Update made to this policy
Practice framework prompts for this policy
Our practice framework helps us make sense of and organise our practice so it is framed in te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi), and draws from te ao Māori principles of oranga, within the context of our role in statutory child protection and youth justice in Aotearoa New Zealand.
How am I ensuring the full range of options for the care of te tamaiti is fully explored with the expectant parents? How will I support expectant parents to make well-informed, tamaiti-centred choices about the future care arrangements for their tamaiti?
What knowledge do I have about the expectant whānau or family and alternative arrangements such as whāngai or customary care arrangements? How do I explore these options with whānau or family while promoting the best interests of te tamaiti and whānau or family?
How am I working with the expectant parents to discuss and consider the short-term and long-term implications of each kind of arrangement for all parties concerned – particularly the long-term impact on oranga for te tamaiti, or whānau or family?
What relational skills will help me involve the father and wider family, whānau, hapū and iwi in decision-making and planning regarding the future care arrangements for te tamaiti?
How am I exploring my own motivations, values and biases when working with expectant parents? How is supervision helping me to prepare for conversations with expectant parents about how they understand the implications that adoption will sever the legal birthright of te tamaiti to their whakapapa or heritage?
Who this policy applies to
This policy applies to expectant parents and parents when they are considering adoption and pursuing a decision to place their tamaiti for adoption.
Responding to the rights and interests of Tangata Whenua—Māori
A decision to place te tamaiti for adoption needs to be carefully considered in terms of its impact on the maintenance and protection of the whakapapa of te tamaiti that ties them to whānau, hapū, iwi, hāpori and ngā Atua.
I te whanaungatanga mai o te pēpi kua uru kē ia ki roto i te whanaungatanga ki ētahi atu – Whanaungatanga begins at conception: when a baby is born, they are already in relationships with others.
Dame Whina Cooper
Consider mana tamaiti – where mana is defined as the intrinsic value and inherent dignity derived from the whakapapa of a tamaiti or rangatahi and their belonging to a whānau, hapū, iwi or family group in accordance with tikanga Māori or its equivalent in the culture of te tamaiti. We can use the 3 overarching principles:
By acknowledging that every tamaiti is born with mana, they are unique and supported to flourish and realise their potential – their rangatiratanga.
Whakapapa is best described using the ahua (structure) of a harakeke (flax bush). Te tamaiti is at the centre of the harakeke surrounded and supported by the outer leaves representing tūpuna (grandparents/ancestors). Whakapapa comes with responsibility and provides identity, belonging and integrity.
The practice of socialisation and the guidance to meaningful relationships with whānau (maternal and paternal), hapū (groups) and iwi collectives and support networks. A working relationship with the kairaranga ā-whānau will help you to widen the search for whānau.
The relevance of UNCRoC
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRoC) recognises the entitlement of tamariki to special care, provision, protection and participation. New Zealand is a party to UNCRoC and the Convention is incorporated into the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.
Several of the articles of UNCRoC have relevance for tamariki when they are adopted. These include:
- Article 7 – A name and nationality
Te tamaiti has the right to a name at birth. Te tamaiti also has the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, to know their parents and be cared for by them.
- Article 8 – Identity protection
The State has an obligation to protect and, if necessary, re-establish basic aspects of the identity of te tamaiti. This includes the name, nationality and family ties of te tamaiti.
- Article 9 – Live with their parents
Te tamaiti has a right to live with their parents unless this is deemed incompatible with the best interests of te tamaiti. Te tamaiti also has the right to maintain contact with both parents if separated from one or both.
- Article 21 – Safe adoption
In countries where adoption is recognised and/or allowed, it shall be carried out only in the best interests of te tamaiti, and then only with the authorisation of competent authorities and safeguards for te tamaiti.
- Article 30 – Their own culture
Tamariki of minority communities and indigenous populations have the right to enjoy their own culture and to practise their own religion and language.
Supporting expectant parents considering adoption
A decision to place te tamaiti for adoption is a life-determining one for te tamaiti, their parents, wider family, whānau, hapū and iwi, and intergenerationally.
