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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/adoption/working-with-expectant-parents/when-expectant-parents-want-to-discuss-adoption/
Printed: 19/05/2024
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Last updated: 11/09/2020

When expectant parents want to discuss adoption

We need to be impartial, provide information and explore options with expectant parents so they can make an informed decision that meets the needs of te tamaiti.

Upcoming changes to 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

Arrange an interview with expectant parents

When the expectant parents contact Oranga Tamariki, arrange an initial interview with an adoption social worker at the earliest possible time. This is particularly important if abortion is being considered.

Abortion – Other options for expectant parents considering adoption

If they want to proceed with a second appointment then create a Birthparent Intake on CYRAS.

Using an interpreter or cultural advisor

Consider getting an interpreter if there are barriers to either expectant parent being able to communicate and understand confidently.

Expectant parents who have English as a second language or any other constraints on their ability to understand the adoption process may need additional support to fully understand the reality and long-term implications of adoption, and to express their own views clearly.

An expectant parent’s cultural beliefs could affect their understanding of adoption and a tamaiti being born outside of marriage. These topics should be discussed with care and sensitivity. Consider getting a cultural advisor to assist. Your kairaranga ā-whānau may be a useful source of support and advice.

Responding to the rights and interests of Tangata Whenua—Māori

Use the professional, independent and appropriate interpreters and advisors. Non-professional interpreters and family members should not be used.

Interpreters when English is not the first or preferred language

What we should discuss

We need to talk with expectant parents to discuss their situation and options so they can make an informed decision about the future care of te tamaiti.

Other options for expectant parents considering adoption

Responding to the rights and interests of Tangata Whenua—Māori

Explain to expectant parents that they are in control of the decision-making process and we won’t act without their knowledge or consent.

Plan enough engagement with expectant parents to cover topics such as:

  • expectant parents and family circumstances:
    • pregnancy and health
    • antenatal classes
    • accommodation and income support
    • personal plans and aspirations
    • personal reasons that have led them to consider adoption
    • family, whānau, hapū and iwi relationships, involvement and support
    • relationship or involvement with the expectant father and his family, whānau, hapū and iwi 
  • the options, advantages and disadvantages of the types of permanent care for tamariki, including what adoption means:
    • the relevance of whakapapa and whanaungatanga
      Practice for working effectively with Māori
    • their reasons for considering adoption, the issues they see as stopping them from parenting or from considering wider whānau or family care
    • the option of care with either parent’s whānau or family, hapū and iwi group
    • key differences between custody and guardianship arrangements for te tamaiti and the step of adoption
    • how open adoption benefits te tamaiti (understanding it is not enforceable by law)
    • the future needs and interests of te tamaiti
    • lifelong and intergenerational aspects of adoption
      Lifelong issues in adoption
       – American Adoption Congress website
    • common emotional responses experienced by parents after childbirth
  • the adoption process:
    • how adoptive whānau or family selection works
    • gathering of whānau or family whakapapa and history
    • what happens when te tamaiti is placed with their adoptive parents
    • meeting with adoptive applicants and possible agreement for future contact
    • the opportunity to change their decision after childbirth
    • consulting a lawyer – signing consent to adoption
    • care of te tamaiti before they move to their adoptive parents
    • grief and loss after te tamaiti moves to their adoptive parents
    • post-placement support
    • access to information and the Adult Adoption Information Act 1985
      Adult adoption information (staff resource)
    • the implications of DNA on the confidentiality of family information in the future.

What expectant parents need to be aware of

Provide expectant parents with an opportunity to explore how adoption will affect them and their relationship with te tamaiti in the future.

We can help expectant parents to understand the reality of adoption and to explore whether this is the right choice for their circumstances.  While they'll have no certainty that they made the right decision, having a fuller understanding will help them make the best choice based on what they know at the time.

Once we've established a relationship of trust with the expectant parents, we should explore key implications of adoption with them, including that:

  • adoption severs their parental rights and there is no legal guarantee of future contact with te tamaiti
  • they’ll give up their role as a parent and the adoptive parents could raise te tamaiti differently from how they might have
  • the primary relationship of te tamaiti will be with the adopted family, whānau, hapū and iwi — the intergenerational consequence of adoption is that as well as giving up their roles as parents they will be giving up future roles, for example, as grandparents
  • te tamaiti may not know any other tamariki the expectant parents may have in the future – which means the loss of potential sibling relationships
  • they’ll feel loss and grief, which can vary by individual
  • the grief and loss will not necessarily be resolved by another tamaiti they might have in the future
  • te tamaiti will experience losses as well as gains
  • te tamaiti will benefit from information about their expectant parents and birth family, whānau, hapū and iwi in the future
  • te tamaiti will have a new legal identity, based on their new legal relationship with their adoptive parents. However, their whakapapa will not change and te tamaiti will benefit from knowing about their iwi – which will also allow registration with their iwi.

We can use appropriate resources such as research literature, video information and lived experiences to help expectant parents understand these implications of adoption.

Implications of the Adult Adoption Information Act 1985

It is relevant for expectant parents who place a tamaiti for adoption to understand that:

  • an adopted person can legally access identifying information about their expectant parents when they turn 20, such as their expectant parents' names. They can also register a veto when they turn 19 to prevent expectant parents from getting identifying information about them
  • expectant parents do not have an entitlement to place a veto of the release of their information – therefore there is no such thing as ongoing future confidentiality
  • the availability of genetic information from DNA testing also means that adopted adults can increasingly gain identifying information about their genetic family.

Lifelong issues in adoption – American Adoption Congress website

Adult Adoption Information Act 1985

Adult adoption information (staff resource)