Creating families through adoption policy

What's Important To Us

Adoption is a means of providing some children with security, and meeting their developmental needs by legally transferring on-going parental responsibilities from their birthparents to their adoptive parents, recognising that in doing so, we have created a new kinship network that forever links those two families together through the child.

In adoption as in marriage, the new legal family relationship does not signal the absolute end of one family and the beginning of another, nor does it sever the psychological tie to an earlier family. Rather it expands the family boundaries of all those who are involved. 

The child’s best interests are the paramount consideration as birthparents consider their options for the care of their child. It is the core component in sessions during which adoptive applicants prepare to parent a child not born to them, and when placements are made between families who are compatible and cooperative in meeting the child’s needs for attachment and identity throughout life.

This policy outlines the key practice requirements for Child, Youth and Family social workers in the following four areas of work:

Engaging with birthparents who are considering placing their child for adoption

When birthparents are ambivalent or uncertain about their ability to parent their own child, they must be supported to make well-informed, child-centred choices regarding their child's future. Social workers must ensure that the range of options available to birthparents is fully explored with them, assessing together the short and long term effects each option may have on all parties concerned, and in particular the child. The decision to proceed with adoption is one that can only be made by the birthparents.

Where practicable, the birthfather must be involved with the decision-making and planning for their child.

Refer to Key information: When a birthparent wants to discuss adoption and Key information: Options for birthparents considering adoption for more guidance.

Involving the wider family/whānau

While family consultation is not a statutory requirement under the Adoption Act 1955, it is important to birthparents, and the child to have the involvement of their wider families. Support birthparents to speak with their own families about their decisions and plans and any ongoing involvement they may wish to have with the child. For more details, see Key information: Birthfathers and family/whānau.

Social workers must assist birthparents to provide information about themselves which will be given to the adoptive parents at the time of placement. Refer to Key information: Birth family history and use of profiles for more details.

Preparing for the post-natal period prior to adoption

The birthparents must be provided with the opportunity to consider and plan for the period after the birth of the child and before consent to adoption. They must be informed that they can take what time they need to review their decision about their child's future. The Key information: Planning for the adoptive placement gives more details about this.  

Choosing an adoptive family and placing the child in their care

Once birthparents have decided on adoption, they must be provided with a wide range of adoptive family profiles from which to select an adoptive family for their child. 

After the birthparents have decided which adoptive family they would like their child to be placed with, the social worker, with the agreement of both parties, will: 

  • facilitate the initial exchange of information between birth parents and adoptive applicants to enable both parties to determine if they wish to proceed with the adoption             
  • arrange meetings between birthparents and adoptive applicants if mutually agreed
  • assist the birthparents and adoptive applicants to draw up agreements for ongoing contact between the birthparents and child
  • mediate if either party requests assistance. 

Procedures towards adoption

If the birthparents are not able or willing to provide care for the child within their own family during the period before the consent to adopt can be signed, the child must be placed with an approved caregiver under s139 of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989.

Care of the newborn child pending adoption

The child must be registered in the name of both birthparents as soon after the birth as is practicable and prior to the adoption. The social worker will assist with registration, if required. The Key informations Care for the newborn child pending adoption, Post-natal contact with birthparents and registering the birth of the child, and Informing adoptive applicants of the proposed placement, meeting and making a contact agreement give you more guidance.

Consent to adopt

Birthparents are not allowed to sign consent for the adoption earlier than 12 days following the birth, and they must not be placed under pressure to do so on this date if they need longer to make a considered decision.

Placement approval

It is not lawful for any person to place or receive or keep a child in the home of any person for the purpose of adoption unless prior approval has been given by a social worker. Refer to the Key information: Social worker approval for placement of the child for more details.

Unless there are exceptional circumstances indicating that approval be given earlier, a certificate of prior approval for placement should not be issued before the consent to adoption has been both given by the birthparents and received by the solicitor for the applicants.

Reporting to Court

A social worker’s report must be supplied to the Family Court before an Interim Order of Adoption can be made. Click here for Key information: Report to court for an adoption order.

Direct applications for an identified child

Applications originating directly from the New Zealand Family Court must be given the same consideration and analysis as those that are facilitated by Child, Youth and Family. Key information: Direct applications to the Family Court and Resource: Adoption proposals where all parties are overseas give you further information.

Adopting a child via IVF surrogacy

Social workers must respond to requests for assessment for adoption according to the Key information In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) surrogacy adoption.

Working with people who wish to adopt a child from overseas

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 Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. Also refer to Key information: Facilitating an intercountry adoptive placement.

Prior to completing the adoption assessment, adoptive applicants must be informed about the different processes that each country has, the likely costs for which they will be responsible, and the consequences of pursuing multiple applications.  

Creating the overseas dossier

Once the adoptive applicants have been assessed and approved as able to meet the needs of a child from another country, a Home Study Report must be prepared and the documentation dossier assembled as specified by the country selected by the applicants.

The social worker must liaise with the New Zealand Central Authority (NZCA) to enable the NZCA to fulfil its duties to cooperate with other Central Authorities under the Hague Convention (Articles 1, 9, 15, and 16). 

Receiving a proposal for placement

When applicants have been selected by the overseas country to adopt a particular child, a child study is sent by the Central Authority of that country to the New Zealand Central Authority who must approve of the proposal before sending it to the social worker for discussion with the applicants. This function may be undertaken by an NGO.

The adoptive applicants must be given the opportunity to explore the possibilities of the proposal, using the concepts encountered in the child study review tool during preparation. 

Once the applicants are in a position to go ahead with the proposed placement, with the supervisor’s approval, the social worker will notify the NZCA of the applicant’s decision.

Facilitating the adoption proceedings

In cases where the NGO does not fulfil this function, the social worker must liaise with the NZCA to assist the applicants to correspond with the overseas country, plan their meeting with the child, their activities while in the child’s country of origin and their return to New Zealand.

As countries vary in what formal procedures are undertaken as part of the transfer of the child’s care, the applicants must be familiarised with the country requirements and process for finalisation, administrative or a Court process.

If the adoption is to occur in the New Zealand Family Court, follow the 'Report to Court' section of the Key information: Direct applications to the Family Court. The report must include information pertaining to the Hague status of the child’s country of origin, compatibility of legislation and the residency /citizenship status of the applicants. 

In all intercountry cases, the NZCA must take appropriate measures to ensure any children adopted from another country have a formal record of their birth and adoptive identity and to assist these children to secure New Zealand citizenship and entitlement to services.

Post-placement reporting

Where an NGO does not carry out this function, the social worker must sight the Adoption Order or adoption finalisation document and record details to ensure the mandate for placement report is established.  The social worker will supply to the NZCA accurate and timely post-placement reports as required by the child’s country of birth.

Applications to the New Zealand Family Court from parties outside of New Zealand

Social workers must respond to all adoption proposals and/or applications under s3 of the Adoption Act 1955 in accordance with the Resource: Adoption applications where all parties are overseas.

Effective from 1 July 2013
Updated 6 August 2015