Care for the new-born child pending adoption
Updated: 01 July 2013
What's Important To Us
Recognising that the new-born child experiencing separation is sensitive, cognitive, and affected by the birth experience, we want to ensure the environment is as reassuring and conducive to a good transition as all those involved with the child can make it. To that end we will encourage the birthmother to stay in hospital as long as possible and then arranging for the child to be cared for within the family/whānau if available. We will facilitate the birthfather's involvement also and try to ensure that the birthparents are emotionally supported. To allow this time for the child to recover from birth in a familiar sensory environment we will aim to postpone applicant involvement during the first week.
The Adoption Act 1955 provides in section 7(7) that “a document signifying consent by a mother of a child to an adoption shall not be admissible unless the child is at least 10 days old at the date of the execution of the document”.
It is also important to remember that s6(1)(a) of the Adoption Act 1955 makes it unlawful for a child to be placed, received or kept in the home of any person for the purpose of adoption unless a social worker has given prior approval.
Every child should have a health check
Ideally the birthmother will stay in the hospital while her child receives post-natal care, if for no other reason than that he or she is to be prematurely separated from his or her mother. Post-natal care will include:
- the Lead Maternity Carer (midwife usually) will make standard checks of the baby immediately following the birth
- routinely, a paediatrician or paediatric registrar will examine every child before discharge from hospital (this may not be available in smaller centres)
- a discharge summary is made available to the birthmother, who may provide a copy to the social worker. No report is made directly to Oranga Tamariki
- although some conditions cannot be detected at birth, a medical examination ensures that obvious disorders or abnormalities are detected early enough for treatment to be initiated
- where abnormalities are apparent the selected adoptive applicants may, with the birthparents’ agreement, attend examinations. This arrangement would also need to be negotiated with the hospital if the child were to stay for the reason of prematurity or any other condition
- failing early medical diagnoses of difficulties, adoptive applicants will accept the same risks as natural parents with respect to the future health of the child.
In the uncommon event that a child has a severe abnormality, the selected adoptive applicants might not be the best people to care for this child. They have the right to decline the placement proposal, as they do with any child offered them. In this circumstance:
- arrange placement in temporary care under s139 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 until further assessments are completed and a decision can be made about appropriate long-term care
- if adoption is still the preferred option, active recruitment may be necessary for applicants who are able to provide for the special needs of this child.
Should there be any concerns for the safety of the child, liaise promptly with the Practice Leader, as other measures and/or emergency action under the Act may be necessary.
Temporary care agreements
Ensure that birthparents appreciate that the standard period of a temporary care agreement (TCA) is 28 days and the additional 28 days extension is regarded by Oranga Tamariki as more of a ‘fallback’ provision for unforeseen circumstances. It is important to balance the birthparents’ need to make a carefully considered decision with the child’s need for attachment.
Provide birthparents, and other family members with the birthparents’ permission, with access to the child in care as arranged with the caregiver. Assist with transport where necessary.
When adoptive applicants begin to visit also, take care not to overwhelm the caregiver and to arrange visiting schedules accordingly.
When a temporary care agreement expires
Although no birthparent should be forced into a hasty decision to place for adoption, the child cannot remain in limbo and a decision has to be made one way or another. It is not in the child’s interests for this provision of interim care to be used as a means of postponing coming to grips with a difficult decision. Be alert to this possibility if birthparents are avoiding contact for no satisfactory reason. They need to know that they become responsible for the child again when the temporary care agreement expires. You may be able to provide assistance by talking through ways to do this, by connecting with family and/or referral to a local agency providing help to new parents.
If, at the expiry of the second 28 day period under the temporary care agreement no progress towards a decision has been made for the child, an application under s67 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 may need to be considered e.g. a declaration that the child is in need of care or protection. In cases where a second temporary care agreement has been signed, consider alerting the relevant Oranga Tamariki site. If no clear direction emerges within the next week, inform both birthparents and the site that alternative action may be necessary.