Adopting a child in NZ
Each year a small number of children in New Zealand are placed by their birth parents for adoption. You can apply to become an adoptive parent, but birth parents make the decision about who they would like to care for their child.
If you’re considering adopting a child, we can help you understand what’s involved and step you through the process. We work with birth parents to find the right family for their child, and encourage ongoing connection with the birth family and their culture.
Adoption is the legal transfer of parenting rights and responsibilities from birth parents to adoptive parents. Your relationship to an adopted child is as it would be if they were your birth child. You’ll have all of the joys — and responsibilities — of being a parent.
If you would like to give a child a loving home, adoption isn't the only option — you may want to consider fostering, or permanent care through guardianship.
The adoption process
First contact and information meeting
If you're considering adoption, the best place to start is to contact us. Adoption social workers can answer any initial questions you have and tell you when the next group information session is in your area. At the session, you’ll get an overview of the adoption process as well as information about other ways of caring for children that you might want to consider. You'll meet people who can answer your questions and get an application form.
Applying to adopt
Once you’ve decided to adopt, complete the application form, giving basic information about yourself. You’ll need to:
- provide the names of two referees
- provide medical information from your doctor
- give permission for us to do a police check and a check of our care and protection database.
It's important that you have no history of criminal offences that might affect the safety of a child. You can ask your adoption social worker about any health issues or offences that may affect your application.
Education and preparation programme
Once we've received your application, we’ll invite you to an adoption education and preparation programme. You’ll get a more in-depth understanding about adoption, and what it will mean to you and your family. This is also a chance for you to ask questions.
Approval process — assessment interviews
During the adoption process, you'll have a number of interviews with social workers. These help us learn about your home life and your background, so we can decide if you’re a suitable adoptive parent. It also builds a picture to make sure the child is placed in the best family for them.
Most adopting families pass the assessment process and enter the pool of approved adoptive applicants.
Your family profile
After completing the assessment, you need to prepare a profile of your family for birth parents to consider. They use profiles to make the decision about who they would like to adopt their child. Your profile should include photos and give information that will help show the kind of life a child would have in your family. Include details about your interests and lifestyle, and why you want to adopt a child and what you think about open adoption.
Meeting the birth parents
The birth parents decide who they want to adopt their child. Most birth parents want to meet the adoptive parents they are considering. This happens after the birth, and is a time to get to know each other, and decide if you both want to go ahead with the adoption. You should also talk about the sort of ongoing relationship you'd like to have with each other.
Final steps — making the adoption legal
Placing a child for adoption is a difficult decision and it takes time. Birth mothers must wait at least 12 days after giving birth to give consent for adoption. They can take longer if they need to.
Once the birth parents have decided they want you to be the adoptive parents, they have to sign their consent to adoption for the legal process to begin.
You can also make a contact agreement about what sort of contact the birth parents will have with the child. Your social worker will be there to support you through this and keep you informed about what's happening.
Most adoptions in New Zealand are 'open adoptions'. This means that birth parents and adoptive parents maintain an ongoing relationship. In many cases birth parents continue to have a part in the child's life, if everyone agrees that's best. The nature of the relationship is set out in a contact agreement. Your social worker will talk with you about contact agreements.
Costs of adoption
You’ll need to pay legal costs of the adoption application to the Family Court, including the legal fees for the birth parents’ signing of the consent. Legal fees vary. Use the New Zealand Law Society website to find a family lawyer specialising in adoption, or contact a Citizen's Advice Bureau in your area.
Someone you know might like you to adopt their child. Private adoptions are still a legal process and one of our social workers will need to meet with you to make sure you are suitable as an adoptive parent and if so, give you a placement approval certificate.
Any arrangements you make with the birth parents are not legally binding until consent has been signed.
Unless the child you intend to adopt is your relative, it’s illegal to have them in your home without a placement approval from one of our social workers.
There are alternatives to adoption. The birth parents can apply for you to have guardianship of the child through a parenting order under the Care of Children Act. This will give you the legal responsibility for the day-to-day care of the child.
We are not involved in parenting orders. These are arranged through a court. It’s best to get legal advice about this option from your lawyer or your local Community Law Centre.
Adopting a stepchild
If you’re considering adopting your stepchild, and one of social workers will help you understand what this may mean for the child.
The social worker can talk to you about birth parent consent, and explain the adoption process and how to change the stepchild's surname to be the same as yours. They can also explain alternatives to adoption, such as parenting and guardianship orders.
If you decide to go ahead with adoption, a family lawyer can help you apply to the Family Court. The court will request that an adoption social worker create a report for the court to consider. The child will be interviewed about their relationship with the both birth parents and the step parent, and about their understanding of the adoption process. The birth parents will also be interviewed.