The decision to proceed with an adoption plan can only be made by the expectant parents/legal guardians of te tamaiti. We support expectant parents to consider their options, involve their family, whānau, hapū and iwi, and to make well-informed choices.
- support expectant parents to make well-informed, tamaiti-centred choices about the future care arrangements for their tamaiti
- ensure the range of options for the care of te tamaiti is fully explored, including when a private adoption is proposed
- involve the father and wider family, whānau, hapū and iwi in decision-making and planning, wherever possible
- discuss the short-term and long-term implications of each option for all parties concerned – particularly the long-term impact on te tamaiti.
What we discuss with expectant parents
Explain to expectant parents that they are in control of the decision-making process and we won’t act without their knowledge or consent. We must explain that they remain the legal guardians for te tamaiti right up until an adoption order is granted.
Areas to cover in our discussion with expectant parents will include:
- expectant parents’ circumstances, including pregnancy and health, personal reasons that have led to considering adoption, and whānau or family relationships, involvement and support
- the types of permanent care for tamariki and their distinguishing features, including the relevance of whakapapa and whanaungatanga, the benefits of an open adoption arrangement, and the lifelong and intergenerational aspects of adoption
- the adoption process, including understanding the care options that exist for te tamaiti, adoptive applicant selection, what is required for a private adoption, meeting with adoptive applicants and the negotiation of an agreement around future contact, the nature of informed consent and the opportunity to change their decision up until the signing of a legal consent.
Involving the wider family, whānau, hapū and iwi
While family, whānau, hapū and iwi involvement in the adoption process is not mandated by law, it can be useful and valuable for expectant parents and te tamaiti to involve their wider family, whānau, hapū and iwi wherever possible. Wider birth family, whānau, hapū and iwi involvement contributes to more informed exploration of family, whānau, hapū and iwi options, better-quality information for te tamaiti and opportunities to be connected as they journey through their lives if an adoption proceeds.
- support expectant parents to speak with their own family, whānau, hapū and iwi about their decisions and plans and any ongoing involvement they may want to have with te tamaiti
- encourage family, whānau, hapū and iwi/support people to be involved in the process of considering adoption
- explore the barriers to whānau or family involvement where they exist
- explore safe and appropriate ways that enable expectant mothers to involve expectant fathers and birth whānau or family in decision-making.
Pursuing an adoption plan
Following careful consideration of the options that exist for the care of their tamaiti, expectant parents need to have come to a decision that adoption is their intention (although not a binding decision) before moving to consider the selection of an adoptive family for their tamaiti.
Encourage expectant parents to discuss the kind of whānau or family they want for their tamaiti. Choosing a whānau or family is not a commitment to adoption because any plan to place a child for adoption is reviewable up until the consent to adoption is signed – which cannot occur before the 12th day following the birth.
- help expectant parents to provide information about themselves using the birth family history template, which will help them to think about their own experience, priorities and values. This in turn will help them to identify preferences and criteria for adoptive applicants they can consider. (This can then be part of the information sharing with the adoptive applicants they choose.)
Family history from parents who are planning to place a tamaiti for adoption (DOCX 35 KB)
- provide expectant parents with a range of profiles – based on their preferences – that they can consider and select an adoptive whānau or family from for their tamaiti
- advise expectant parents that under section 7(6) of the Adoption Act 1955 they can make their adoption consent conditional on the religion of the adoptive applicants or the religion that the adoptive applicants plan to bring up te tamaiti in – they can’t by law make the adoption conditional on any other specific requirements
- provide expectant parents with the opportunity to plan for the care arrangements for te tamaiti in the period after the birth and before consent to adoption.
The birth of te tamaiti
It is important that the expectant parents consider what they want regarding the care arrangements for their tamaiti once born, the level of involvement they are wanting for themselves and their family, whānau, hapū and iwi, and how they are wanting to involve the adoptive applicants they have chosen. Any consent to adoption can't be signed until after the 12th day following the birth of te tamaiti.
