Family doctor


Personal And Social Issues



An overview of legal and other issues

New Zealand Child, Youth and Family Service 

This article deals with some of the issues faced by birth parents who are considering placing a child for adoption. It does not cover all the present adoption laws and procedures. If you would like more information, call or write to the nearest Adoption Information and Services Unit (AISU) of the Child, Youth and Family Service. People who are thinking of adopting a child should read the article: Adoption in New Zealand - some questions and answers.

Q. What is adoption?

A. Adoption is the legal transfer of all parental rights and responsibilities from a child's birth parents to the adoptive parents. When this process is completed, the child's legal status becomes "as if born" to the adoptive parents. Access to the original birth registration made by the birth parents is closed and a new one is issued in the adoptive name. Access to the original birth registration remains closed. When the adopted person reaches the age of 20, the birth parents and the adopted person may apply to see information contained in that registration.

Q. What can I expect from the AISU and/or other professional helpers?

A. From them you deserve and you should expect:

  • Respect
  • Readiness to listen without making judgement
  • Commitment to allowing you as much time as you need to explore all of the options open to you, your family, and your child
  • Willingness to meet with any of your family who are significant in this decision
  • A belief that you have a free choice about the future of your child
  • A wide variety of adoptive families to choose from
  • Time after the child is born to carefully consider again all the options, before signing the consent.

Q. What will the adoption social workers expect of me?

A. Adoption social workers would like you to be open in your discussions with them, and to fully consider and discuss the possible options you could take before you make any final decisions. You will also be asked to provide information about yourself and help prepare a profile containing important information for the adoptive parents and your child.

Q. How can I be sure that my child will go to a good home?

A. No one can guarantee that the placement of your child will work out the way you would wish. Adoptive families run the same risks of disruption or breakdown as any other family.

When thinking about adoption, you should remember that it guarantees a different life for your child, but not necessarily a better one than you might give.

You have the right to choose the adoptive family for your child. Birth fathers can sometimes feel left out of this process. To give yourself some peace of mind about your child's future, make sure that you take part in choosing the adoptive family and that:

  • They have had proper preparation for parenting an adoptive child
  • You have considered a range of different families
  • You have met the family before signing the consent, and have taken as much time as you need to make your decision after this meeting
  • You have considered your options with your family or any other significant people in your life. Only after exploring these options should you decide whether adoption is the right decision for you and your child (the social worker can help with this if you wish).

Q. Who may become adoptive parents?

A. There are very few legal restrictions on who may make an adoption application. However, most people who apply to the AISU to adopt in New Zealand have been unable to have children of their own. People applying to adopt are assessed for suitability and go through an education programme where they are given information about all aspects of adoption. Adoptive applicants are able to take the time to carefully decide whether this way of parenting is right for them.

Q. When is the decision made?

A. Some birth mothers feel quite certain during their pregnancy that adoption is the right choice for them. Many, however, are surprised to find how attached they feel to the child after the birth. These feelings are often quite overwhelming. Because of this, it is most important that you do not agree to any arrangement that could be seen as binding, during the time before legal consent can be given, and that you take as much time as you need after the birth, so that you can be sure that you are making the best decision.

Q. Can I change my mind?

A. A Consent To Adoption form, which you must sign before a solicitor, may not be signed until the child is at least 10 days old. Many birth parents need considerably longer than this before they feel ready to sign, as once the consent form is signed it is virtually impossible to have the adoption decision reversed. You must be aware that signing the adoption consent form is a final, irreversible decision, with lifelong consequences for you, your child, and your family.

Q. What is open adoption?

A. Open adoption means that the adoptive parents and the birth parents meet, learn about each other, start building an ongoing relationship and arrange for continuing contact. The actual process of adoption and the legal procedures involved remain basically the same. The contact agreement is an individual and flexible arrangement between the birth parents and the adoptive family, and cannot be legally enforced.

Open adoption makes sure that the child, while growing up in one family, knows and is not cut off from the other. As the child grows older, he or she usually takes part in deciding how much and what kind of contact there should be.

Q. Can I arrange an adoption privately?

A. Sometimes adoptions are arranged by people who know each other, or by a third party who links expectant birth parents with prospective adoptive parents. If you are thinking of placing your child for adoption with someone known to you, AISU social workers are available to help you and the proposed adoptive parents consider this option.

The law requires that before a child can be placed in a home for the purposes of adoption, an AISU social worker must make an appraisal of the adoptive couple, or there must be a Court Order. Before an appraisal or a Court Order may be made, the prospective adoptive parents have to be assessed. This makes it important to contact the AISU early, so that there is enough time for the assessment to be carried out and to make sure that there are no delays after the birth. However, you should be very careful about making this kind of arrangement, as a number of problems can arise. Some of the most frequent problems are:

  • The adoptive parents have had little or no preparation for the tasks ahead.
  • The birth parents have little or no knowledge of other options open to them.
  • After the birth, the birth parents may be pressured or feel obliged to part with their child when they no longer wish to do so.

If there are problems, or if a contact agreement breaks down, an AISU social worker will act as an intermediary or counsellor.

Q. What impact can I expect an adoption to have on my life?

A. However carefully the decision is made, most birth parents who place their children for adoption experience feelings of intense grief and loss. This does usually lessen with the passing of time, but the experience often leaves a lasting mark.

Some birth mothers who have placed a child for adoption have later found that they were not able to have further children. A number of books have been written about the different experiences of birth parents. Your AISU social worker will be able to suggest some titles, and will discuss these with you if you wish. You may also like to visit your local adoption support group and meet others who have been through the adoption experience.

Q. How will my child feel about having been placed for adoption?

A. Adopted people can feel very differently about adoption, their own adoption in particular. Being open about adoption can help reduce certain stresses, but it can create others. Adopted people are affected by questions such as:

  • Who am I really, and where do I really belong?
  • Why was I given away - what was wrong with me?
  • What characteristics have I inherited and what may I pass on to my children?

Open adoption answers some of these questions, but also raises others. Your local adoption support group will give you a chance to meet adopted people and discuss the issues with them and their families.

Q. What are the cultural issues in adoption?

A. Research has shown that if for any reason children cannot be raised by their parents, it is often best for them to be brought up in a family that is culturally similar to their own. You should seriously consider this when making your decision, and may wish to talk this over with a social worker who has particular knowledge of the culture concerned.

Q. What if I don't feel comfortable with the AISU social worker?

A. If you have concerns, or feel unhappy with the way that the social worker is handling your situation, tell her or him and try to work through the problem. Take a friend or relative with you if you wish.

The link below contains further information and contact details  relating to adoption in New-Zealand.(look under adoption in find box)



See also:

Did this article meet your requirements/expectations?