori providers or equivalent parenting support services in their area. Any referral that we make should be made with the knowledge and agreement of the expectant parents concerned. Consult with Care and Protection or Partnering for Outcomes colleagues to help determine what support services are available and would be most relevant.

Work and Income

Types of court orders

Attachments – Tuituia domain

Whānau or family care for te tamaiti

Encourage expectant parents to explore potential care arrangements within their whānau or family if they can't parent the child themselves.

A whakapapa/whānau care arrangement keeps te tamaiti within part of their whānau or family. Family care with either maternal or paternal whanau retains whakapapa connections and should be explored.

Nothing formal needs to happen if te tamaiti is going to be raised by someone in their whānau or family. Many tamariki are raised this way (for example, through whāngai). Expectant parents can make safe care decisions for their tamariki to be raised by someone in their whānau or family without any legal input.

Whāngai – Govt.nz website

Whāngai – customary fostering and adoption – TeAra.govt.nz website

However, formalising the relationship legally could be explored, for example through:

  • a guardianship order
  • a parenting order, or
  • adoption.

It is important that expectant parents understand the choices that exist to secure permanent care for their child without the step of adoption. For whānau or family care arrangements, the step of adoption which severs the legal rights of birthparents may not be necessary.

Types of court orders

Families should think about how the legal change of adoption affects roles within their family, for example an expectant parent could become a sibling.

Placing te tamaiti with friends

Expectant parents may want to place te tamaiti with someone they know and trust. Or they may be approached by a third party who recommends potential parents.

Anyone intending to apply for an adoption order must be assessed as applicants under our caregiver and adoptive applicant assessment process.

Assessing and approving caregivers and adoptive parents

Ideally, adoptive applicants are encouraged to attend the Preparing to Care programme. They must be assessed and approved before any social worker placement approval can be issued, which is necessary before they can legally take te tamaiti into their care.

Adoptive applicants, other than close whānau or family (as defined in section 2 of the Adoption Act 1955), can’t legally take te tamaiti into their care with a view to adoption without:

  • prior social worker approval
  • an interim order of adoption, or
  • a parenting order that’s arranged through a court.

Preparing to be a caregiver or adoptive parent

We should encourage expectant parents to get legal advice so they can fully understand their legal rights and obligations. Expectant parents should know that they can change their minds about any adoption plan before or after the birth up until consent is given, even though they might worry about disappointing their friends.

Community Law

Find a family lawyer

Placement of siblings

Keeping siblings together in one family enhances a sense of belonging for tamariki – this is consistent with the principle of whanaungatanga and maintaining kinship ties. Where an expectant parent is considering placing a second or subsequent tamariki for adoption, explore the possibility of placement with their sibling. Encourage expectant parents to understand how this benefits te tamaiti. With the expectant parents’ endorsement, this may involve approaching the adoptive family – even where they are not currently assessed and approved applicants with Oranga Tamariki – in order to explore this possibility.

If that's not possible, consider an adoptive family who are willing to preserve the siblings' relationship by allowing them to spend time together – including special events and occasions – the goal is for siblings who are being raised by adoption to know each other and to have an enduring relationship over time.