Open Adoption is the mutually agreed contact between you, the adoptive parents and the child.It encourages a relationship between you, your family and the child, for the good of the child.Adoption Law
- No matter what your situation, no one can pressure you into adopting.
- Once the Consent Form has been signed, the child is legally no longer recognised as yours.
- It is important that before you decide and sign the Adoption Consent Form, you are as sure as possible about it.
- People wanting to adopt, must go through the Social Welfare screening process before they are eligible for adoption.
- With Guardianship, the Law still recognises the child's birth parents, however, you may choose to give that guardianship to someone else.
Adoption is a legal term. It is when you give up all your parental rights, allowing someone else to become your child's legal parents, to look after them, name him/her and bring him/her up.
It is a permanent legal relationship.
The Adoption Law, governs all adoption in New Zealand and although the law has not been changed since 1955, the practice of adoption has.
Some years ago, children were adopted in secrecy and the child rarely knew anything about their birth parents, and the birth parents had no contact with the child.
Now, a lot of people believe that it is healthier, both for the child and the birth parents, if contact is maintained. This is called 'Open Adoption'. The NZ law does not officially recognise nor prohibit this type of adoption. It is based on trust, good will and understanding.
What is Open Adoption?
Open Adoption is the mutually agreed contact between you, the adoptive parents and the child. This contact may involve things such as the exchange of photos, letters, gifts, phone calls or visits.
Although you can never take the role of "parent", Open Adoption encourages a relationship between you, your family and the child, for the good of the child.
Open Adoption is thought to be healthy because the child grows up knowing where he/she came from, where his/her roots are, who his/her people are. It also reassures the birth family that the child is safe and being cared for.
Can I be Forced into Adopting out my Child?
No matter what your situation, or how young you are, no one can pressure you into adopting. The adoption can only happen if you freely decide that is what you want to do.
Even if you say you intend to adopt, you can change your mind, so long as you have not yet signed the Adoption Consent.
What about the Father?
You alone can make the decision to adopt, unless:
- You wish to include the father and he agrees
- You are married
- You are living with the father
- The father is financially supporting you
- The father's name is also on the Birth Certificate
- The father has applied to the Court for guardianship
- The father is paying maintenance for the child
No. Once the Consent Form has been signed, the child is legally no longer recognised as yours.
Because of this, it is immensely important that before you decide and sign the Adoption Consent Form, you are as sure as possible about it, at peace with the decision and that you are able to live with the finality of that decision.
When Can I Adopt?
Not until the child is ten days old can you sign the Adoption Consent Form, but it may take you longer to decide, for example, up to four months.
During this time you may care for the baby yourself - in hospital, or at home, or your baby may stay in hospital without you, or be placed with foster parents.
The law does not allow the baby to be placed with the adoptive parents (until the Consent Form is signed), unless they are blood relatives.
Who Can Adopt My Baby?
The choice of parents is yours. You decide who you think would provide the best and most loving home for your child.
It may be
- An extended family member
- Couples who have been approved by Adoption Information and Services Unit (AISU) You will be provided with profiles of people to choose from.
- Someone you hear about through friends, your Doctor or Midwife (this is called a 'Private Adoption')
People wanting to adopt, must go through the AISU screening process before they are eligible for adoption. This screening includes Police and medical checks, references and interviews. They also visit the applicant's home to ensure it is a healthy environment.
Applicants must have demonstrated to AISU that they are fit and appropriate people to have the custody of a child, with sufficient ability to bring the child up, maintain and educate him/her. They must also be over the age of 25 years and in a stable relationship.
In Auckland, there are places where young (or older) women can receive accomodation and/or support in a crisis pregnancy. (Some of these are listed on the Organisations page of this website.) These are not official adoption agencies but work with AISU.
This can begin at any time during your pregnancy. It includes such issues as:
- decision making
- emotions surrounding adopting, eg grief/loss
- looking at your baby's genealogy/heritage (whakapapa)
- criteria for adoptive parents
- plans for the birth and care of the baby
- completing forms for AISU
- talking with women who have adopted
You select the Parents Closer to the birth, if you are reasonably sure of adopting, you will be supplied with the files on approved couples who want to adopt.
These files will include pictures of the couple, and information about them, such as what they do, where they live and so on.
Decision Made To Adopt
It is not until after the birth, that you need to make your final decision to adopt. Once you have decided, you will meet the people you chose from the file before you sign the consent form.
Remember that you can still change your mind, if you decide you no longer want to adopt. It is not until you have signed the Consent that the Adoption is legal and binding.
Adoption Set Up
AISU will organise all the process of adoption, in consultation with you, if you decide to go ahead with the adoption.
The legal costs of the adoption are usually paid by the couple who are adopting the child, not by you.
With the adopting couple, we will help you work out an agreement for initial contact and to work out the way the relationship can occur, visits and so on. The main reason for supporting openness in adoption is to ensure that the child has continuing access to both families. As the child grows older, they usually participate in making decisions about the type, and the frequency, of contact. Adoption social workers can be involved in helping the two families with reaching a mutually acceptable contact agreement.
Support After the Adoption
AISU provides a post placement information and support service. As most birth and adoptive families will have issues that emerge over time related to adoption, information and support may be available through your local AISU office.
Whose Name will be on the Birth Certificate?
After your baby is born, you fill in the Registration of Birth Form. The Birth Certificate will have your name and, if he agrees to sign, the name of the father (remember: if his name is on it, this means he will have to sign the Adoption Consent Form.)
This piece of paper says that legally, you are the parent/s of that child. This Birth Certificate is required before you can sign the Adoption Consent Form. (See Guardianship)
If you adopt him/her, a new Birth Certificate is issued which has the adoptive parents' name on it, as if they had given birth to the child. This means that they are now legally the child's parents and can choose another name for the child if they want.
The adopting couple may also wish to have a copy of the original Birth Certificate for the child.
An Alternative Placement is Guardianship
With Guardianship, the Law still recognises the child's birth parents (so the Birth Certificate is not changed)
By birth, a child's mother is its guardian, and she has the right to make decisions around the child's upbringing.
However, you may choose to give that guardianship to someone else, and the baby is then placed with these people. The 'guardian parents' then apply to the Court for guardianship and permanent custody for the child (meaning the day to day care and responsibility for the child).
Guardianship is permanent placement, unless, in exceptional circumstances, the Court decides, or the natural parent/s and the new guardians agree. Usually, however, this does not happen and the placement is as permanent as adoption.
With Guardianship, the birth mother/parent is expected to have a say in matters relating to the child: eg
- religious upbringing
- medical treatment etc...
Although with legal Guardianship the potential guardians don't need to have been approved by AISU, the Family Court Judge will probably request a 'clearance' from Children, Youth & Family (CYFs).
Sources: www.cyf.govt.nz and Bethany Centre