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What is adoption?
Adoption is a legal process where a person or couple (the “adoptive parents”) become the parents of another person’s birth child (the “birth parent”). The adoptive parents will raise the child as their own.
Do birth parents have the right and responsibility to parent a child they’ve adopted out?
Adoption makes the adoptive parents the legal parents of the child. The birth parents lose the right and responsibility to parent the child.
That means birth parents won’t be able to see or know the child and can’t receive information about the child. The adoptive parents can rename the child.
Can you receive money for an adoption?
No. It is illegal to give or receive money for an adoption, unless the court consents to it.
Will my child know if they have been adopted?
It depends. If a child is adopted, their original birth certificate is closed and a new birth certificate is made. The new birth certificate records the adoptive parents as the parents as if the child was born to them.
The adoptive parents can request to include the words “adoptive parents” after their names in the new birth certificate. Adoptive parents are encouraged to tell the child, however it will be up to them to decide what they tell the child.
In some situations, birth parents and adoptive parents agree to an open adoption. For more information, see ”What does ‘open adoption’ mean?” below.
Can my child find out they are adopted when they grow up?
Yes. When they are 20 years old, a person can apply to the Department of Internal Affairs (Births, Deaths and Marriages office) for a copy of their original birth certificate and take steps to find out about their birth parents.
If my child is adopted, can I have any say in how my child will be raised?
Only in certain situations. You have the right to say that you want your child to be brought up within a particular religion. This might be very difficult to enforce. Otherwise, you will no longer have the right to decide how your child is brought up. This becomes the legal right of the adoptive parents.
In rare situations it may be possible for you to be appointed as an additional guardian for your child. This would mean that you would still have some say in your child’s upbringing. This would only happen in exceptional circumstances, for example to maintain a child’s cultural identity. See the section “Guardianship” for more information.
What are the steps for an adoption?
An adoption usually can’t go ahead unless the birth parent consents to the adoption. This happens by signing a particular form provided by a lawyer. For consent to be legal, you have to wait until your baby is at least 10 days old before consenting.
The birth parent’s consent must be witnessed by a lawyer who must also sign that they have fully explained the legal consequences of the adoption before the form is signed.
After the consent form is filed with the court, Oranga Tamariki, or another social worker, will interview the adoptive parents and produce a report. If everything goes ok, the court will issue an “interim order” making the adoptive parents the parents for six months, with some conditions. Then the court makes a final “adoption order” after those 6 months.
What does “open adoption” mean?
Open adoption means that the birth parents continue to know the child, or are kept updated about the child’s life and, in some circumstances, the birth contacts can continue to see the child. It will be up to the birth and adoptive parents to decide how this will work, including how often the birth parents can see the child.
What are the steps for an “open adoption”?
The legal process for an open adoption is similar to a closed adoption and so are the legal consequences (losing the right and responsibility to parent the child).
Can you enforce an open adoption agreement?
Yes, but it can be difficult. You would need to start proceedings in the court to enforce an open adoption. If the adoptive parents decide to stop passing information to you, or move somewhere where it’s not possible for you to have regular contact with your child, there may not be a lot you can do.
Open adoption agreements rely on both of you wanting to make it work and the adoptive parents allowing you to keep in contact.
Who can I talk to about adoption?
There are a number of people and services you can talk to. You could talk to your doctor or midwife and to family, whānau and friends that you trust.
You can call Oranga Tamariki’s adoption support number (0508 326 459) who will get you in touch with a social worker. A social worker will discuss the adoption process with you and what you might expect following the adoption.
They can also refer you to other support options, such as a counsellor who will be able to help you work through your feelings and make your own decision.
Who decides who will adopt my baby?
You have the right to choose the adoptive family for your child. Oranga Tamariki will be able to provide profiles for a range of different families.
It’s also possible to arrange an adoption privately. This is where you and a family would like to arrange an adoption between yourselves. The law requires that the possible adoptive parents must first be assessed by Oranga Tamariki social workers.
Before making an adoption order the Court would also have to be satisfied that the adoptive parents will be able to look after the child and that the adoption will be what’s best for the child.
Can my parents or guardians force me to give my baby up for adoption?
No, it’s 100% your decision. You should take your time, and talk to whoever you want to, in exploring all options.
If you are pressured to consent, it is possible to say that your consent is not legal. However, it is very rare for the court to overturn consent once it has been given.
If I decide to adopt out my child, can I change my mind?
Once you have signed the consent form (which is at least 10 days after you’ve given birth), and a lawyer has witnessed it, you can change your mind only if the consent has not yet been filed in the court or handed to the adoptive parents or their lawyer.
You need to be really sure of your decision before signing the consent form.
Does the baby’s other parent have to give consent for adoption?
The other parent’s consent is only required if:
- they were married to you from any time when you became pregnant until when the baby is born, or
- they have been appointed as a guardian of the child. This may happen if the child’s parent is identified on the birth certificate. See the section “Guardianship” for more information, or
- the Court thinks their consent should be required.
The other parent does not have to wait until the baby is 10 days old to give their consent. They can give consent immediately after the baby is born.
If there is any doubt about whether the other parent’s consent is needed, the Court will decide.
Can people be forced to give up their baby?
In very rare and serious circumstances.
The circumstances outlined in the law are if you abandon, neglect or continually ill-treat your child, or are proved to be unfit to care for your child because of a physical or mental disability. If any of these are relevant, the court could make an order saying that your consent to the adoption is not needed.
The court would only do this if you have been offered support from agencies such as Oranga Tamariki and you were still not able to care for your child, with the additional support.
The aim of the Oranga Tamariki Act is to keep a child within the family whenever possible. Oranga Tamariki should first try to help you keep your baby or to keep you in contact with your baby – perhaps by placing your baby in a long-term fostering arrangement, preferably with another family member. For more information, see the sections “Oranga Tamariki” and ”Foster Care”.
Can my parents adopt the baby?
Yes, if you consent to this. Legally your baby would then become your sibling. You may like to explore your feelings about this with a counsellor (your doctor or midwife can help you find a counsellor).
What about the other parent’s family? Could they try and adopt the baby?
Yes, but you would still have to give your consent the same way that you would for any other adoptive parents.
If I want to adopt out my child, do I need a lawyer?
Yes, adoption is a legal process so there are some steps where you will need a lawyer, like when you provide consent to the adoption.
As a place to start for legal advice on adoption, visit your nearest Community Law Centre.
Will I have to pay for a lawyer?
Generally, lawyer’s fees for the consent process, and any other necessary legal fees will be paid by the adoptive parents. However, this is not always the case.
If you get your own lawyer for further advice, you may need to pay these fees – it’s always best to ask the lawyer at the start. You may also be able to get legal aid. See the section ”Legal Aid” for more information.
Legal options when you can’t care for a baby and don’t want the baby to be adopted
There are other care arrangements you can consider, which Oranga Tamariki can help you explore.
The main option is for the court to appoint additional guardians for the child for the day-to-day care of the child. Additional guardians will be responsible for the care of your child and can legally make decisions about your child’s upbringing.
In this situation, you would still be a legal guardian of your child. This means you can continue to be involved in decisions about your child’s upbringing.