Birth family history and use of profiles
Updated: 01 July 2013
What's Important To Us
When birthparents are considering a new family/whānau for their child, it is of first importance that they consider that the child already has a family – theirs. This is an opportunity for them to think about the coming child’s place in their lives and in their families, which will test their intention to place for adoption and reinforce for them that genetic links are constant and enduring.
When children cannot live with their own families/whānau they are more likely to develop a healthy sense of self growing up in a family something like their own. Where birthparents and adoptive parents share some common ground and mutual understanding, this is likely to promote the development of relationships, and build a foundation of trust, an enduring kinship network and ultimately the child’s confident identity.
Thinking about a new family for a child
Work with birthparents who wish to plan an adoptive placement for their child to:
- provide information about themselves and their families in accord with the Privacy Act 1993
- describe the kind of adoptive parents with whom they want to place their child
- select adoptive applicants from profiles
- consider what they want from a meeting before placement
- consider their wishes for ongoing contact.
Information gathering for the child
Adoptive applicants explore their own lives as they make up a profile to show birthparents the kind of family environment they will provide for a child. Similarly the information birthparents provide about themselves assists prospective adopters to make an informed decision to adopt their child. Birthparents may remain available to tell their part of the adoption story as the child grows, but the family history will be there in the event that they are unable to convey it in person.
Encourage birthparents to include their families in the process as their parents will recall some of the information about the birthparents’ own early development and the family health history.
Comply with obligations under the Privacy Act 1993, explaining why this information is needed and what it will be used for. Collect personal information directly from the individual concerned, but where the birthfather is not available and the birthmother has knowledge of genetic relevance to the child she may provide this, indicating that it is she who has done so. Birthparents may sign the document, but the information is not invalid if this is not done. The family history needs sensitive, unhurried discussion to:
- encourage and assist birthparents to talk about their own lives and then to portray themselves truthfully and positively, in the same way that applicants are encouraged to do in their profiles
- facilitate a birthparent’s writing his or her own story, recognising that not everyone feels comfortable writing and talking about him/herself. If help is required, give this with tact and sensitivity, drawing out information which could be useful for the purpose and reminding the birthparent of strengths and abilities he or she may not have considered
- ask for photographs which are important, as they are for adoptive applicants’ profiles – both current and from childhood if possible. Encourage birthparents to pass on any other documentary information (e.g. whākapapa or family tree) for the adopted child
- use the form as a rough draft at first, to be tidied up and re-written later, with comments added as they come up in discussion.
Give copies of their own stories to the birthparents. Provide copies of the family histories to the adoptive parents at the time of placement and place a copy of the family history on the adoption file.
Selecting a family from profiles
Birthparents are likely to seek adoptive couples with personalities, lifestyles, values, expectations, and interests compatible with their own. They will be in a better position to do this when they have given thought to their own family backgrounds and then listed attributes of importance to them in a new family.
Do not begin the selection process until other relevant issues have been covered in depth. Birthparents need to have come to a point in their thinking that adoption is their intention (although not a binding decision) before consideration is given to those with whom the child might be placed. They need to be sufficiently free from pressure to be able to review their decision, and exercise their right to change their mind. In addition, adoptive parents may lose the chance of another placement if they are kept in reserve for longer than one to two months, and then the birthparents who have chosen them decide not to place.
Provide birthparents with the profiles of the couples who appear to match their requirements. They may also, of course, look at other profiles in the pool.
Obtaining profiles from other districts
If no suitable couple is held in the local pool, request profiles from other areas. Provide a description of the birthparents and their requirements to your supervisor who will e-mail appropriate sites - birthparents may need to balance finding a compatible couple with where they live, if personal contact is considered.
While the choice of family is made by the birthparents and every applicant in the pool has been approved, if you have any concerns about the choice of a placement discuss this with the birthparents. It will be your responsibility in issuing prior approval to be satisfied of the suitability of the placement of a particular child with a particular applicant.
Confidentiality of profiles
Applicants are advised that their profile may be sent outside the area and that birthparents may view them at home, hence the need for them to be non-identifying (e.g. without full names and addresses). Profiles must be kept secure, and the information they contain treated with respect for privacy. Discuss this with birthparents, who can relate it to their wish for their own situation to be treated confidentially.
Encourage birthparents to take the time they need to make a decision about the family with whom they may place their expected child, reading each profile, comparing attributes and deciding which are the most important. Consider whether you can offer a place apart in the office or take profiles to the birthparents’ home, where it may be an important opportunity for others - parents, children, partners and support people - to be involved also.
When birthparents have made their final choice, put aside the chosen profile until after the birth of the child, change the CYRAS status to “on hold” and, where applicants have intercountry applications, inform the New Zealand Central Authority.
It is not usual to inform adoptive applicants of the decision before the birth and birthparents will be aware that it is possible for a number of reasons that the selected adoptive parents may not be available when that time comes. Birthparents should have in mind other couples whom they consider also meet their requirements.
Occasionally birthparents request a meeting with the selected adoptive parents prior to the birth. While it is understandable that they would like to be reassured that parents are prepared for the child, a meeting may create a sense of expectation and obligation for all the parties involved, and stress for all, particularly if the adoption does not proceed. Refer to Key information Informing adoptive applicants of proposed placement, meeting, and making a contact agreement.
Preparing for contact
Remind birthparents that although there can be a range of agreements regarding contact, any agreement between parties is not enforceable in law. The Adoption Act 1955 sets out the legal process for an adoption and there is no provision for on-going contact under this legislation. Nevertheless, increasing numbers of birthparents and adoptive parents make arrangements for on-going contact, which work well for all parties.
Explore and clarify the expectations that both parties might have, as misunderstandings or mis-perceptions in respect of on-going contact are potentially damaging to the relationship.
Present the initial contact agreement as a snapshot of the parties’ thoughts at an early time when they have just met, and as a document which may change over time as mutually agreed. Refer to the Key information: Informing adoptive applicants of proposed placement, meeting and making a contact agreement to learn more.