Update made to this policy
The policy has been updated to provide greater visibility and clarity about responses to private adoption proposals.
Supporting expectant parents considering adoption
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 whangai 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.
E kore koe e ngaro, he kakano i ruia mai i Rangiatea – I am not lost, I have a lineage of significance.
Considering mana tamaiti – where mana is defined as a child’s honour, power, authority, prestige, self-esteem, level of influence, voice and humility, means doing what we can to make sure that any tamaiti placed for adoption will remain connected to their whakapapa.
We can use the 3 overarching principles:
- To ensure the range of options for the care of te tamaiti are fully explored, including whether the option of whāngai would provide a care pathway.
- While adoption creates new legal parents, it does not change whakapapa. Identify the whānau members who can support te tamaiti to retain lifelong connections with their birth whānau.
- Te tamaiti will benefit from knowing their iwi connections – which will enable them to register with their iwi.
Your kairaranga ā-whānau may be a useful source of support and advice.
How closed adoption robbed Māori children of their identity – Radio New Zealand website
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.
UNCRoC – Unicef website
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- and long-term implications of each option for all parties concerned – particularly the long-term impact on te tamaiti.
What we should 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.
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 – as 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.