When a birthparent wants to discuss adoption
Updated: 01 July 2013
What's Important To Us
From the time we have first contact with a pregnant woman (maybe with her partner) who is experiencing ambivalence and uncertainty about her pregnancy we all need to keep the focus of the relationship on the needs of the child. Before we assume that adoption is the only option we will talk with the birthparent/s about their own life situation. We provide information in such a way that she/they feel free to act, either to continue pursuing adoption or to seek an alternative course of action. Assure birthparents that they are in control of decision-making and that we will not act without their knowledge and/or consent.
When a referral is made by a midwife or any other person, inform that person that unless the circumstances are exceptional, the birthparent/s should make contact with Oranga Tamariki themselves. It will be their decision and not that of some other person who believes she/they ought to be considering adoption.
Arrange the earliest possible interview with the pregnant woman or birthparents. Do not create a CYRAS file as at this point we are information–gathering. When you make a second appointment to continue the discussion, then create a Birthparent Intake on CYRAS.
Referrals should always be handled by adoption social workers. If a situation presents obvious care and/or protection issues for the child (born or unborn) being considered for adoption and the immediate or on-going welfare of the child is not being addressed, discuss your concerns with your supervisor who may consult the Practice Leader.
Use of interpreters and cultural advisors
Consider the need for an interpreter where the first language of birthparents is not English and she or they are not proficient in its use. A birthparent considering the decision to relinquish a child needs to be fully apprised of the facts and implications of adoption and be enabled to express his or her own views clearly. Their understanding of adoption and particularly of ex-nuptial pregnancy may be culturally determined, and needs to be explored with care and sensitivity.
Professional interpreters and advisors are preferred as they are trained to be impartial and report only what is actually said. Should non-professional interpreters be used, consider the interpreter’s relationship with the parent/s, status in the community, and investment in a particular outcome. These can potentially impact upon the parent/s decision making process and outcome.
Attending to the needs of the unborn child
If not already well-established, discuss the need for antenatal care and encourage the pregnant woman to prepare for the birth by attending such classes, regular medical checks, treatment and other services or birth preparation activities as may be necessary.
If accommodation is an issue or the mother has inadequate physical or emotional support which cannot be provided by family or friends, a residential facility (if available) or private board arranged through Pregnancy Help may be appropriate.
Birthparents who have queries about financial assistance should contact Work and Income.
Even if a woman is in late pregnancy when she first approaches Oranga Tamariki or the child has actually been born, it is important to plan for discussion of the issues involved. Acknowledge the emotional vulnerability of the situation by:
- engaging the birth parent/s in a supportive and helpful relationship about their personal concerns
- explaining the role of Oranga Tamariki in adoptions and what we can do to help
- identifying and providing information to enable the birth parent/s to attend to immediate needs
- laying the foundations for future interviews when more information will be provided, and assistance given.
Issues to be covered
Plan the time together to allow for sufficient sessions with birthparents to cover as needed:
- pregnancy and health
- accommodation and income support
- personal plans and aspirations
- family relationships, involvement and support
- relationships/involvement with father of the child and his family members
- the options, advantages, and disadvantages of the various types of permanent care for children
- ethnic and cultural factors
- open adoption arrangement desired (understanding it is not enforceable by law)
- common emotional responses experienced by parents after childbirth
- interim care of the child pending placement
- grief and loss after placement
- discussion and selection of adoptive parents and what happens at placement
- meeting with adoptive parents and possible agreement for future contact
- consulting a lawyer signing consent to adoption
- post-placement support
- access to information and the Adult Adoption Information Act 1985.
Legal advice for birthparents
Birthparents need to know at an early stage that they will require a solicitor to witness their consent to adoption. While the adoptive parents will pay for the consent to adoption if this is the outcome, the birthparents will probably be responsible for any fee if they seek advice about their rights prior to the birth. You may be able to assist them to get free advice from a Community Law Centre.
Provide contact details for the New Zealand Law Society - Family law section, and which lists members and areas of expertise such as adoption. For birthparents for whom English is a second language, it may be possible to locate a lawyer who speaks their native language.
Where birthparents are planning the adoption together they may use the same solicitor, but where they have any difference of opinion, it may be wise for them to consult different solicitors. In order to avoid any hint of coercion, take no part in arranging legal appointments or in providing transport.
Adoption subject to religious denomination condition
Explain that birthparents cannot by law make adoption conditional on any specific requirements, other than the religious denomination and practice of the applicants or the religious denomination in which the applicant/s intend to bring up the child.
Effect of the Adult Adoption Information Act 1985
Ensure that birthparents know that while the Adoption Act 1955 still protects closed adoptions, the Adult Adoption Information Act 1985 gives persons adopted after 1 March 1986 an unrestricted right to seek information about their birthparents from the age of 20. The adopted person, however, has the right to register a veto, once he or she is aged 19, to prevent birthparents from obtaining identifying information.
Total secrecy can never be guaranteed. When birthparents are anxious to protect their immediate privacy, give this careful consideration in interactions with hospital, midwives, caregivers, and adoptive applicants. Suggest that if they do not wish to receive any correspondence at home from the National Health Index or the Central Registry, they may give their mailing address only as c/o the social worker (a residential address will be required as well).