Adoption laws in New Zealand are governed by the Adoption Act 1955 and the Adoption Regulations 1997, which outline the legal requirements and procedures for adopting a child in the country. These laws apply to both domestic adoptions, in which the child is a citizen or resident of New Zealand, and intercountry adoptions, in which the child is from another country.
One of the key principles of adoption laws in New Zealand is the best interests of the child. This means that the welfare and well-being of the child are the primary considerations in any adoption process, and that the child’s needs and interests must be taken into account when determining whether an adoption should be approved.
In order to adopt a child in New Zealand, potential adoptive parents must be at least 25 years old and be able to demonstrate that they have the capacity to provide a safe and stable home for the child. Adoptive parents may be single or married, and may be of any ethnicity or cultural background.
Before an adoption can be finalized, the child’s birth parents must give their consent to the adoption. If the birth parents are unable or unwilling to consent, the adoption can still proceed if the child is deemed to be in the care of the state or if the child’s welfare and best interests would be served by the adoption.
Once the adoption application has been approved, the adoptive parents and the child must go through a “placement period” in which they live together and become familiar with each other. This period typically lasts for at least six months, during which time the adoptive parents and the child are expected to form a bond and develop a relationship.
After the placement period has ended, the adoptive parents may apply to the Family Court for a final adoption order. This order legally transfers the rights and responsibilities of parenthood from the birth parents to the adoptive parents, and the adopted child becomes a full member of the adoptive family.
Adoption in New Zealand is a complex and often emotional process, and it is important for adoptive parents to be prepared for the challenges and responsibilities of raising a child. Adoptive parents may be required to undergo training and counseling, and must be able to demonstrate that they are able to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the child.
If the child to be adopted is Māori, the adoption process in New Zealand will be guided by the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and the principles of the Māori Children’s Act 2014. These principles recognize the special status of Māori children as tangata whenua (people of the land) and the importance of their cultural identity and connection to their whānau (family) and iwi (tribe).
Under the Māori Children’s Act, Māori children have the right to be brought up in their own culture, and the Act requires that the cultural needs and best interests of Māori children be taken into account in any decisions affecting their care and protection. This includes the adoption process, and adoption agencies and the Family Court must consider the cultural needs and best interests of Māori children when determining whether an adoption should be approved.
In practice, this means that when a Māori child is being considered for adoption, the adoption agency and the Family Court will need to consider the child’s cultural identity and connection to their whānau and iwi, and will seek to place the child with adoptive parents who can support the child’s cultural identity and connection to their Māori heritage. In some cases, this may involve placing the child with Māori adoptive parents or with non-Māori adoptive parents who have a strong understanding of Māori culture and are willing to support the child’s cultural identity.
It is important to note that adoption laws in New Zealand prioritize the best interests of the child above all else, and that the specific needs and circumstances of each child will be taken into account when determining the best placement for the child. This may involve considering a range of factors.
Adoption rates in New Zealand vary over time and can be influenced by a variety of factors, such as the number of children in need of adoptive homes, the number of potential adoptive parents, and social and cultural attitudes towards adoption.
According to data from the Department of Internal Affairs, the number of adoptions in New Zealand has fluctuated over the past several decades, with peaks and valleys in the adoption rate. In recent years, the number of adoptions has trended downward, with an average of around 200 adoptions per year between 2016 and 2020.
It is important to note that the adoption rate in New Zealand may not necessarily reflect the overall demand for adoption, as there may be other factors, such as the availability of alternative care options or the availability of potential adoptive parents, that influence the number of adoptions that take place.
In general, adoption is just one option among many for providing care and support for children in need, and the specific approach that is taken may depend on the specific needs and circumstances of the child and the available resources and support. As a result, the adoption rate in any given country or region may vary over time and may not necessarily reflect the overall demand for adoptive homes or the availability of children in need of adoptive placements.
The information on this website should not be construed as formal legal advice nor should does it constitute a client-solicitor relationship. The law is constantly changing and there is no substitute to a proper consultation.