- enable expectant parents considering placing a tamaiti for adoption to re-evaluate their decision in light of the reality of te tamaiti once they're born. Changes in circumstances and expectant parents' emotional response can result in a change of mind about the adoption plan. Social workers must allow as much time as is needed and not influence parents into making a hasty decision
- explore with the expectant parents how they can take care of their tamaiti during the period between birth and before they sign consent to adoption
- where this is not possible, explore whether there are alternative family, whānau, hapū and iwi care options available
- if the expectant parents are not able or willing to provide care for te tamaiti within their own family, whānau, hapū and iwi, discuss the option of a temporary care agreement with Oranga Tamariki on the basis of section 139 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989
- discuss with the expectant parents how they will undertake their responsibility to register te tamaiti as soon as practicable after the birth and before the adoption
- ensure the expectant parents understand the restrictions under section 6 of the Adoption Act 1955 on placing or keeping te tamaiti in the adoptive applicants' care
- advise them that they can take what time they need to review their decision about the future of their tamaiti.
Caring for pēpi after birth
Te tamaiti cannot be placed with adoptive applicants until the adoption consent has been signed and the social worker has approved the placement under section 6(1) of the Adoption Act 1955.
We must therefore explore with the expectant parents how their tamaiti will be cared for during the period between birth and before they sign the consent to adoption.
Where they are not able to provide care for their tamaiti, we must explore whether there are alternative family, whānau, hapū, iwi, or family group care options available.
If the expectant parents are not able or willing to provide care for te tamaiti within their own family, whānau, hapū, iwi or family group, we must discuss the option of te tamaiti being placed with an approved caregiver.
Generally, care will be provided through a temporary care agreement with Oranga Tamariki on the basis of section 139 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989. Section 139 agreements are time limited to 28 days and can only be extended for one further 28-day period.
We must ensure from the outset of signing the first section 139 agreement that expectant parents understand:
- the timeframes for the agreement
- that their guardianship rights will continue throughout the period of the agreement
- that te tamaiti will return to their care at the end of the section 139 agreement unless additional custody or care arrangements are made.
At least 1 week before the expiry of the section 139 agreement, we must consider with the expectant parents whether we need to extend the section 139 agreement for a further 28 days and the likelihood that the consent or adoption plan will be complete within this time. We must explain to the expectant parents again the timeframes for the second section 139 agreement and that it cannot be extended beyond those additional 28 days.
We must begin planning for alternative custody arrangements if we believe that completion of the consent or adoption plan is likely to take longer than the term of the second section 139 agreement.
Planning must include a case consult with the regional legal advisor and the site practice leader. The case consult is led by the Adoptions social worker or supervisor.
If the case consult concludes that further custody orders are likely required, then a plan must be agreed that includes:
- deciding what type of application will be made
- the timeframes for completing further applications
- roles and responsibilities.
Any applications for custody of te tamaiti must be made on notice, wherever possible.
We must work with the expectant parents throughout to ensure they are fully informed and can actively participate and continue to make well-informed decisions for te tamaiti. Where possible, we consult with and seek the consent of expectant parents when making applications for further custody orders.
Expectant parents must also have the opportunity to seek independent legal advice.
Care and protection concerns for te tamaiti
If care and protection concerns for te tamaiti arise at any point when we are working with expectant parents, we must make a report of concern.
We need to be mindful of the complexities of working under 2 different pieces of legislation (the Adoption Act 1955 and the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989).
Early consultation with legal services and care and protection kaimahi is essential to establish roles and responsibilities and to determine the information that can be shared under each Act.
The adoption social worker and the social worker for te tamaiti must work collaboratively together to ensure the specific needs of te tamaiti inform the assessment, concerns for oranga are shared and discussed, and all relevant information is shared with one another.
Wherever possible, we must ensure that expectant parents are aware that a report of concern is being made and the reason for this. We must ensure that expectant parents understand the different requirements under each piece of legislation, including the extent of whānau or family consultation required and the information that can be shared.