What is open adoptionWe help expectant parents and adoptive applicants understand how open adoption works and the decisions they need to make.
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
Why have open adoption
We promote open adoption for the benefit of te tamaiti. Tamariki can develop a stronger sense of identity and self esteem when they have access to birth whānau or family information, and ongoing contact and relationships with significant birth whānau or family members.
What open adoption means
In an open adoption, expectant parents and adoptive applicants share their identifying information with each other. When te tamaiti moves to the care of their adoptive family, the contact agreement will describe the commitments that the parties have made to ongoing contact and to develop their relationship into the future.
Contact agreements will vary depending on the wishes of the parties involved. Some arrangements involve frequent direct contact between the expectant parents and their wider whānau or family members, and the adoptive applicants and te tamaiti.
Other arrangements may involve some connection with each other through email, letters or phone calls, possibly at pre-arranged times.
- is based on the sharing of identifying information that enables the parties to know each other and develop a relationship through time for the benefit of te tamaiti
- is not shared parenting
- is not the same as whāngai
- is not a binding commitment and is not mandated by law
- may evolve and change over time.
Contact agreement guideline (DOCX 96 KB)
Siblings, cousins, extended whānau and whāngai
Openness in adoption: From secrecy and stigma to knowledge and connections – UCON Health: Adoption Assistance Program website, pages 24–43 are particularly relevant
Advantages of open adoption
Open adoption provides advantages for te tamaiti, birthparents and whānau or family. It does not prevent feelings of loss by the birthparents – but knowing about the wellbeing of te tamaiti can help manage the grief they will experience.
For te tamaiti, open adoption provides access to information and relationships that support their connection with their whakapapa and identity. It also enables the sharing of important information as te tamaiti grows and develops, answers questions from te tamaiti and provides them with reassurance.
Adoptive parents have reported that they feel more secure in their role as a parent because they were chosen by the expectant parents to raise te tamaiti in an open adoption – this contributes to a stronger sense of entitlement to parent te tamaiti.
Exploring open adoption
Once expectant parents have decided they want to proceed with an adoption plan, we explore with them their preferences for the type of adoptive whānau or family they're looking for.
Carefully explore expectations around future contact and relationships with an adoptive whānau or family – this will form part of the criteria for profile selection, and includes:
- type of contact (for example, face-to-face)
- frequency of contact
- who will be involved.
Matching expectant parents' preferences for contact with adoptive applicant availability is an important part of ensuring compatibility. This compatibility in turn contributes to the quality of the relationship that will develop between the respective whānau or family.
Encourage the expectant parents to go to any support groups available and meet with other expectant parents who have open adoptions. Give them resources that may help them with their decision about the sort of relationship they see developing with the adoptive whānau or family.
It's important to support expectant parents to meet with the adoptive applicants they have chosen. If, after careful consideration of the benefits of meeting directly and establishing expectations, the expectant parents do not want to meet the adoptive applicants, we need to respect their wishes. (This is part of establishing preferences and profile selection.)
When they are unwilling to meet, explore and record the options for contact the parties will have available to them if their views change in the future. This might involve approaching the Adoption Service for help in organising contact at a later date.
Sharing identifying information through the contact agreement will generally enable the parties involved to locate and approach each other in any future situation where their contact has lapsed.
However, it is important that the contact agreement specify the parties’ agreement to being located and contacted in the future by Oranga Tamariki. We require an explicit agreement from each of the parties to this sort of approach being made. Only where explicitly agreed, do we have the ability to locate and approach a party in the adoption on the request of the other party. This can be particularly important when parties lose contact with each other and there is a specific need to re-establish contact or share important information.
Through the preparing to care programme and assessment interviews, adoptive applicants learn about tamariki development and the importance of the birth whānau or family to te tamaiti. They explore the ways they can parent a tamaiti not born to them and will indicate in their profile their availability for contact with the expectant parents.
Meeting and making a contact agreement
Facilitate the meeting between expectant parents and adoptive applicants, and help them draft a contact agreement.