Planning for the adoptive placement
Updated: 01 July 2013
What's Important To Us
It is very important that parents thinking of placing a child for adoption can fully attend to the birth of their child, confident that they understand what is involved if they choose to place and knowing that they can take what time they need to review their adoption decision.
Women considering placing their child for adoption have the same rights in the hospital as any other mother, and the child has no different status. If the mother chooses not to care for the child herself after the birth, she remains the child's guardian during any period the child is placed with an approved caregiver under s139 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.
Birth and registration
Having assured yourself that the birthmother is well-supported by her midwife, and/or by partner, family or friends, do not plan to become involved in preparation for the birth or the immediate aftermath unless special circumstances arise. Midwives will, if necessary, advise the maternity unit if there are any factors relevant to a possible placement for adoption, but this is not essential.
The midwife (or hospital or doctor) is responsible for notifying the Central Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages of the birth and ensuring that the child’s details are entered into the National Health Index (NHI). She will prepare a Well Child record book for the child with the birth details and the NHI. For more details refer to the Key information Post-natal contact with birthparents and resource National Health Index.
The child may only be discharged in the care of his/her birthmother or a social worker from Oranga Tamariki. Discuss with the birthmother that it is in the child’s interests that she stays in the maternity unit for as long as she is able as in most cases, the child will be discharged when the birthmother leaves. It is important that both the birthmother and the child have sufficient care and time to recover after the birth and their full entitlements from the health service.
Contact with the child
Encourage every birthmother to plan to see and to hold her baby, as this is of benefit to them both; the child will be reassured by the familiar sensory cues, and the birthmother will have the opportunity to assure herself of the reality of the child and test the validity of her decision.
Some birthmothers and their families may believe that avoiding contact with the baby will prevent their becoming attached and that relinquishment for adoption will be easier. This is unrealistic. Pregnancy and birth are significant experiences. Not to acknowledge the reality of the child, as some women in the past have had to do, is shown to be likely to lead to emotional disturbance in later years.
Where the birthfather will be personally involved at the time of birth encourage his interaction with the newborn also. He may not have had the opportunity to experience the reality of his child and his consent to the adoption will be more ‘informed’ if he can do this.
Ask birthparents to consider caring for their children after discharge from the maternity unit, if not in their own homes, which may be impractical, then in the home of a relative or friend of theirs. This should in no way be seen as ‘forcing them to keep their child’. Some parents may find it too hard to interact closely with their child when their rational decision is that they can not care for him or her in the long term. Others may welcome the opportunity to spend this time before they relinquish their child to other parents. Give them time before the birth to think about this.
Information about temporary care
Where birthparents are unable or unwilling to provide this care, provide information to them about agreeing to place the child into the care of the Chief Executive under a temporary care agreement under s139 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989. This entails placing the child with an approved caregiver for the finite period of 28 days, with the possibility of one renewal.
Make sure birthparents are clear that they will retain guardianship, and that they will be able to visit and spend time with their child. It will be discussed with them at the time they sign the s139 agreement that they may break this agreement and resume care of the child themselves should they decide they no longer wish to place their child for adoption.
As some birthparents have negative thoughts about ‘foster homes’ consider taking a prospective birthmother to meet a caregiver before the birth to help her better understand the available care environment.
Testing the ability to separate
Discuss with birthparents the balance of the effects on themselves of contact and of separation during the time after the birth. Some degree of separation from the child may help them to clarify their thoughts and feelings. It may also give them space and time to assess their own situation and the support available from family/whānau and friends. Where birthmothers take their babies home for a time, talk with them about testing their ability to separate. It has been known for birthparents to feel sure they can part with their child right up until they sign consent, after which they have found that it is very difficult if not impossible to regain custody.
Adoptive applicants present at the birth
It can happen that birthparents ask to have the adoptive parents present at the birth. Some adoptive couples would value the opportunity to begin to bond, and some midwives have been known to encourage this. Ensure that both birthparents and adoptive parents who consider this option are made aware of the issues that may arise in doing this. Experience has shown that:
- applicants may say that they are prepared to accept a change of decision, but no matter how well they have prepared, they have been very upset if adoption does not proceed after they have shared the emotional experience of birth, and having had contact with the child immediately after
- birthparents may suffer feelings of guilt for their subsequent decision to keep the child, or they may feel unable to change their minds because of the implicit commitment of the adoptive parents’ attendance at the birth. If they are unhappy about proceeding with adoption, and do not halt the process at that time, they may regret it very soon after.
It is not within the role of an adoptive social worker to participate in any arrangements for adoptive parents to be present at the birth.