New Zealand Hague Central Authority and accredited agencies
Updated: 29 January 2019
An adoption of children from overseas countries by New Zealand citizens and permanent residents must comply with New Zealand’s international obligations and the laws of the countries involved within the framework and principles of the Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (the Hague Convention).
The Hague Convention
To address concerns about intercountry adoption practices the Hague Conference on Private International Law introduced the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption in May 1993, based on the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC).
The preamble to the Hague Convention outlines the principles that inform each signatory country’s agreement:
- for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, the child should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding
- each State should take as a matter of priority appropriate measures to enable the child to remain in the care of his/her family of origin
- intercountry adoption may offer the advantage of a permanent family to a child for whom a suitable family cannot be found in his/her state of origin
- measures are necessary to ensure that intercountry adoptions are made in the best interests of the child, and with respect of his/her fundamental rights, and to prevent the abduction, the sale of, or traffic of children
New Zealand implemented the Hague Convention by enacting the Adoption (Intercountry) Act 1997, which came into force in January 1999. The Adoption (Intercountry) Act 1997 gives powers to the Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children to act as the New Zealand Central Authority (NZCA). The full text of the Hague Convention is included in this Act, so you can become familiar with the principles and with the Articles which are used in practice.
The Objects of the Hague Convention
Article 1 states the objectives of the Convention are:
- to establish safeguards to ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of the child and with respect for his or her fundamental rights as recognized in international law
- to establish a system of co-operation amongst contracting states to ensure that those safeguards are respected and thereby prevent the abduction or traffic in children
- to secure the recognition in contracting states of adoptions made in accordance with the Convention.
The New Zealand Central Authority (NZCA)
Each contracting state is required to designate a Central Authority to discharge the duties which are imposed by the Convention. In Oranga Tamariki the NZCA is located in the International Casework Team (Care Support, National Office).
This unit has a strategic, assessment and audit function in respect to New Zealand’s commitment to the Hague Convention. Social workers and supervisors working on a Hague intercountry adoption will liaise with the NZCA during each application.
The statutory responsibilities of the NZCA set out in the Adoption (Intercountry) Act 1997 include the following key functions:
- co-operate with other Central Authorities to protect children, exchange information and prevent improper financial or other gain in connection with intercountry adoption
- collect, preserve and exchange information on a child and prospective adoptive parents to facilitate adoption, post adoption monitoring and reporting
- formally approve non-government organisations to undertake assessment functions or placement and post-placement functions for adoptive applicants
- receive applications from New Zealanders seeking to adopt from a Hague contracting State through Oranga Tamariki, where this function is not performed by an accredited agency
- approve applicants eligibility and suitability to adopt from another country
- provide reports to the child’s State of origin
- consider the decision by the State of origin to entrust a child to specific adoptive parents, confirm agreement for the proposed intercountry adoption to proceed, and ensure the child can enter and reside permanently in New Zealand
- undertake post placement reporting through Oranga Tamariki, where this function is not a responsibility of an accredited agency
Intercountry adoption accredited agencies
Section 6 of the Adoption (Intercountry) Act 1997 delegates accredited agencies to work in a country with which the NZCA has an existing intercountry adoption relationship. An accredited agency may undertake either assessment or placement functions, but not both, in order that conflicts of interest do not arise.
The Adoption (Intercountry) Act 1997 regulations (section 3) do not allow the NZCA to delegate the tasks of police checks, medical reports and referee checks. While an agency may be accredited to undertake an assessment of the applicants’ suitability to meet the needs of an intercountry adopted child, the NZCA must be satisfied of this as outlined in Article 15.
Agencies accredited for placement may only offer services to applicants who have been approved by the NZCA as prospective adoptive applicants for a specific country. Placement functions consist of collation of documents, support of applicants, arranging offshore services to facilitate the adoption process and post-placement reporting to the child’s State of origin.
Any agency that has been accredited has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Oranga Tamariki.
Adoption First Steps (AFS) is accredited to undertake intercountry adoption assessments and write Home Study reports.
Two agencies in New Zealand are accredited to facilitate intercountry adoption placements in specific country programmes.
The NZCA role with accredited agencies
The key functions and responsibilities during the accredited agency’s facilitation of the placement and post placement phases are:
- approval of intercountry adoptive applicants assessed by Oranga Tamariki or AFS as eligible and suited to adopt under Article 15 of the Convention
- forwarding Home Study report and Article 15 Certificate of approval to the New Zealand accredited placement agency concerned
- reviewing matching proposal received from a sending country to assess the fit between the child’s identified needs and the ability of the applicants to meet them
- formally confirming under Article 17 the NZCA’s support of a specific adoption proposed by a sending country
- ensuring the child is able to enter New Zealand and gain NZ citizenship or permanent residence
- confirming that the adoption has been made in accordance with the Hague Convention process and procedural requirements .
Working with accredited placement agencies
If the applicant(s) choose to be assessed for intercountry adoption by Oranga Tamariki the social worker is responsible for working with the applicant(s) through to the point at which the NZCA issues an Article 15 certificate in support of their eligibility and suitability to adopt internationally.
At this point, where the applicants choose to work with an accredited placement agency, the NZCA will forward the applicants’ Home Study report and Article 15 certificate of approval to that agency to facilitate the intercountry adoption application, placement and post-placement reporting.
For intercountry adoption applications where applicants chose to apply to another country via Oranga Tamariki the social worker continues to work with the applicants (in liaison with the NZCA) to complete the intercountry adoption application, placement and post-placement reporting as set out in the country programme guides.