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Adoption

Adoption (for children)

This section provides some information for children or young people who have been adopted or think they’ve been adopted.

What is adoption?

Adoption is a legal process where the birth parents permanently give up their legal rights and responsibilities towards a child to a new guardian or guardians.  The adopting parent or parents become the child’s legal parents and guardians. When a child is adopted, they go into the permanent care of their adoptive parents.

Adoption is different to being looked after by a caregiver for a while or going into foster care.

What happens legally when I’m adopted?

If you’re adopted, legally you are a child of the people who have adopted you.  In most situations, your birth certificate will show the names of your adoptive parents.

If your adoptive parents are New Zealand citizens, you will also become a citizen and should get a New Zealand passport.

You will be entitled to inherit property from your adoptive parents in the same way as if you were their natural child.  Adoption changes your legal relationship with your birth parents.  You lose the right to inherit from your birth parents unless they specifically name you in their will.

How is adoption arranged?

Most adoptions are arranged by Ministry for Children – Oranga Tamariki (MCOT), but a birth mother can make her own arrangements with people who she feels are suitable.  However, MCOT or a court appointed social worker must still interview and report on the adoptive parents.

What is an open adoption?

Open adoption is where the child, the birth family and the adoptive family have ongoing contact after the adoption.  They may keep in touch and may have regular meetings.  This way, you end up living with your adoptive parents, but you might also see your birth parents.

It is up to the birth parents and the adoptive parents to work out how and how often you have contact with your birth family.  Sometimes this is a difficult process. Your adoptive parents should listen to and give weight to your views about how much contact you have the older you are.

Can I be adopted if I’m not a baby?

Usually, when a person is adopted, they are adopted as a baby.  However, a child can be adopted up until he or she turns 20 years old.

In New Zealand, the Care of Children Act 2004 says that a child must be given reasonable opportunities to express views on matters affecting them and that these views must be taken into account by a Court before the Court makes a decision on that child’s care arrangements. This means the Court will take into account your views of whether you wished to be adopted, depending on your age and maturity.

Do I get a say in whether I want to be adopted or not?

In New Zealand, the Care of Children Act 2004 says that a child must be given reasonable opportunities to express their views on matters that affect them and that these views must be taken into account by a court before the court makes a decision on that child’s care arrangements.

The Court should take account of the views of a child capable of forming his or her own views, and consider the age and maturity of the child.

My birth parents disagree with my adoptive parents; they say I should have more rights, should I?

Even though you may see two sets of parents, the law treats your adoptive parents as your legal parents, and they have the rights and responsibilities for your care and upbringing. Your birth parents don’t have these legal rights or responsibilities.

Am I adopted?

If you think you’re adopted, but you’re not sure, your adoptive parents may be willing to tell you. If not, and if your standard birth certificate doesn’t say whether you’re adopted, it can be difficult to find out before you turn 20.

Once you’re 20, you can request a copy of your full birth certificate from Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM), the government department where information on births are kept.

If you were adopted after 1 March 1986, your full birth certificate will have the name, address and occupation of your birth mother, and possibly of your birth father. You can also ask BDM for any information they have that will help identify your birth parents.

I’m 20, how do I find out if I’m adopted?

Once you’re 20 years old, you can request a copy of your full birth certificate from Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM), the government department where information on births, deaths, marriages, civil unions and name changes is kept.

If you were adopted after 1 March 1986, your full birth certificate will have the name, address and occupation of your birth mother, and possibly of your birth father. You can also ask BDM for information they have that will help identify your birth parents.

If you are not adopted, BDM will write to you and tell you this.

Is there support available if I want to find my birth parents?

Before finding and contacting your birth parents, it is recommended that you get support from an adoption counsellor or agency.

When you request for your full birth certificate, you can also request for counselling. Counselling can be useful to help you understand your situation and help you decide if you want to try and contact your birth parents. If you want counselling, your original birth certificate will be sent to the counsellor, and you can collect it from them. If you don’t want counselling, your original birth certificate will be sent directly to you.

How do I find my birth parents?

Once you have the name or names of your birth parents, finding them can be a challenge.  There are various options that you could use, including searching the phone book or electoral roll, or contacting an adoption support group.  You can also ask the Adoption Information Unit at Ministry for Children – Oranga Tamariki for information from their files. There are are also now more unconventional ways, like on the internet.

Before you make contact, you should make some plans, to make sure the situation is comfortable for everyone.

How do I find my iwi and hapu if I’m adopted?

Some Maori children are adopted by a whanau member. If this is your situation, someone in your whanau may be able to tell you about your iwi and hapu.

The Ministry for  Children – Oranga Tamariki will have the names of your parents and your place of birth in their records.  If you can find a birth parent, he or she should be able to tell you about your hapu and iwi. If not, try to find out your parents’ last names, or where your parents came from, or where you were born.  These names may help you track down your hapu.

What should I do if I don’t want my birth parents to find me?

Once you turn 19 years old, you can write to Births, Deaths and Marriages to say that you don’t want information about you to be made available to your birth parents. If you would like some advice about your situation, Births, Deaths and Marriages will put you in touch with a counsellor.

Your wishes will be endorsed on your birth information. An endorsement lasts for 10 years, so you will need to renew it every 10 years.

If you change your mind, you can write to BDM to explain you’ve changed your mind.

Even if you don’t want your birth parents to find you, they can still try and find you without ‘official’ help through other avenues.

I’ve found my birth parents, I’d like to get in touch with them, what should I do?

A counsellor or a social worker from Births, Deaths and Marriages will be able to find out whether your parents want to meet you and what his or her feelings are about meeting you.

If you decide to contact your parent(s) on your own, it is probably a good idea to write a letter to them or give them a call first. If you just turn up on the doorstep, it could be a huge shock for them, or they might find it embarrassing if other members of the family do not know about you.

Where can I get help with finding my birth parents?

You can seek help from the Ministry for Children – Oranga Tamariki (MCOT) by

  • Phoning 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459) and talking to an Adoption Social Worker

If you need help finding a family lawyer to aid you in the adoption process, you can visit the New Zealand Family Lawyer website or alternatively you can contact your local community law centre.

Support Groups are very useful and you can find your nearest one by contacting MCOT.

Adoption (parent and relationships)

When a child is adopted, they go into the permanent care of their adoptive parents. It is different to being looked after by a caregiver for a while or going into foster care.

This section provides some information to parents wishing to adopt or parents wanting to adopt out their child. It also provides relationship information for young people who have been adopted.

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